Men's College Basketball
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                 === Auburn seeks upset of No. 12 Illinois ===
 Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Hoping to bounce back from their first loss of
 the season, the 12th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini head to their home away
 from home for Saturday's clash with the Auburn Tigers at the United Center in
 Auburn comes in a game under .500 (5-6), as the Tigers' season has been a tale
 of two streaks. AU dropped five straight decisions from Nov. 15-30, but then
 went on a three-game win streak from Dec. 11-18. A 74-67 loss at home to
 Winthrop three days before Christmas put and end to that run, and the team
 will close out the non-league portion of its schedule with this bout and next
 Wednesday's clash with Florida State. The SEC slate gets underway a week later
 versus LSU.
 Illinois got off to an amazing start by winning its first 12 games, with
 signature victories coming against Butler, Georgia Tech and Gonzaga.
 Unfortunately for first-year head coach John Groce and his squad, it fell to
 No. 12 Missouri last Saturday in St. Louis, 82-73, and this is UI's final non-
 conference game before opening Big Ten action at Purdue next Wednesday.
 Illinois won the only previous meeting with Auburn by claiming a 107-103
 decision in Champaign on Dec. 12, 1987.
 Despite having a losing record, Auburn's statistical figures aren't all that
 bad as the team averages 67.2 ppg while allowing 62.6 ppg, and its foes are
 shooting below 40 percent from the field. The Tigers also own favorable
 margins in both rebounding (+3.2) and turnovers (+1.7), and they can boast the
 fact that they have two of the top scorers in the SEC on the roster in the
 form of Chris Denson (17.0 ppg, 4..0 rpg) and Frankie Sullivan (16.9 ppg, 4.2
 rpg, 3.6 apg). Sullivan is tied for fourth in the league in scoring, and
 Denson would be right there as well but he has appeared in only four games.
 Sullivan had 22 points and Denson poured in 18, but still the Tigers fell
 short in their bid for their fourth straight win as they dropped a seven-point
 verdict to Winthrop last weekend. Auburn shot just 38.3 percent from the
 field, which included a dreadful 3-of-23 showing from 3-point range, while the
 visitors, who turned the ball over 19 times, made good on 49.0 percent of
 their total shots.
 With 12 wins in 13 opportunities, it's not surprising that Illinois is in the
 black across the stat sheet, the team averaging 76.6 ppg while yielding just
 64.1 ppg. Brandon Paul (19.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.6 apg) is one of the Big Ten's
 top all-around performers, and he is within a point of taking over the
 league's scoring lead. UI's other double-digit scorers include D.J. Richardson
 (11.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Tracy Abrams (10.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg), while Tyler
 Griffey and Joseph Bertrand net 9.3 and 8.9 ppg, respectively. As a team, the
 Illini are draining 37.3 percent of their 3-point tries, while holding the
 opposition to 40.5 percent overall field goal efficiency. Illinois is also on
 the plus side in rebounding (+1.8) and turnovers (+2.8). Paul scored 23
 points, grabbed eight boards and logged five assists, but that effort went for
 naught as the Illini dropped a nine-point decision to Missouri last weekend.
 Illinois shot just 33.8 percent from the floor, missing 24 of its 32 3-point
 attempts along the way. The Illini committed only seven turnovers in the
 contest, but Mizzou claimed a resounding 58-35 edge on the glass.
 12/29 10:53:13 ET

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