St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - The 32nd annual Braggin' Rights game is set
for Saturday evening in Kansas City, as rivals Missouri and Illinois collide
at the Scottrade Center in a battle of top-25 foes.
The 12th-ranked Tigers have won nine of their first 10 games this season, with
the lone loss coming against Louisville back on Nov. 23. Since then, Frank
Haith's squad has reeled off five straight victories, including a 102-51
whipping of South Carolina State on Monday.
John Groce's first season in Champaign couldn't have started any better. The
Illini are one of just eight teams left in the nation that have yet to lose.
Illinois moved to 12-0 on the season with Sunday's 66-53 victory over Eastern
Illinois holds a 27-15 advantage in the all-time series and a 20-11 edge in
games played in St. Louis. However, it is Missouri that has claimed victory in
the last three meetings, including a 78-74 decision in last year's matchup.
Missouri made light work of South Carolina State, posting its highest scoring
total of the season, as the Tigers delivered on 56.9 percent from the floor
overall. The team's shooting performance was even more impressive considering
Missouri went just 6-of-27 from 3-point range (.222). Five Tigers notched
double figures in the lopsided win, led by Earnest Ross' 16 points. Jabari
Brown and Keion Bell netted 12 points each, while Stefan Jankovic and Laurence
Bowers tacked on 11 points apiece. Alex Oriakhi put up nine points, while
grabbing 11 rebounds.
Missouri has thrived on the offensive end this season, averaging 77.8 ppg, on
.455 shooting. Dominating on the boards has also been a strength, boasting of
a +13.3 rebounding margin. Bowers has returned this season from a lost 2011-12
due to injury, and been a dominant frontcourt presence, converting 58.6
percent of his shots, en route to a team-high 16.3 ppg. Phil Pressey runs the
offense to near perfection and can create shots for himself (12.3 ppg) and
others (5.8 apg). Oriakhi adds 10.6 ppg to the cause and is the team's top
rebounder (8.6 rpg).
The Illini have had no problem generating offense either, as the team is
netting 76.9 ppg on the year. In addition to a +14.3 scoring margin, Illinois
is also enjoying advantages on the boards (+3.8) and in turnover margin
(+2.7). The 3-pointer is the weapon of choice, with Illinois averaging 10
treys per contest. Brandon Paul headlines the squad in terms of scoring,
netting an impressive 18.8 ppg on .464 shooting. D.J. Richardson (11.5 ppg)
and Tracy Adams (11.5 ppg) add to the backcourt depth. Paul and Richardson
have been a lethal duo from behind the arc, combining for just over half (63)
of the team's 120 3-pointers to date.
It wasn't the cleanest of games from Illinois' perspective, as the team
committed 20 turnovers. However, the Illini were able to offset that by
shooting an even 50 percent from the field in a 13-point win over EKU. Paul
led the way, just missing a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Abrams and Joseph Bertrand were instrumental in the win as well, finishing
with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Sports Network