Illinois looks to continue its winning ways when it hosts Marshall as part of the Global Sports Invitational on Sunday. The Fighting Illini have won three straight games to open the season, including an 82-73 victory against DePaul in the Gavitt Games, and hope to extend their non-conference regular-season winning streak to nine games in the first ever meeting with the Thundering Herd.
“All around I’m very pleased and I think there’s some growth,” Illinois first-year head coach Brad Underwood told reporters. “We get a team that comes in Sunday that is very well coached and is very good on offense.” The Fighting Illini are averaging 87 points per game in Underwood’s up-tempo offense after failing to reach 80 points in 17 of their last 18 games in 2016-17. The Illini haven’t faced an opponent from Conference USA since beating UAB 72-58 in 2015 and aim to win four straight games to open the season for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Thundering Herd started the season with wins over UT Martin (102-91) and Southern (83-74) before dropping an 86-83 decision to Morehead State and they hope to get back in the win column by beating a Power 5 team on the road for the first time since 2011.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network Plus
ABOUT MARSHALL (2-1): Jon Elmore scored a game-high 27 points despite going 7-of 16 from the floor and dished out nine assists against Morehead State to finish in double figures for the 38th consecutive game. Junior forward Ajdin Penava added 21 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots against the Eagles to record the fourth double-double of his career. “Ajdin Penava had a good game and Jon Elmore hasn’t shot the ball well all season, but he’ll bounce back,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni told reporters. “I had dreams of winning them all, but it wasn’t meant to be, but we’ll get better.”
ABOUT ILLINOIS (3-0): Freshman guard Mark Smith went a perfect 12-of-12 from the free-throw line en route to a career-high 21 points in the win against DePaul to finish in double figures for the second straight game. Kipper Nichols matched his personal high with 16 points while Michael Finke added nine points, five rebounds and three blocked shots against the Blue Demons. Aaron Jordan came off the bench to grab a game-high nine rebounds while Leron Black, who averaged 18.5 in the first two games of the season, was limited to eight points after battling foul trouble in the Illini’s first meeting with DePaul in 60 years.
1. Smith is 19-of-19 from the foul line this season.
2. Illinois is 15-of-65 from 3-point range in 2017-18.
3. Elmore has scored at least 20 points in three straight games.
PREDICTION: Illinois 89, Marshall 77