PREVIEW: Illinois vs Chicago State

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois vs Chicago State on Monday night.

Illinois (1-3) vs.

Chicago State (3-1)

Date & Time: Nov. 23, 7 p.m. CT

Location: Prairie Capital Convention Center

TV: ESPN3

Quick Hits

  • Chicago State finished last season with an 8-24 record.
  • The Cougars were No. 333 out of 351 teams in the final Ken Pom rankings last year.
  • Illinois is 11-0 all-time against Chicago State, as they won their last matchup 77-53 in 2013.
  • Chicago State is 3-1 to start the season for the first time since 2009-10.
  • The Illini are 1-3 to start the season for the first time since 1965-66.

Projected Starters

Khalid Lewis (GR): Lewis posted seven points and four assists on Saturday night against Chattanooga, which was his best offensive outing of the season.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (FR): Coleman-Lands earned his first start against Chattanooga, but the question will be whether he earned another one after going scoreless with three turnovers in 19 minutes on Saturday.

Aaron Jordan (FR): Jordan played 25 minutes off the bench and scored eight points (2-4 from deep) on Saturday.

Malcolm Hill (JR): Hill was as good as he's been offensively against Chattanooga, as he posted a season-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting.

Mike Thorne (GR): Thorne bounced back from his scoreless outing against Providence by producing 18 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday.

Bench

Michael Finke (R-FR): Finke missed his second consecutive game-winning attempt, but he continues to show offensive promise (7 points vs Chattanooga).

Leron Black (SO): Black was rather disappointing once again on Saturday, as he played nine minutes, picked up three fouls and scored four points.

Alex Austin (R-JR): Austin played 10 scoreless minutes in the first half against Chattanooga, and he didn't play at all after that.

Maverick Morgan (JR): Morgan had eight points and a block in 14 minutes of action on Saturday.

D.J. Williams (FR): Williams played just four minutes, and he had one turnover and no shot attempts.

Jaylon Tate (JR): Tate was in street clothes again on Saturday, and he appears doubtful for Monday's game as well.

Chicago State Starters

Elliot Cole (JR): Cole is averaging 12.8 points per game, and he has hit the most threes (11) of anyone on the roster.

Kieran Wood (SR): The senior guard leads the Cougars in points (15.0), steals (4.0) and assists (3.8) per game, while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

Trayvon Palmer (JR): Palmer has been a beast in the backcourt for Chicago State, as he is averaging 14.5 points and 12 rebounds per game so far this season.

Jawad Adekoya (SR): Adekoya is averaging 12.3 points and four rebounds per game, and he is shooting 47.1 percent from deep.

Quron Davis (JR): The Simeon product is averaging 4.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Defend with relentless effort. The Illini have made countless mistakes at the defensive end so far this season. Opponents are shooting 51.1 percent from the field against Illinois, and so many of those makes came on easy looks. The Illini have been especially bad at guarding the three-point line. According to the Ken Pom rankings, Illinois is No. 304 out of 349 Division I teams in opponents' three-point percentage (40.7). Through four games, teams have scored 44.8 percent of their points from beyond the arc against the Illini, which is the seventh highest percentage in the country. The Orange and Blue have missed assignments, gotten beat off the dribble, failed to recognize shooters and more. Some of that is a product of having to mix lineups due to injuries and relying on young guys who don't have the experience. But there is no excuse for a lack of defensive intensity, which has been apparent far too often. Even if the Illini are going to make mistakes on defense, they need to bring the necessary effort and intensity to get the job done at that end of the floor.

2. Continue to play through Hill. The more Hill touches the ball, the better for the Illini. The junior forward looked like an All-Big Ten performer on Saturday night, as he has found his offensive groove. Hill was efficient (8-13) and he got to the free throw line 11 times. He still hasn't found his outside stroke (3-15 on the season), but his mid-range game is on point. The Cougars allowed 106 points to Iowa State, which was the only quality opponent they have faced to this juncture. That should set up Hill for another big night, and that will open things up for others when the defense turns their focus his way.

3. Come out with competitive fire. Illinois has not looked like a home team during their stint in Springfield, and it's a good thing that this is their last "home" game until the State Farm Center opens up next Wednesday. The Illini have trailed by double digits in the first half during all three of their regular season games at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. John Groce's team looked like they were sleepwalking out of the gate against Chattanooga, as they were down 11-2 through the first 3-plus minutes of the game. The Mocs led by as many as 15 in the first half. That simply can't happen against Chicago State. This will be Illinois' third game in six days, and they are coming off a pair of heartbreaking losses. But there is no time for them to lick their wounds. The Illini need to play with heart, and frankly, they should look like a team that is a little pissed off.

Prediction

Even though the records will tell you otherwise, this is a game that Illinois should win handily if they come to play. Chicago State is shooting just 31.4 percent from beyond the arc, which is a big break for the Illini defense. Hill and Thorne should be too much for the Cougars at the other end. This is a prime opportunity for the Illini to right the ship before heading to the Emerald Coast Classic to take on another NCAA tournament team in UAB on Friday night. Illinois has never started a season 1-4.

Illinois 81, Chicago State 64


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