CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — No. 16 Illinois basketball hosts Syracuse in the final ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tuesday night at State Farm Center. ESPN announced the long running series pitting two of the nation’s top conferences won’t continue after this year, ending a 24-year run.
The Illini (5-1) have never hosted the Orange (3-3) in Champaign, with Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim making his first trip to State Farm Center. Boeheim is in his 47th year coaching at Syracuse.
“I admire him, I admire longevity and longevity at one institution is really special,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “You don’t win 1,000-plus games because you’re a bad coach. I think everybody that’s watches his career understands what a good teacher he is, what a good motivator he is, and that’s been evident by his ability to win basketball games.”
Boeheim’s patented zone offers a unique challenge for the Illini, who have spent time preparing for the defense the past few days.
“You see teams like Iowa who will go into a press and sometimes fall back into a 2-3 or even a match-up zone,” Illinois junior forward Coleman Hawkins said. “I haven’t really experience that, maybe a little bit last year in those early games or Freshman year in those early games. But I haven’t really seen too much of someone who’s consistently in a zone. It’ll be fun to play against one.”
Illinois and Syracuse tip-off at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.