Eastern Kentucky at Illinois (-15, 133.5)
Considering No. 10 Illinois began last season with 10 straight victories, it doesn’t come as a big surprise this edition of the Illini are undefeated in the middle of December as well. However, few expected the team they will host Sunday – Eastern Kentucky – to be one of the last 11 unbeaten teams. First-year coach John Groce has Illinois off to its best start since the 2005-06 season when the Illini began 15 consecutive victories. Groce is trying to become the first Illinois coach in the modern era – and first in 105 years – to begin his Illini tenure with 12 straight wins. Getting that historic victory may not be easy against the Colonels, who are off to their best start in 66 years.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT EASTERN KENTUCKY (9-0): The Colonels are on their longest winning streak since the 1964-65 season, with much of that success coming from their ability to take care of the ball. Eastern Kentucky, which owns one of the best turnover margins in the country (plus 7.6), has committed 69 fewer turnovers than its opponents and outscored its foes 224-112 off those miscues. Junior college transfer Glenn Cosey (17.7 points) is the Ohio Valley Conference’s fourth-leading scorer and has topped the 20-point mark five times this season.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (11-0): With 114 made 3-pointers, the Illini lead the country by a wide margin. Brandon Paul (19.0 points) and D.J. Richardson (12.4) have been particularly active beyond the arc, combining for 60 themselves. However, the duo accounted for only four in Tuesday’s 64-54 triumph over Norfolk State when Illinois hit a season-low six 3-pointers. Richardson left the game in the first half with a badly bruised shoulder but returned early in the half, scoring seven points during a key 3½ minute second-half stretch for the Illini.
* Over is 4-1 in Fighting Illini last five home games.
* Over is 4-1 in Colonels last five overall.
* Colonels are 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games.
* Fighting Illini are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games overall.
1. Illinois and Eastern Kentucky rank in the top 20 in the nation in 3-pointers per game and have each have outscored their opponents by 120 points beyond the arc.
2. The Illini own a 21-game non-conference home winning streak and have won 33 consecutive regular-season home games over non-conference opponents.
3. After opening the season with seven straight home games, the Colonels will be playing the third of six consecutive road tilts.