Champaign, IL – Illinois finally cracked the top-25 and will conference action at Assembly Hall.
This will surprisingly be the first meeting between the two historic programs.
St. Bonaventure is off to a 3-3 start after beating its in-state rival Buffalo 66-60 its last time out. The Bonnies have also beaten in-state rivals Cornell and Siena, but is winless outside of New York as they have fallen to Cleveland State, Virginia Tech, and Arkansas State. Coach Mark Schmidt's team used a big run in the second half to defeat Buffalo, and will look to carry that momentum into the bout with Illinois. St.Bonaventure is scoring 64.8 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting from the floor and 33.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Bonnies have held opponents to 62.3 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting from the field. Opponents have torched the Bonnies with outside shooting as they are shooting 40 percent from three point range.
Illinois was supposed to take a step backward this season after losing four starters from 2010-2011's Sweet Sixteen squad. Bruce Weber's team did not get that memo. The Fighting Illini are off to an 8-0 start and are coming off a win against a very respectable Gonzaga team. Illinois has been impressive all season as it is scoring 73.5 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field. On the defensive end, the Fighting Illini are holding their opponents to just 57.4 points per game on 37.6 percent shooting from the floor. Illinois is a very good rebounding team as they are winning the battle of the boards by 7.1 boards per game.
All-American candidate Andrew Nicholson is the driving force for the Bonnies. Nicholson had been in a slump before posting 23 points and pulling down eight rebounds against Buffalo. Demitrius Conger is the second scoring option for the Bonnies. The junior swingman went off for 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the loss to Virginia Tech. Conger chipped in 11 in his last outing against Buffalo.
Illinois has a balanced attack as Meyers Leonard, D.J. Richardson, Sam Maniscalco, and Brandon Paul have all been able to step up when needed. Leonard is going to be the key to taking down the Bonnies as the 7-1 center is going to be a match up problem and could keep the Bonnies' Nicholson on the bench with foul trouble. Richardson's quick first step makes it nearly impossible to keep him out of the lane to make plays.