Preview: Gophers @ Illinois 27 Dec 11

THE STORY: Minnesota will be playing its first true road game of the season when it opens its Big Ten schedule with a visit to No. 24 Illinois on Tuesday. The Golden Gophers completed non-conference play with a 63-59 home win over North Dakota State on Thursday, capping a six-game homestand. The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, will be looking to rebound from a 78-74 loss against then-No. 9 Missouri in St. Louis.

TV: 6:30 p.m. CT, Big Ten Network.

Radio: 6:00/6:30, KRDS 95.5 FM

ABOUT MINNESOTA (12-1, 0-0 Big Ten): The Golden Gophers have managed to win six in a row despite the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending knee injury. Minnesota does not have an active player scoring in double figures, but its defense has remained solid — the team has allowed just 52.2 points without Mbakwe and still ranks among the national leaders in field-goal percentage (49.4), blocked shots (6.0) and steals (9.2).

ABOUT ILLINOIS (11-2, 0-0): Despite allowing a season-worst 78 points against Missouri, the Fighting Illini still boast one of the country’s stingiest defenses, giving up just 59.0 points and holding foes to 39 percent shooting. Four players are scoring in double digits for a balanced offense, led by junior G D.J. Richardson (14.3 ppg) and sophomore C Meyers Leonard (13.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg). Illinois has won all eight of its home games by an average of 16.6 points, but three of the last four have been decided by seven points or fewer.

TIP-INS

1. Illinois sports a 115-62 record in the all-time series and has won eight of the last 10 meetings, including a 71-62 road win last season.

2. Minnesota pulled out a 62-60 victory in its last trip to Champaign back in February 2010, snapping an 11-game losing streak there that dated back to 1996.

3. The game features three of the Big Ten’s top eight shot-blockers — Leonard (2nd), Minnesota junior F Rodney Williams (4th, 1.6) and Minnesota senior C Ralph Sampson III (8th, 1.4).