Illinois (7-0) at Georgia Tech (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 3, 7:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McCamish Pavilion (8,600) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Illinois 6-0, GT 4-1. Away Record: Illinois 1-0, GT 1-0. Neutral Record: Illinois 0-0, GT 0-2. Conference Record: Illinois 0-0, GT 0-0. Series Record: Illinois leads, 7-1.
GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini will take their undefeated record on the road Tuesday night, as they clash with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Illinois has yet to lose in seven contests this season, and it has impressed with triumphs over 2013 NCAA Tournament squads Valparaiso (64-52) and UNLV (61-59). The Illini most recently took on an upstart IUPU-Fort Wayne team at home on Nov. 29, and after finding themselves down by eight in the second half, they fought back to earn a narrow 57-55 victory.
Georgia Tech traveled north to Brooklyn late last week to participate in the Barclays Classic, although it suffered losses to Ole Miss (77-67) and St. John's (69-58) on consecutive days. The losing streak spoiled an impressive start to the season, as the Yellow Jackets had been winners of five of their first six games.
Illinois has won seven of the eight all-time meetings with Georgia Tech, including a 75-62 decision in November of last year.
The Illini fought back to win their last game despite a poor shooting effort. On top of making just 39.2 percent of their field goal attempts (including 4- of-21 from 3-point range), they were also off the mark at the free-throw line, making only 13-of-23. Rayvonte Rice led the comeback effort with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals. Tracy Abrams netted 15 points, including the game-winning bucket with just over two minutes remaining, and Joseph Bertrand added 11 points. Illinois' forte this season hasn't been its prowess from the field, as it shoots a modest 42.5 percent for 72.3 points per game, but rather its outstanding defensive play as it yields just 57.0 points on 36.4 percent field goal efficiency. Rice has been a welcomed addition in his first season since transferring from Drake, averaging 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Bertrand (11.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Abrams (11.1 ppg) have also been stellar, while Nnanna Egwu (9.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Jon Ekey (8.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) round out the starting five.
After losing in the semifinals of the Barclays Classic, the Yellow Jackets fell flat against St. John's in the third-place game by shooting just 37 percent from the field and committing an unsightly 20 turnovers in the 11- point setback. Not one player managed to score in double figures, with Robert Carter, Jr. and Trae Golden leading the way with nine points apiece, while Daniel Miller added eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Georgia Tech is used to much more efficient shooting performances, as it pours in 73.4 points per game on 44.4 percent accuracy from the floor, and it makes more than 71 percent of its nearly 18 free-throw attempts per contest. Not only does Golden lead the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game, but he runs the point and hands out 3.8 assists per outing. Marcus Georges-Hunt (11.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Miller (10.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg) and Carter, Jr. (9.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg) are all imposing forces in the paint.
Illinois is a tremendous defensive squad that will surely cause the Yellow Jackets fits, but playing at home, Georgia Tech should be able to find a way to get back in the win column behind its impressive frontcourt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 66, Illinois 65
12/03 10:38:25 ET