Coppin State seeks upset of No. 24 Illinois

Dec 11, 2011 - 4:13 PM Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - The 24th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini entered the weekend as one of only 12 undefeated teams nationally, and they will attempt to remain perfect when they battle the Coppin State Eagles in non-conference action tonight.

Coppin State is a rather disappointing 3-4 overall, but the team has given its fans a reason to be excited lately. The Eagles, who are members of the MEAC, have won their last two outings. Still, it needs to be pointed out that those two opponents, West Virginia Tech and Rio Grande, are far inferior to tonight's foe.

En route to nine victories, Illinois has proven capable of winning both by blowout and by a narrow margin. On Wednesday, the squad had its hands full with St. Bonaventure but managed to escape that defensive struggle with a 48-43 triumph. The Illini are 6-0 at home and may be capable of making some noise in what appears to be a wide open Big Ten Conference.

Illinois has won all three of its previous meetings with Coppin State.

Tony Gallo has been the leading scorer for Coppin State in six of the team's seven games so far this season, and he is netting 17.7 ppg to go along with nearly 4.5 apg. Still, Gallo has plenty of room for improvement, as his 39.2 percent shooting from the field leaves much to be desired. Michael Harper is one of two other double-digit scorers for the Eagles, as he brings 11.0 ppg to the court. Rounding out the trio is Akeem Ellis with 10.3 ppg for a team that generates 67.1 ppg while allowing 74.0 ppg. Rebounding has been an obvious area of weakness for Coppin State, as it is pulling down 13.4 rpg fewer than the opposition. In the 53-50 victory over Rio Grande on Monday, Gallo finished with 15 points, though his 4-of-15 shooting effort from the field was far from impressive. Harper added 14 points in that affair for the Eagles, who managed to win despite a 49-30 rebounding disadvantage and 31.7 percent shooting from the floor.

There are four double-digit scorers on the Illinois roster, and D.J. Richardson leads the pack with 13.0 ppg. Meyers Leonard is close behind with his 12.9 ppg, and he is tops on the boards with 6.8 rpg as well as first in blocks (24). Sam Maniscalco provides 12.0 ppg for the Illini, and Brandon Paul checks in with 10.4 ppg. Illinois is generating 70.7 ppg while limiting opponents to 55.8 ppg on 37.3 percent field goal efficiency. Paul scored 17 points and grabbed five assists in his team's victory over St. Bonaventure last time out, and Richardson added 11 points in that affair. The Illini clearly struggled at the offensive end of the court, shooting a mere 31.9 percent from the floor, including a 7-of-26 effort from three-point range. They were also outrebounded by a 36-26 margin, but they did force 18 turnovers and earn a decisive 11-5 edge in points from the foul line.

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