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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 10, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: State Farm Center (17,200) -- Champaign, Illinois. Television: BTDN. Home Record: Dartmouth 2-1, Illinois 6-0. Away Record: Dartmouth 1-2, Illinois 1-1. Neutral Record: Dartmouth 0-0, Illinois 1-0. Conference Record: Dartmouth 0-0, Illinois 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Illinois Fighting Illini will attempt to continue their strong start to the season on Tuesday night, as they play host to the Dartmouth Big Green at the State Farm Center.
Dartmouth had begun its season with a solid 3-1 start, but since then it has fallen back to .500 with back-to-back losses last week to Northern Illinois (64-57) and IUPU-Fort Wayne (80-64). This contest will close out a four-game road trip for the Big Green, who return home on Saturday to take on Jacksonville State.
After starting the season with seven straight victories, Illinois finally suffered its first loss on Dec. 3, dropping an ACC/Big Ten Challenge clash at Georgia Tech, 67-64. The Illini got back on track on Sunday afternoon by dismissing Auburn, 81-62.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between the Big Green and the Fighting Illini on the hardwood.
The Big Green fell behind IPFW by 16 points at halftime of their latest game and couldn't recover. They shot a modest 42.4 percent from the field, but they were hindered by a poor showing from the foul line (8-of-15) as well as a game-high 16 turnovers. Connor Boehm led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Eli Harrison came off the bench to score 12 points on 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Despite its mediocre 3-3 start, Dartmouth has displayed strong balance with its statistical performance, as it shoots 47.6 percent from the field for 77.0 points per game, and boasts impressive scoring (+9.2), rebounding (+7.2) and turnover (+1.2) margins. Although no one in the starting lineup scores more than Boehm's 11.5 points per game, all five net at least 8.8 points per contest. Alex Mitola (11.3 ppg) and John Golden (10.7 ppg) have been solid out on the perimeter, while Gabas Maldunas (9.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg) is the anchor down low.
The Illini had little trouble running past Auburn the last time out, thanks to a lofty 61.5 percent showing from the field, which included a 12-of-23 performance from beyond the arc. Leading the charge was Rayvonte Rice, who made 8-of-12 attempts from the floor for 22 points. Tracy Abrams, in addition to pouring in 17 points, stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Jon Ekey drained 4-of-6 from long distance for 14 points. It was one of the best offensive performances of the season for Illinois, which shoots a modest 44.3 percent from the floor en route to 72.3 points per game, but it has amassed its outstanding record behind a defense that holds opponents to just 37.3 percent field goal efficiency and only 58.7 points per game. Rice has shined in his first season with the team by posting 18.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while Abrams (11.3 ppg), Joseph Bertrand (11.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Ekey (8.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Nnanna Egwu (8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg) have done their part as well.
The Big Green have shown some improvement from years past, and they should be able to make some waves in the Ivy League this season, but they have very little chance of knocking off a hot Illinois team on its home floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 80, Dartmouth 58
12/10 10:30:50 ET