Jacksonville State (0-1) at Illinois (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, November 10, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: State Farm Center (16,618) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: JSU 0-0, Illinois 1-0. Away Record: JSU 0-1, Illinois 0-0. Neutral Record: JSU 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Conference Record: JSU 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Jacksonville State Gamecocks take aim at their first win of the season as they visit the State Farm Center for a non-conference tilt against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Gamecocks fell to 0-1 on the season on Friday as they suffered a 72-65 setback at Bradley. Jacksonville State is coming off of a 17-11 finish to the 2012-13 campaign that went to waste as it was ineligible for postseason play due to academic issues. Now with the postseason ban no longer an issue, the Gamecocks will have to overcome the loss of significant seniors to finish above the .500 mark. Coach James Green's squad allowed only 64.9 ppg to rank third in the Ohio Valley Conference a season ago, but it allowed the Braves to hit on 46.3 percent of their field goal tries, including 6-of-13 from beyond the arc in the season opener.
The Fighting Illini put forth a solid season in John Groce's inaugural campaign, going 23-13 and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament. Groce's second tour began on Friday with an 80-63 victory over Alabama State that marked the 15th straight win in a season opener for the program. Illinois has won 23 games in a row versus non-conference opponents at the State Farm Center. It also owns a 34-game winning streak in regular season non-conference games thanks to the win in the opener. Illinois was impressive on the boards, holding a 52-28 edge over ASU.
This will be the first meeting in history between Jacksonville State and Illinois.
Grant White paced JSU versus Bradley with 16 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting from the field. The Gamecocks have a proficient backcourt with Brian Williams (13.1 ppg) and Darion Rackley (13.7 ppg) returning. Williams played all 40 minutes against the Braves, but went just 4-of-13 on field goal tries to tally eight points. Rackley chipped in 13 points. JSU needs to become a better rebounding team, but that improvement may require some recruiting as the biggest issue is a lack of size. Junior college transfer D.J. Felder will help on the front line with his 6-7, 225-pound frame. Felder scored 10 points and grabbed four boards before fouling out after 20 minutes in the opener.
The Illini have a new look as many newcomers are stepping into significant roles right away. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice poured in a team-high 22 points in the season opener, which is the most for a player making his program debut since Brandon Paul tallied the same amount to open the 2009-10 season. Junior forward Nnanna Egwu added a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards. Joseph Bertrand also impressed with 14 points and eight rebounds.
JSU's lack of size will hurt it against the Illini, who have capable big men and also guards who know how to rebound. The Gamecocks will need a much bigger contribution from Williams to survive this one, which is unlikely as he will be locked up by Illinois's junior guard Tracy Abrams. Rice could help the Illini overachieve if he continues to be a lights out shooter.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 75, Jacksonville State 62
11/10 10:48:23 ET