Previewing Illinois

Hostile road environments proved to be a major problem for last year's Tar Heels. The first true away game for the 2010-11 team comes Tuesday at No. 20 Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tip-off at Assembly Hall is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.

North Carolina (4-2) vs. Illinois (6-1)
Champaign, Ill. -- Assembly Hall
9:30 p.m. -- ESPN (Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes)


"It's hard – there's no question about that – going on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against a very good Illinois team." – UNC head coach Roy Williams

Something we have to work on is inside post defense. [Tyler] Zeller has great mobility and good bounce… His No. 1 strength is how he runs. And [John] Henson is very similar, a long, lanky guy like Mike Davis. We have to make progress on post defense. If you don't let them catch it, it's easier to stop them. Or make them catch it further out. That's something our big guys have to start doing." – Illinois head coach Bruce Weber


Season to Date: No. 20 Illinois enters Tuesday's contest with a 6-1 record. The Fighting Illini sandwiched their six wins around a 90-84 overtime loss to No. 19 Texas in 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in New York City, earning victories over Maryland (80-76), UC Irvine (79-65), Toledo (84-45), Southern Illinois (83-65), Yale (73-47) and Western Michigan (78-63). Weber's squad returned all five starters and seven of its top eight leading scorers from '09-'10, counting for 89.4 percent of its points, 79 percent of its rebounds, and 85 percent of its minutes played.

Dynamite Demetri: Point guard Demetri McCamey has built off his first-team All-Big Ten selection in '09-'10 with a strong start to his senior season. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder leads the Illini in scoring with 15.0 points per game and ranks second nationally with 7.7 assists per outing. Compare that assist output with a minimal number of turnovers – four games with one or less – and you arrive at 3.86 assist-to-turnover ratio, tops in the Big Ten. McCamey is shooting 52.7 percent from the field (39-74) and 48.1 percent from 3-point range (13-27) through seven games.

Strength in Numbers: With McCamey directing traffic, all five starters are averaging double figures in '10-'11. Guards D.J. Richardson (10.7) and Brandon Paul (11.4 ppg) deliver a perimeter threat, while Mike Davis (10.4 ppg) and Mike Tisdale (10.1 ppg) deliver a post presence. But the Illini's balance runs deeper than the starting five, as nine players are averaging at least 12 minutes per game. Weber's bench is scoring 28.9 points per game, good for a 13.8-point advantage over opposing benches.

Scoring Efficiency on Both Ends of the Floor: Illinois is cranking out 80.4 points per game (2nd Big Ten), thanks in large part to a 49.5 field goal percentage. The Illini have shot better than 45 percent in all but one game and at least 49 percent in five games. On the other end, Weber's squad is holding teams to a combined 38.8 percent (27 percent from 3-point range) shooting. All seven opponents have shot less than 45 percent from the field, with four teams held to less than 38 percent.

A Sizeable Roster: Only two players on Illinois's 13-man roster stand shorter than 6-foot-2, and Richardson is the smallest player in the starting lineup at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. At first glance, it would be easy to assume that the Illini – with post players like Tisdale (7-foot-1, 250 pounds) and Meyers Leonard (7-foot, 240 pounds) – would present a physical Big Ten challenge similar to Minnesota, but Weber has faced the same toughness issues that Williams is dealing with in Chapel Hill.

Trouble from Deep: Weber's starting perimeter triumvirate – McCamey, Paul and Richardson – are knocking down a combined 45.9 percent of their 3-point opportunities (39-85) on the season.

Last Meeting: Illinois drilled six 3-pointers in the second half and point guard Dee Brown connected on two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to kill a 12-0 UNC run and lift his squad to a 68-64 victory on Nov. 29, 2005, at the Dean E. Smith Center in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tyler Hansbrough scored a team-high 17 points, while Marcus Ginyard added 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting for the Tar Heels.

Series History: The Tar Heels hold a 4-3 all-time series lead over Illinois, including a 1-2 mark in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Projected Starters:
32 Demetri McCamey (6-3, 200, Sr.) – 15.0 ppg, 7.7 apg
1 D.J. Richardson (6-3, 195, So.) – 10.7 ppg, 1.9 apg
30 Bill Cole (6-9, 215, Sr.) – 3.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg
24 Mike Davis (6-9, 225, Sr.) – 10.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg
54 Mike Tisdale (7-1, 250, Sr.) – 10.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg

Top Reserves:
3 Brandon Paul (6-4, 200, So.) – 11.4 ppg, 2.6 apg
22 Jereme Richmond (6-7, 205, Fr.) – 8.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg
12 Myers Leonard (7-0, 240, Fr.) – 4.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg
42 Tyler Griffey (6-8, 235, So.) – 3.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg

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