Illinois (4-0) at Chaminade (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 20, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Site: Lahaina Civic Center (2,400) -- Maui, Hawaii. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Illinois 2-0, Chaminade 0-1. Away Record: Illinois 1-0, Chaminade 1-0. Neutral Record: Illinois 1-0, Chaminade 2-0. Conference Record: Illinois 0-0, Chaminade 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Chaminade Silverswords will try to grab the nation's attention for the second night in a row when they take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The winner of this matchup advances to the finals to play the victor of the North Carolina/Butler matchup.
The Silverswords pulled off a huge upset in 1982 when they took down a top ranked Virginia team in the Maui Invitational. Chaminade celebrated the 30th anniversary of the biggest win in program history by taking down the Texas Longhorns, 86-73, on Tuesday night. The win improved the team's record to 7-76 in the event and 3-1 this season.
John Groce learned a thing or two about upsets while coaching Ohio University to the Sweet 16 last season. His impressive turnaround of the Bobcats' program landed him a job in Champaign to take over the struggling Fighting Illini program. Illinois is now 4-0 under Groce after it handled USC, 94-64, on Monday behind in a lights-out shooting performance. The team arrived from the mainland a few days early to take on Hawaii on Friday night. Illinois looked shaky versus the Warriors, but managed to escape with a 78-77 overtime win after D.J. Richardson drained a three-pointer from the corner as time expired.
These two programs have never met before Tuesday.
The Fighting Illini came out of the gate hot versus the Trojans and made 69 percent of their field goal attempts take a 31-point lead into halftime. The red hot shooting cooled off slightly after the break, but Illinois still managed to knock down 13 three-pointers and 15-of-17 at the charity stripe. Brandon Paul pushed the team past UCS by shooting 60 percent from the field, including an impressive 6-of-9 from distance, on his way to a game-high 26 points. The senior guard has now tallied 11 makes from beyond the arc and 51 points over his past two games. Tracy Abrams and Richardson are both playing very well alongside Paul in the backcourt. Abrams provided 22 points, five steals, and five rebounds versus Hawaii on Saturday before dishing out a season-high eight assists against the Trojans. Richardson is thriving as a spot-up shooter while Tyler Griffey excels as a slasher.
The fact that Chaminade is a Division II program actually helped it versus Texas. The Longhorns clearly underestimated the hosts, who rallied around D'Andre Haskins' 32-point performance. Haskins was spectacular as he made 7- of-11 field goal attempts and 14-of-15 at the free-throw line to power the win. Haskins also grabbed a team-best nine rebounds, which helped his team win the battle on the boards, 43-35. Kevin Hu added 16 points for Chaminade, which shot 48 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes of action. As a team, Chaminade went 34-of-39 at the charity stripe due to an aggressive approach on the offensive end of the floor.
Although the Fighting Illini easily pushed past USC, defeating a team that finished 6-26 last season hardly proves anything. Groce is intent on transforming the program back into a powerhouse. Chaminade is not going to sneak up on the Fighting Illini, but they will give them a tougher fight than the Trojans. The Silverswords have made it to the finals of the event just once since it began in 1984. Their only hope of a return to the title match is stopping Paul, which has yet to be done this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 80, Chaminade 66
11/20 10:34:35 ET