Game Preview: Minnesota at Illinois

The Golden Gophers open the Big Ten season on the road against Illinois. The game at Assembly Hall is scheduled to tip at 6:30 p.m. and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

Minnesota (12-1) vs. Illinois (11-2)
Champaign, Ill. – Assembly Hall
6:30 p.m. – BTN (Dan Revsine, Jim Jackson)


Season to Date: The Illini, like the Gophers, are off the hot start this year. With an 11-2 record, Illinois heads into Big Ten play with a number of quality wins thus far. The Illini beat Maryland in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge by a score of 71-62. Illinois' most impressive win came in their next game as they beat Gonzaga, a team that currently sits 8th in the country in RPI. The two losses on the season have been to top teams including UNLV who sits a sits near the top of RPI at 10th. Illinois' last loss came just five days ago as they fell 78-74 against the 8th-ranked Tigers of Mizzou. The Illini will look to rebound from their last loss and get off to a hot start to the Big Ten season.

3-point Shooting Woes: As in seasons past, Minnesota has had a difficult time defending the deep ball. This year is no different as the Gophers rank 11th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting defense, allowing their opponents to shoot almost 37% from behind the arc. Luckily for Minnesota, Illinois is one of the worst 3-point shooting times in the conference, connecting on just 32% of their attempts from deep, also good for 11th in the Big Ten. The Illini will look to improve their outside shooting on Tuesday against the Gophers.

Inside the Stats: Ralph Sampson and Rodney Williams won't be the only prolific shot blockers in the matchup. Sophomore center Meyers Leonard is a physical force at 7-foot-1. Leonard has put this size to use, amassing a league-leading 31 blocks on the year, averaging 2.4 rejections per contest. Along with his blocking ability, Leonard has added 13.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Coach Preview: Bruce Weber is in his ninth season as the head coach at Illinois, where he has compiled a 204-88 record. During his tenure in Champaign, Illinois in the 15th-winningest college program in the nation. Weber has guided the Fighting Illini to two Big Ten Championships and a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to becoming the head coach at UI, Weber spent five years as the head coach at Southern Illinois.

Series History: The two teams meet on Tuesday for the 166th time. Illinois holds a substantial advantage over Minnesota—leading the series 106-59. The Gophers and Fighting Illini have split the last four matchups. Minnesota's last victory came on Feb. 27, 2010 in Champaign.

Projected Starters:
G 0 Sam Maniscalco (6-0, 180, Fr.) – 10.6 ppg, 2.9 apg
G 1 D.J. Richardson (6-3, 195, Jr.) – 14.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg
G 3 Brandon Paul (6-4, 200, Jr.) – 11.3 ppg, 3.1 apg
F 42 Tyler Griffey (6-8, 230, Jr.) – 7.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg
C 12 Meyers Leonard (7-1, 245, So.) – 13.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg

Top Reserves:
G 2 Joseph Bertrand (6-5, 195, r-So.) – 4.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg
G 13 Tracy Abrams (6-1, 185, Fr.) – 2.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg

Location: Champaign, Ill.
Enrollment: 41,495
Conference: Big Ten
Nicknames: Fighting Illini
Colors: Illinois Blue & Illinois Orange
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Record at UI: 204-88
2010-11 Record: 20-14 (9-9)


Projected Starters:
F 33 Rodney Williams (6-7, 205, Jr.) – 9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg
C 50 Ralph Sampson III (6-11, 230, Sr.) – 8.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg
G 13 Maverick Ahanmisi (6-2, 192, So.) – 4.7 ppg, 2.2 apg
G 20 Austin Hollins (6-4, 185) – 8.7 ppg, 1.9 apg
G 00 Julian Welch (6-3, 194, Jr.) – 9.9 ppg, 2.5 apg

Key Reserves:
G 1 Andre Hollins (6-1, 200, Fr.) – 6.1 ppg, 1.6 apg
F 10 Oto Ošenieks (6-8, 220, Fr.) – 3.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg
G 23 Chip Armelin (6-3, 198, So.) – 6.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg
C 55 Elliott Eliason (6-11, 260, r-Fr.) – 2.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg

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