Texas basketball vs. Illinois: Expect a defensive showdown at MSG

Marcus Carr, Texas basketball Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Carr, Texas basketball Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 17 Illinois is set to face No. 2 Texas basketball at 6 p.m. CT on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic. The road trip to Madison Square Garden will be a neutral ground for the Fighting Illini and the Longhorns, but Texas will face a distinct disadvantage. While Illinois faced a challenge on the road in a five-point loss against the No. 22 Maryland Terrapins, the Longhorns have yet to play a consequential game outside of the Moody Center.

Luckily for the Longhorns, their greatest strength should travel well. The real heartbeat of each team is defense. Throughout six games Texas only allows opposing teams to score 55 points per game on average, the ninth-best in the NCAA. Combining this with forcing teams to shoot 36.2 percent from the field makes UT one of the best defensive teams in college basketball.

Texas Head Coach Chris Beard is pushing star players to step up on both sides of the court. Marcus Carr is leading his team with two steals per game and 4.2 assists. This unselfish play pairs nicely with Carr’s 15.5 points per game.

Carr, and his teammates, constantly threaten the passing lanes and teams are not as keen to test Texas’ defensive vision. The Longhorns allow only 8.8 assists per game and force 18.5 turnovers on average.

What to expect as Marcus Carr and No. 2 Texas basketball take on No. 17 Illinois

Unfortunately for Texas, the Fighting Illini also have a defensive specialty. Illinois is a top 20 team in blocks per game averaging 5.5. Texas’ Dylan Disu and Timmy Allen will have to be ready in the dunker’s spot to bail out the Longhorn’s shorter guards. Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins is someone in particular to watch, averaging 1.4 blocks per game on top of leading his team in assists with four a game.

The Longhorns’ greatest advantage may come at the three-point line, or rather defending it. Texas has one of the best perimeter defenses in the NCAA allowing teams to shoot a measly 23.2 percent from three. If being ranked fifth allowed three-point percentage is not impressive enough then maybe limiting opposing teams to 4.3 made threes per game will do the trick.

Texas vs. Illinois: 3 bold predictions. dark. Next

The winning team of this defensive showdown will commit fewer turnovers and play fundamental basketball. With Illinois and Texas both equipped for the task, the only guarantee is a hard-fought game.