Postgame Notes - Illinois at #24 Iowa
March 9, 2014
Illinois Postgame Notes
1. Illinois finishes the regular season 18-13 overall and 7-11 in the Big Ten. The Illini finished strong, winning four of their last five games, including three straight road games (at Minnesota, No. 18 Michigan State and No. 24 Iowa) for their first three-game road winning streak in Big Ten play in four years (Jan. 27-Feb. 9, 2010).
2. Tonight's win, combined with the 53-46 victory at No. 18 Michigan State on March 1, give the Illini consecutive road wins over ranked opponents for the first time in nine years, since the No. 1 Illini won at No. 18 Wisconsin (Jan. 25, 2005) and No. 12 Michigan State (Feb. 1, 2005).
3. It was the Illini's third win over a ranked team this season (also defeated No. 22 Missouri on Dec. 21 and No. 18 Michigan State on March 1). The Orange and Blue are now 3-7 against the AP top-25 this season and 7-15 in the John Groce era.
4. Jon Ekey hit a game-winning three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left on the clock to provide the game-winning points. It was the first buzzer-beating, game-winning shot at any level of Ekey's career. The senior finished the game with 12 points and six rebounds, hitting 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
5. The Illini defense returned to its recent form, holding the Hawkeyes to their lowest point total of the season (63). Prior to tonight, Iowa's lowest offensive output was 67 in a 75-67 loss at Big Ten regular season champion Michigan on Jan. 22. Illinois entered the game second in the Big Ten and 30th in the nation in scoring defense (62.8 ppg) and had held four of its last five opponents under 50 points.
6. The Fighting Illini shot out to leads of 8-0 and 20-6 early, but Iowa roared back to lead 34-29 at the half. The Hawkeyes opened up a six-point lead, 54-48, at the 11:17 mark of the second half, but the Orange and Blue responded with an 11-0 run over the next 4:40 to lead 59-54 with 6:37 left. The Illini outscored the Hawkeyes 18-9 over the final 11:17 of the game.
7. Illinois improved to 6-1 this season and 13-3 under Groce in games decided by five points or less.
8. Illinois shot 46.3 percent from the field (25-of-54), its second-best shooting game during Big Ten play (47.7 percent at Michigan State on March 1). The Illini held the Hawkeyes to 44.4 percent shooting to improve to 12-0 this season and 25-1 overall under Groce when outshooting their opponent.
9. Junior Rayvonte Rice had 15 points to lead the Illini in scoring for the 17th time this season. He also had five rebounds and four steals, marking the third time in the last four games he has at least four steals (4 vs. Nebraska on Feb. 26 and 5 at Michigan State on March 1).
10. Junior Nnanna Egwu tied his season-high with 14 points (5-of-9 FG) while tying Ekey for the team-high in rebounds with six.
11. Freshman Kendrick Nunn was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from behind the arc for 10 points, and also dished out a team-high four assists. Nunn is averaging 12.4 points per game and shooting 53.7 percent from the field (36-of-67) and 52.8 percent from three-point range (19-of-36) over the last eight games since entering the starting line up at Penn State on Feb. 9. Illinois is 5-3 in those games.
12. With one day of games remaining in the Big Ten regular season, Illinois still has two possibilities remaining for its Big Ten Tournament seed. It all depends on the Penn State at Minnesota game on Sunday (4:15 pm CT on BTN). If Penn State wins, Illinois will be the No. 7 seed and will face No. 10 Penn State in the first round. If Minnesota wins, Illinois will be the No. 9 seed and will face No. 8 Indiana in the first round.