Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - The 22nd-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini will
attempt to keep their unbeaten start to the season alive on Wednesday night
when they play host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as part of the ACC/Big
Georgia Tech won its first two matchups at home before traveling to California
for the DirecTV Classic. After winning its opening-round game against Rice
(54-36), it lost to California in the semifinals, 68-57. The Yellow Jackets
were able to redeem themselves in the third-place game however, by posting a
65-56 win over Saint Mary's to move to 4-1.
Having played seven games in a span of 17 days to open the season, few teams
have been busier than Illinois. And the team has responded very well with wins
in all seven matchups, highlighted by a 78-61 victory over Butler in the
championship game of the 2012 Maui Invitational. Perhaps the trip home from
Hawaii made the Illini a bit sluggish the last time out against Gardner-Webb,
as they were losing in the final minute before Tyler Griffey's three-pointer
with four seconds left gave them a 63-62 win.
Illinois holds a 6-1 advantage in the all-time series with Georgia Tech, with
the last matchup coming in November of 2001.
The Yellow Jackets have gotten off to a surprisingly sluggish start in terms
of shooting, as they are hitting just 41.2 percent of their field goal
attempts, which includes a dismal 20.9 percent showing from three-point range.
There is good news though, as they have stepped it up at the defensive end by
limiting their opponents to a mere 51.8 ppg. The effort was stout again in the
win over Saint Mary's, as they held the Gaels to more turnovers (21) than
field goals (17). Pacing four Georgia Tech players in double figures was
Brandon Reed with 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range, which
is more than double the points he scored in the first four games combined. On
the season, Marcus Georges-Hunt leads the team with 11.4 ppg, although Kammeon
Holsey (10.6 ppg) and Mfon Udofia (10.2 ppg) are hot on his heels. Nobody
grabs more than 6.0 rpg, but four players record at least 5.0 rpg, which has
resulted in a plus-5.6 rebounding margin.
For a team that outscores its opponents by nearly 17 ppg, going down to the
wire at home against Gardner-Webb was certainly not part of the Illini's game
plan, but the late three-pointer was able to bail the squad out of a mediocre
night shooting (.438) and an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers. Griffey's late
trey gave him 13 points on the evening, tying him with D.J. Richardson,
Brandon Paul, and Joseph Bertrand for the team-lead. The Illini are no
stranger to a balanced scoring effort, as four players average double-digits
for the season, led by Brandon Paul with 18.7 ppg. Paul has been stellar from
the field (.483) and the three-point line (.426), while he's dished out a
team-high 26 assists (3.7 pg). Tracy Abrams (12.3 ppg) has also been
impressive distributing the ball with 23 assists, but he's been plagued by
just as many turnovers. Richardson scored 12.0 ppg and he leads the team with
5.0 rpg, and Griffey (10.9 ppg) has drilled 14-of-26 shots from long range.
The Sports Network