Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Hoping to bounce back from their first loss of
the season, the 12th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini head to their home away
from home for Saturday's clash with the Auburn Tigers at the United Center in
Auburn comes in a game under .500 (5-6), as the Tigers' season has been a tale
of two streaks. AU dropped five straight decisions from Nov. 15-30, but then
went on a three-game win streak from Dec. 11-18. A 74-67 loss at home to
Winthrop three days before Christmas put and end to that run, and the team
will close out the non-league portion of its schedule with this bout and next
Wednesday's clash with Florida State. The SEC slate gets underway a week later
Illinois got off to an amazing start by winning its first 12 games, with
signature victories coming against Butler, Georgia Tech and Gonzaga.
Unfortunately for first-year head coach John Groce and his squad, it fell to
No. 12 Missouri last Saturday in St. Louis, 82-73, and this is UI's final non-
conference game before opening Big Ten action at Purdue next Wednesday.
Illinois won the only previous meeting with Auburn by claiming a 107-103
decision in Champaign on Dec. 12, 1987.
Despite having a losing record, Auburn's statistical figures aren't all that
bad as the team averages 67.2 ppg while allowing 62.6 ppg, and its foes are
shooting below 40 percent from the field. The Tigers also own favorable
margins in both rebounding (+3.2) and turnovers (+1.7), and they can boast the
fact that they have two of the top scorers in the SEC on the roster in the
form of Chris Denson (17.0 ppg, 4..0 rpg) and Frankie Sullivan (16.9 ppg, 4.2
rpg, 3.6 apg). Sullivan is tied for fourth in the league in scoring, and
Denson would be right there as well but he has appeared in only four games.
Sullivan had 22 points and Denson poured in 18, but still the Tigers fell
short in their bid for their fourth straight win as they dropped a seven-point
verdict to Winthrop last weekend. Auburn shot just 38.3 percent from the
field, which included a dreadful 3-of-23 showing from 3-point range, while the
visitors, who turned the ball over 19 times, made good on 49.0 percent of
their total shots.
With 12 wins in 13 opportunities, it's not surprising that Illinois is in the
black across the stat sheet, the team averaging 76.6 ppg while yielding just
64.1 ppg. Brandon Paul (19.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.6 apg) is one of the Big Ten's
top all-around performers, and he is within a point of taking over the
league's scoring lead. UI's other double-digit scorers include D.J. Richardson
(11.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Tracy Abrams (10.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), while Tyler
Griffey and Joseph Bertrand net 9.3 and 8.9 ppg, respectively. As a team, the
Illini are draining 37.3 percent of their 3-point tries, while holding the
opposition to 40.5 percent overall field goal efficiency. Illinois is also on
the plus side in rebounding (+1.8) and turnovers (+2.8). Paul scored 23
points, grabbed eight boards and logged five assists, but that effort went for
naught as the Illini dropped a nine-point decision to Missouri last weekend.
Illinois shot just 33.8 percent from the floor, missing 24 of its 32 3-point
attempts along the way. The Illini committed only seven turnovers in the
contest, but Mizzou claimed a resounding 58-35 edge on the glass.
The Sports Network