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December 11, 2012
Coming off of their huge win at Gonzaga the Illini are back home for a test against Norfolk State. Although Norfolk State is just 6-5, we've seen that this Illinois squad can have some highs and lows. How will they handle success?
We'll find out Tuesday night.
Setting the stage
#10 Illinois (10-0) vs. Norfolk State (6-5)
Dec. 11, 2012 // 7 p.m. CT // Champaign, Ill. // Assembly Hall (16,618)
Internet Stream: ESPN3.com - Mike Couzens (Play-By-Play), Brooke Weisbrod
Radio: Fighting Illini Sports Network - Brian Barnhart (Play-By-Play), Jerry Hester
Satellite Radio: Sirius - 106
* Norfolk State is known for their upset of Missouri last year in the NCAA tourney, but this is a much different team. They lost 4 seniors from that squad and had a rebuilding job. They have won 4 in a row after a 2-5 start.
* Expect a fast paced game, as both teams like to push it.
* Teams are shooting just 28.6% from behind the arc on the season against Norfolk State. The Illini are shooting 40.9% as a team.
* Star wing Pendarvis Williams missed two games earlier, but looks to be back as he had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against UMBC last weekend.
* Norfolk State defeated St. Francis (NY) 85-79 without Williams. The Illini beat St. Francis by an 89-64 score.
Keys to the game
1. Don't forget what got you here - Toughness and togetherness, along with some hot 3 point shooting, have made this team the #10 team in the country. When they play with energy and enthusiasm, along with a ton of confidence, they are very good. However, those performances have mostly been away from Assembly Hall. They need to play like that at home as well.
2. Don't play too fast - Illinois definitely wants to push it, but they have to be sharp as well. Norfolk State relies on a lots of 'pick 2's' as John Groce likes to say. That means turnovers and layups on the other end. Turnovers haven't been a huge issue for Illinois when they are focused and into the game, but there have been a few lackadaisical games as well.
3. Find an interior presence - At some point, the frontcourt is going to have to step up. Illinois has a solid size advantage, and now they need to play like it. They can attack the offensive glass, get some post action and make the 5 position a factor in this one. They need to do it, if it's just for confidence down the road.
The Illini have something to prove still, and I think they want to play well at home. Look for a slightly bigger crowd, a little more energy, and a better start at home as they get that 82-65 win over Norfolk State and an 11-0 start.