Now up to No. 13 in the Associated Press Poll, Illinois (8-0) plays host to Western Carolina Tuesday.
Illinois (8-0) vs Western Carolina (3-5)
Champaign, Ill. - Assembly Hall (16,618)
Tuesday, 7 p.m. CST - No live TV (BTN replay Wed. (12/5) @ 12:30 p.m.
Notes (from Western Carolina sports information):
-Illinois first-year assistant Dustin Ford played for and coached with Western Carolina head coach Larry Hunter. Ford was on Hunter’s Ohio University squad from 1998-01 before coaching at WCU for three seasons, serving as the recruiting coordinator from 2006-08 and associate head coach in the spring of 2008. Ford was on staff for WCU in the first meeting between the Catamounts and Illini.
- Tuesday night’s game features two former head coaches at Mid-American Conference member, Ohio University. Larry Hunter led the Bobcats for 12 seasons, compiling 204 victories and 10 winning seasons while John Groce had 85 wins in four seasons.
- Western Carolina plays the final game of a seven-game road swing on Tuesday against Illinois. The Catamounts play eight of their first nine games on the road including the first-ever regular season international trip with two games in the Cancun Challenge. All told, the Catamounts will only play three of their first 13 GAMES of the 2012-13 season at home. WCU played seven of its first eight away from home in 2011-12 and in 2010-11, the Catamounts played 13 of their first 15 away from Cullowhee.
- Western Carolina ranks third in the Southern Conference in scoring, averaging 73.6 points per game on the season. The Catamounts also rank third in the league in both field goal percentage (45.0%), assists (14.8 assists per game), turnover margin (+1.75) and offensive rebounds, averaging 12.9 offensive boards per game.
- WCU is limiting opponents to just 29.5% shooting from beyond the 3-point arc this season to rank second in the Southern Conference.
- At the conclusion of the last season, Western Carolina won seven of its last eight games including a run to the Southern Conference Championship game. In that title bout with Davidson, WCU erased a 13-point deficit over the final 2:47, tying the game on clutch free throws by Keaton Cole in the closing seconds to force overtime. In the first extra session, Harouna Mutombo drained a pair of free throws and WCU got a defensive stop to force a second overtime. At the end of double-overtime, Cole had a 3-point attempt from the top of the key rim out as Davidson won, 93-91. All told, WCU made all 16 free throw attempts including eight in bonus time in the thrilling final.
Series record: Illinois leads 1-0
Last meeting: Illinois 58, Western Carolina 36 (Dec. 17, 2007)
Groce vs. Western Carolina: First meeting
Projected starting lineup:
Tom Tankelewicz - G, Jr., 6-4, 180 - 10.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Trey Sumler - G, Jr., 6-2, 175 - 17.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
James Sinclair - G, Soph., 6-3, 180 - 6.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Tawaski King - F, Jr., 6-8, 245 - 14.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Preston Ross - F., Jr., 6-4, 220 - 7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg
Mike Brown - G, Fr., 6-3, 175 - 4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Brandon Boggs - G, Jr., 6-5, 190 - 9.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Josh Mendenhall - F, Jr., 6-8, 180 - 3.0 ppg, 0.8 rpg
“Offensively, they’re going to push the ball in transition and try to score and run some secondary actions when they don’t. Then, in the half-court they’re going to execute. They’re going to screen you, they’re going to cut hard. You know, we’ve got to do a better job of avoiding screens … because if we don’t do that they’ll clock you. Offensively, the guards are a concern. The guard averaging 18 points a game, Sumler, can make plays, and the big kid, Tankelewicz, he’s a load down there. Those are my primary concerns when it comes to defending them.” -- Illinois coach John Groce.