After a dominant performance in Atlanta against the Auburn Tigers, the Illini return home to take on Dartmouth in their final home non-conference game.
With the 3 neutral site games left after this before they begin Big Ten play, this is likely the last opportunity for John Groce to experiment with his lineups and the last opportunity for the freshmen to state their case for an expanded role.
Here are our keys to the game and a pick.
Setting the Stage
Illinois (8-1) vs. Dartmouth (3-3)
Dec. 10, 2013 // 7 p.m. CST
Champaign, Ill. // State Farm Center (16,618)
Internet Stream: BTDN - Matt Maniscalco (Play-By-Play), Brett Lerner (Analyst), Taylor Rooks (Reports)
Radio: Fighting Illini Sports Network - Brian Barnhart (Play-By-Play), Jerry Hester (Analyst)
*The match-up with the Big Green also is Illinois' final home non-conference game this season. The Illini have won 28 straight non-conference games at State Farm Center, and carry a 39-game home court winning streak in regular season non-conference games.
* Junior transfer Rayvonte Rice is the first Illini newcomer to score in double figures in each of his first nine games since Kiwane Garris did so in his first 10 games as a freshman in 1993-94.
* This is the first time in eight seasons that Illinois has held each of its first nine opponents to less than 70 points, since the 2005-06 UI squad did so in the first 16 games.
* Tuesday's game vs. Dartmouth will be streamed live at FightingIllini.com. The video streams are part of the Illini All-Access package via the Big Ten Digital Network (BTDN), available through monthly or annual subscription. The Illini All-Access subscription includes all streamed events involving Illini athletics. The service is $9.95 per month and fans can sign-up at FightingIllini.com. The game will be televised tape-delay. The BTN is scheduled to air the Illinois-Dartmouth game on Thursday (Dec. 12) at 6 p.m.
* With an all-time record of 1,698-910, Illinois stands just two wins away from collecting its 1,700th victory, aiming to become the 13th program in NCAA D-1 history to reach that milestone. Illinois is the 11th-winningest program in NCAA history by percentage with a 65.1 all-time winning percentage.
* This is the first meeting between Illinois and Dartmouth on the hardwood.
Keys to the game
1. Attack mode - Dartmouth doesn't do much well on defense, except for preventing second shots. But teams make a lot of their first shots. They also foul quite a bit, which means Rice, Bertrand and Abrams can attack the rim and get to the cup and the line. Illinois will get open shots, but they have to go inside out, not settle. They can't let their 12 3's against Auburn be fool's gold.
2. Second chances - If you look at the one issue in the Auburn game, it was the number of offensive rebounds for the Tigers. Dartmouth has a great rebounder in Gabas Maldunas and former New Trier star Conner Boehm has a similar offensive rebound game to Illini forward Jo Ekey. Limiting second chances with the way Illinois is playing defense makes this a potentially great defense.
3. Consistency - Sure, shooting comes and goes, but this team has to be consistent with their defensive effort and they can't afford to have let downs where they don't get the most out of each and every player. They aren't good enough to get away with that. This is a good opportunity to show the maturity that they will need to have come Big Ten season. Can they follow up a good performance with another good performance?
If the Illini come out ready to play, this won't be a contest, as Dartmouth isn't a high level squad. Illinois won't look ahead to Oregon, or back at Auburn, which means a 72-57 win and a 9-1 start for the Illini.