Champaign, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off their first loss of the season, the 24th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini will try to bounce back against the American University Eagles in non-conference action at the State Farm Center.
American has had a few more setbacks than Illinois, but it is still sporting a solid 5-3 record through its first eight games. The Eagles added to their win total on Wednesday with a 66-49 triumph over Brown. That win was the third in four games and came during the third leg of a five-game road trip, which ends on Dec. 16 against La Salle.
After ripping off six straight wins to start the season, Illinois finally stumbled on Tuesday, falling in a 70-61 final to No. 15 Miami-Florida on the road. The Illini are still a perfect 4-0 at home, although they face tough tests away from home next against Villanova and Oregon.
These teams have met just once before, with Illinois running away with a 108-84 victory during the 1993-94 season.
Despite playing on the road, American did not seem all that intimidated against Brown. The Eagles connected on an even 50 percent of their shots from the floor, including a 5-of-11 effort from beyond the arc. Jesse Reed netted 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the winning effort.
Anyone who has watched more than one American game can attest to the fact that the Eagles are not the most offensively proficient squad. They are netting only 52.1 points per game on 42 percent shooting. However, by slowing the tempo down they have managed to hold foes to just 49.3 ppg on 41.2 percent accuracy. Reed (13.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg) leads the team in scoring and rebounds, while playing more than 37 minutes per game. John Schoof (12.8 ppg) is the second double-digit scorer, while Darius Gardner (9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Kevin Panzer (7.4 ppg) are the only other players putting in more than four points per game.
Rayvonte Rice netted 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but he did not get enough support against Miami. The Illini only made 33.3 percent of their shots from the floor in the nine-point loss. They did manage to remain within striking distance for the most part by outscoring the Hurricanes, 21-8, in second-chance points.
In its last two games, Illinois has been held to 62 and 61 points, respectively. Even with those efforts, the Illini are still averaging an impressive 85.9 points per game, while knocking down 45.9 percent of their shots from the floor. On defense, they are doing a solid job in limiting opponents to 63.9 points on 36.5 percent accuracy. Rice (18.4 ppg, 8 rpg, 2.4 spg) carries most of the scoring responsibility, while proving to be a difficult guard to keep off the glass or out of passing lanes. Malcolm Hill (14 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Aaron Cosby (10.3 ppg) are scoring in double figures as well.