Preview: Illinois at Rutgers
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[February 03, 2016]
Rutgers looks to earn its first Big
Ten victory of the season Wednesday when it hosts struggling Illinois in
a battle of two of the bottom three teams in the league standings. The
Scarlet Knights have dropped nine straight, while the Illini have lost
two in a row.
Illinois has been dealing with injuries all year and may be a little
more short-handed in this one after freshman center Michael Finke
suffered a knee contusion that knocked him out of Sunday's loss to
Wisconsin. Finke is likely out for this contest, which means even
more offensive load will be on the backs of guards Malcolm Hill
(18.5 points) and Kendrick Nunn (17.8), though Nunn is a game-time
decision after suffering a bruised hip against the Badgers. Rutgers
comes off an ugly loss at Michigan State that saw the Spartans set a
school record for 3-pointers. Freshman Corey Sanders has been a
bright spot for coach Eddie Jordan, leading the league in steals
(1.6 per game) while pacing all league freshmen in scoring (14.2)
and assists (3.8).
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT ILLINOIS (10-12, 2-7 Big Ten): The Illini's season gets more
and more about injuries and tough losses, but coach John Groce
doesn't want his team focusing on those things. Groce still believes
his squad can make a run at the postseason, and wants his players to
focus on what they can control - their play. "The biggest thing for
us is we can't control those things," Groce told reporters. "What
we're trying to control is how well we play. That precedes outcomes.
We've got to play better."
ABOUT RUTGERS (6-16, 0-9): The Scarlet Knights are having troubles
with injuries themselves, forcing Jordan to mix and match his
players into different lineups. Unfortunately, it hasn't been a
winning formula yet, though Jordan realizes that the experience his
team gains this year will pay off in the future with some victories.
"We concentrate on us a lot because of where we are, under-manned
and under-sized," Jordan told reporters. "We are creating different
themes and schemes to play to sort of reinvent ourselves almost on a
weekly basis. We are trying to find ways to have our kids play
together and have some rhythm."
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1. Hill has scored in double figures in every game this season and
his scoring average is the highest by an Illini player since Brian
Cook's league-leading 20 point average in 2002-03.
2. Coming into the week, Rutgers ranked fifth in the Big Ten in
steals in all games (5.9) and in league play (5.2).
3. A different player has been the top rebounder for Illinois in
each of the last five games.
PREDICTION: Illinois 74, Rutgers 62
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