- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Illinois announced Wednesday its non-conference schedule which will feature games against Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Missouri and competing in the Maui Invitational.
The John Groce era begins by hosting Colgate at Assembly Hall on Nov. 9. The Illini also host St. Francis (Nov. 12), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 25), Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (Nov. 28), Western Carolina (Dec. 4), Norfolk (Dec. 11) and Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 16).
The Illini play in the Maui Invitational beginning with USC on Nov. 19. Other tournament teams include Butler, Chaminade, Marquette, Mississippi State, North Carolina and Texas. Illinois also plays Hawaii in Honolulu prior to the tournament on Nov. 16.
Illinois again faces Gonzaga and plays the Bulldogs on the road on Dec. 8 in the finale of a four-game series for the two teams. Illinois leads the series 2-1.
Illinois also continue its tradition of facing Missouri in the 32nd Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis on Dec. 22. Missouri has won the past three meetings.
The Illini return to Chicago to play Auburn at the United Center on Dec. 29. The Illini lost to UNLV 64-48 at the United Center last season.
Groce spoke about his schedule philosophies in July and said he hoped to have more home games in the future and would be careful in scheduling too many high-profile non-conference games. He also said he would like to continue playing yearly in Chicago.
“The biggest thing is we got to get more home games,” Groce said. “That’s the first thing we have to address.
“You can have too many (high-profile games) in my opinion. You have to balance that. We’re playing 18 league games, high-major games. I think you got to be careful.”
Illinois was 17-15 last season and 6-11 in the Big Ten and wasn’t invited to any postseason tournaments. Bruce Weber was fired as coach following the season.