Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams with only one loss between them get together on Saturday evening, as the Illinois Fighting Illini take on the 15th-ranked Oregon Ducks.
Illinois brings a 9-1 record into the contest, the Illini having won two straight since suffering their lone loss at Georgia Tech on Dec. 3, 67-64. The team was most recently in action this past Tuesday, slipping by Dartmouth at home, 72-65. This is the first of back-to-back games Illinois will play against a member of the Top-25, as it battles No. 24 Missouri in St. Louis next Saturday.
Off to its first 8-0 start since 2006-07, Oregon has run roughshod through the majority of its opponents thus far and it entered the week ranked fourth in the country in scoring with an average of 91.4 ppg. The Ducks played their first true road game of the season last Sunday, prevailing in overtime over Ole Miss, 115-105. With the exception of the season opener against Georgetown in South Korea, Oregon has won each time by double digits. The Ducks won't play another official road game until opening their Pac-12 Conference schedule at Utah on Jan. 2, 2014.
Illinois has won all four previous meetings in the series with Oregon, with the last encounter taking place in 2005 also in Portland (89-59).
The Illini have logged their impressive record on the back of a stifling defensive effort, with foes generating just 59.3 ppg in hitting a mere 37.8 percent of their field goal attempts, while also coming up short in the rebounding battle (-6.0). The team's offensive prowess extends to three double-digit scorers, each of whom has a hand in helping UI put up 72.3 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .450 overall, .326 from 3-point range and .658 from the foul line, the latter two of course in need of improvement as the team looks ahead to significantly tougher competition once the Big Ten Conference slate gets underway versus Indiana on New Year's Eve. Rayvonte Rice paces the club with 17.9 ppg, while also helping out on the glass with 5.7 rpg. Tracy Abrams (11.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.2 apg) and Joseph Bertrand (11.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) are developing into well-rounded players. Rice was high man for the Illini in their recent win over Dartmouth, netting 13 points, while Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu tallied 11 apiece, and Malcolm Hill chipped in 10 off the bench.
With an offense that produces as well as Oregon's, it's no surprise to see six guys averaging double figures in the scoring column, led by Joseph Young and his 20.1 ppg. Each of the first five are shooting in excess of 51 percent from the field, with the top four also hitting their 3-pointers at 40 percent or better. Mike Moser (15.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is getting it done at both ends of the court, while Johnathan Loyd not only scores (11.1 ppg), but serves as one of the top playmakers in the country with his 7.4 apg. Oregon allows 74.8 ppg, despite foes shooting only 41 percent from the floor, which includes a 29.6 percent showing from beyond the arc. Moser scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime and grabbed 10 rebounds, leading the Ducks to a thrilling overtime win at Ole Miss last Sunday. Moser was one of six UO players to reach double figures in the contest, with Loyd finishing with 23 points and 15 assists for his first career double-double. Young was a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point range in putting up 19 points. Oregon drained 11-of-18 long-range launches in the game, shooting 58.5 percent from the field overall. The Rebels nailed 15 treys, but committed 18 turnovers as they wasted a 39-point performance by Marshall Henderson.