This Saturday, December 21 at 4:30, the Illinois basketball team takes on the Missouri Tigers in this year’s edition of the Busch Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis, Missouri. The event has taken place in late December every year since 1980 and has showcased some of the closest games in one of the fiercest rivalries in college basketball today. The Illini hold the advantage in all-time wins, going 27-16 overall, aided by a streak of nine straight wins between 2000 and 2008. That has now been followed up by four straight wins by Missouri going into the game this Saturday. The past two years, the matchup has included both teams being ranked, with #25 Illinois falling to #9 Missouri 74-78 in 2011, and #10 Illinois once again falling to #12 Missouri 73-82 in 2012.
This years game only includes one ranked team with Missouri ranked at #23. Missouri (10-0) and NBA ready prospect Jordan Clarkson have breezed through their competition this year, even beating other ranked teams including #18 UCLA 80-71 and other Big Ten opponents such as Northwestern 78-67. Clarkson is leading the team in both points and assists with 19.4 points and 3.9 assists per game. But Clarkson isn’t the only players on the team that can create their own shot as 6’5” Junior guard Jabari Brown is also averaging 19 points per game. Led by those two guards, Missouri is scoring 79 points per game as a team, one of the best averages in the nation.
Illinois is averaging just 72 points per game as a team this year and is led by redshirt Junior (and Centennial Alumni) Rayvonte Rice with 17.7 ppg. They are receiving a great spark off the bench from Freshman Point Guard Jaylon Tate who is averaging 3.4 assists per game. The Fighting Illini will need any spark they can get when they set out to take on Missouri as they are clearly over-matched. Coach John Groce is counting on the leadership from Tracy Abrams (11.5 ppg) and Nnanna Egwu (8.3 ppg) in order to come away with the win on Saturday.