Sweet Home, Chicago for Abrams:
Illinois PG Tracy Abrams came up just 6 points shy of his career high (22 vs. Hawaii) in the first half alone. A number of key buckets kept Illinois ahead at some critical points. The Chicago native may have some extra motivation in this one, but he'll need some help from the supporting cast as Auburn is sure to key on him in the 2nd.
No Rebound on Rebounding:
One thing Illinois coach John Groce mentioned repeatedly this week in regards to the Missouri game was how Illinois struggled at the glass. So far in this one, Illinois has struggled yet again, being outrebounded 20-12 by Auburn including 8-3 on the offensive glass. To me, it doesn't seem like they're consistently boxing out, and are relying too heavily on athleticism at the boards.
Something Illinois has at times struggled with is shooting free throws consistently or for that matter even getting to the line. But Illinois is already 12-14 from the free throw line in the first half alone. At times last year, Illinois may not have even shot 14 free throws in a game, but the increased numbers are an indication of Groce's attacking style in action.
Keys for the 2nd half:
Most obvious is rebounding. Illinois will need to at least make up some ground on the boards to limit Auburn's second chance points. It's the 2nd chance points that are keeping Auburn in this game. By only allowing one shot per possession, Illinois can control the clock and likely the scoreboard, but if they continue to struggle on the boards, Auburn will linger and could hang around longer than the Illini would like.