Game 15 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. Penn State
Jan. 3, 2014
Series Notes vs. Penn State
Illinois is attempting to open Big Ten play with consecutive wins since starting 3-0 in league action in 2011.
This season marks the 25th anniversary of the Flyin' Illini, who advanced to the 1989 Final Four. The team will be honored at halftime of Saturday's game (Flyin' Illini Memorable Moments).
Illinois has won 12 in a row at State Farm Center, its longest home winning streak since claiming 14 straight from Feb. 16, 2011-Jan. 10, 2012.
The backcourt of Rayvonte Rice, Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand have combined for nearly 75 percent of Illinois' scoring the last two games, totaling 117 of the UI's 157 points (58 pts vs. UIC, 59 pts vs. Indiana).
Reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Rayvonte Rice has combined for 57 points over the last two games, scoring 28 vs. UIC and a career-high 29 vs. Indiana. It is the highest point total by an Illini in back-to-back games since Brandon Paul totaled 63 against Ohio State (43) and Penn State (20), on Jan. 10 & 19, 2012. It is the first time an Illini player has scored 25-plus in consecutive games, meanwhile, since Luther Head registered 26 at Northwestern (Jan. 15, 2005) and 25 versus Iowa (Jan. 20, 2005).
The Big Ten's leading scorer with a 19-point average (55th in NCAA), Rice has averaged 20.9 points (188) over the last nine games, led by his career-high 29 points against Indiana on Tuesday.
Rice has scored in double figures in each of the first 14 games, the longest streak by an Illini since Brandon Paul did so in the first 17 games last season.
Rice is one of only two Big Ten players to score at least 12 points in every game this year, along with Penn State's D.J. Newbill.
Rice now has six 20-plus point games this year.
Rice is shooting 57.7 percent on 2-pointers this season (71-123).
Illinois scored 83 points in the win over Indiana on Tuesday, its most points in a conference game since an 88-63 home victory over Northwestern on Jan. 6, 2011.
Illinois is now 8-0 this season when scoring at least 70 points, and 22-2 overall under Groce when reaching the 70-point marker.
Illinois fought back from a 13 point deficit - its largest of the season - to defeat UIC, 74-60, last Saturday at the United Center. It marked the third game this season, and seventh time in two years under Groce, that Illinois has won after trailing by double digits.
Following the 65-64 victory over Missouri (Dec. 21), Illinois improved to 3-0 this season in games decided by one or two points, and 8-0 overall under Groce.
The Illini are allowing an average of just 62 points per game (third in Big Ten, 23rd in NCAA) on 40.2 percent shooting (fifth in Big Ten, 68th in NCAA).
Illinois stands out in a number of defensive categories, ranking 31st nationally in defensive efficiency (95.1), 34th in defensive 2-point percentage (42.9) and 16th in defensive free throw rate (29.2).
Oregon and Indiana are the only teams to reach the 70-point marker against the Illini this season, both scoring 71 in regulation (Indiana added nine in overtime to finish with 80 points).
After holding Oregon 20 points below its season scoring average, the Illini then held Missouri 15 points below its season average.
The starting five has clearly carried the scoring load, combining for 82.2 percent of Illinois' points on the season (829 of 1009).
Tracy Abrams is averaging 17.8 points over the last four games (71). It is the highest total of his career over four consecutive games, toppling the 66 he combined for last season against Auburn, Purdue, Ohio State, and Minnesota (Dec. 29-Jan. 9).
Over the four-game stretch, Abrams is shooting 56.5 percent on 2-pointers (22-39) and 78.3 percent on free throws (18-23) and averaging 4.5 points alone at the line.
Abrams' season-high 22-point effort against Missouri (Dec. 21) marked his first 20-point game since tallying a career-best 27 points against Auburn last year at the United Center (Dec. 29, 2012).
Joseph Bertrand has scored in double figures in back-to-back games (14 pts vs. UIC, 13 pts vs. Indiana), his first time doing so since the IPFW (11 pts) and Georgia Tech (10 pts) games, Nov. 29-Dec. 3.
Bertrand is shooting 52.6 percent from 3-point range this season (10-19) after entering his senior season as a career 31.3 percent shooter from behind the arc (20-64).
Jon Ekey collected his 500th career rebound versus Oregon on Dec. 14, becoming one of just six active Big Ten players with 500 boards (current total of 513 includes his last three years at Illinois State).
Nnanna Egwu, the Big Ten's No. 2 shot blocker, has recorded at least two blocks in 12 of 14 games this year.
Freshman Kendrick Nunn's playing time has increased lately, averaging 17 minutes over the last four games (68). Nunn has made an impact on the defensive end, combining for nine steals during the three-game stretch, led by a game-high three steals vs. Indiana and Missouri.
Rice Earns Second Big Ten Weekly Honor
This is the second Big Ten weekly award for Rice, following his recognition on Dec. 2.
Last Time Out: Illini 83, Indiana 80, OT (Dec. 31)
2. Rayvonte Rice scored his most points as an Illini with 29, matching his career high from Drake (vs. Central Arkansas on 12/21/11). Rice hit a season-high 11-of-15 free throws, including the final two of the contest that sealed the three-point win.
3. Rice led the Illini in scoring for the 10th time this season and registered his sixth 20-point game. He also had a team-high eight rebounds, leading the Orange and Blue on the glass for the fourth time this year.
4. Tracy Abrams turned in an efficient effort, hitting 8-of-12 from the field for 17 points.
5. The back-and-forth contest had 12 lead changes and a season-high 17 ties.
6. The Illini forced a season-high 23 turnovers, marking the most since forcing 24 turnovers against Northern Colorado on Dec. 12, 2010. UI notched a season-best 12 steals and posted a 25-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
7. Illinois outscored Indiana 32-12 in points in the paint, marking a season-high +20 advantage in the category.
8. Illinois won its first overtime game of the season and improved to 2-0 in OT games under Groce.
9. Illinois has now won 11 of its last 12 games against Indiana in Champaign and evened the all-time series against the Hoosiers at 85-85.
Looking Back at Last Year's Penn State Game:
Illinois 64, Penn State 59 // Feb. 21, 2013 at Champaign, Ill.
The Illini led by nine at halftime before the visitors pulled within one early in the second half. Illinois extended the lead back to eight with under eight to play but the Lions continued to hang around before cutting it to one possession on a 3-pointer by Nick Colella with 2:50 to go. The Illini answered right back, as Brandon Paul drained a trey to put the hosts back up six. The Orange and Blue then hit 9-of-12 from the line in the final 1:45 to secure the win, the UI's 20th of the season.
D.J. Richardson led the Illini in scoring, finishing with 18 points. Brandon Paul, meanwhile, added 16. Illinois' 17 field goals were its lowest of the season, but that was offset by 23 points at the free throw line in 36 attempts, highs for the Illini in both categories in conference play.
Five on the Starting Five
Holiday Big Ten Mini-Pack Tickets Still On Sale
In addition to the Big Ten Mini-Pack, tickets are still available for all remaining Illinois home games. Single-game tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Illinois Ticket Office at 1-866-Illini-1.