#722 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign Illinivs.#721 Northern Kentucky University Norse
Written by Chuck D
Northern Kentucky Norse 1-0 (0-0 ATS) at Illinois Fighting Illini 1-0 (0-1 ATS)
When and Where: Sunday, Nov. 13, State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill. 6:00pm EST
Spread: Illinois -15.5; Total: 146
The Fighting Illini enter the season coming off of a tie for seventh-place in the Big Ten and a first-round exit from the National Invitational Tournament. They passed their first test of the new campaign, beating Southeast Missouri State, 81-62. Their next test comes on Sunday evening when they welcome Northern Kentucky into Champaign. The Norse opened their season with a 96-56 home victory over Division III school Earlham out of Indiana.
In Northern Kentucky’s debut year in the Horizon league, the squad ended up with a 5-13 conference record and went 9-21 overall. It was John Brannen’s first year at the helm but due to the transition to Divison I, his team was ineligible for the postseason. Those restrictions have been lifted this season and the Norse will be welcome to accept an invite to anything from the NCAA Tournament to the CIT. Redshirt sophomore Jeff Garrett scored made an astounding college debut with 12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and three steals and early on looks like the go-to guy for the Norse. This year’s squad has a lot of new faces on the team freshmen Jalen Tate and Dantez Walton each scored 11 points in the 40-point victory over Earlham. The team was without Leron Black who is serving a four-game suspension to begin the season.
Illinois did not look like gangbusters in their season-opening win over SE Missouri State. The Illini trailed by as many as seven points in the first half before John Groce got his squad in gear and the team cruised to the 19-point win. Malcolm Hill scored 21 points and is expected to be the biggest threat for opponents this season. Michel Finke went 4-for-6 from the floor and Maverick Morgan went 8-for-8 as the two combined for 28 points. The squad will be deep this year with as many as five coming off the bench. Coming back from injuries, Tracy Abrams scored 13 points and had three assists in 27 minutes. Abrams has scored 903 career points at Illinois but the sixth-year guard has missed the last two seasons.
Northern Kentucky is:
Northern Kentucky takes to the road for the first time this season and a trip to Champaign will be much different than playing at home against a Division III school. The Illini were able to overcome a first-half deficit to pull out an easy win at home against SE Missouri State and there is no reason to think that they will not be able to do the same, if not more, against the Norse.
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Chuck Dowling is a 30-something University of Florida J-School alum that lives in his mother’s basement. Just kidding... there are no basements in Florida (the ground is too moist). He has been in the “biz” for his entire adult life and specializes in NCAA football and basketball, as well as soccer, boxing, and MMA. When not writing, Chuck moonlights as a high school athletics radio and internet-television broadcaster.