Series Notes vs. Ohio State
Series Record: Illinois leads 103-70
Series Streak: Ohio State W-1
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 60-25
Series Streak at Champaign: Illinois W-1
Last Year's Meetings: Illinois 79, #5/5 Ohio State 74 (Jan. 10, 2012 at Champaign)
#8/9 Ohio State 83, Illinois 67 (Feb. 21, 2012 at Columbus)
Groce vs. Ohio State: First Meeting
Illinois returns to the Assembly Hall floor for the first time in three weeks, hosting No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday ... This begins a stretch of three out of the next four games at home ... Illinois is 7-0 at home this season ... This is the first time that both teams are ranked in the series since Jan. 22, 2011, a 73-68 victory by the No. 1 Buckeyes over the No. 23 Illini at Assembly Hall ... This is the fourth straight year that Illinois faces a ranked Ohio State squad at The Hall. The Illini went 1-2 in those previous three meetings ... This is the third ranked opponent that Illinois is facing this season. The Illini are 1-1 against ranked teams under first-year head coach John Groce, winning at No. 10 Gonzaga and falling to No. 12 Missouri in St. Louis ... Next up for the Illini is another top-10 opponent in No. 9 Minnesota. The last time the Illini faced top-10 teams in consecutive games was during the 2005 Final Four, when the UI defeated No. 4 Louisville in the National Semifinal and was beaten by No. 2 North Carolina in the National Championship. The last time the Illini played top-10 teams in consecutive conference games was Feb. 14 & 23, 1987, falling at No. 4 Iowa and at home to No. 6 Purdue.
Sold Out Assembly Hall Sets Stage for Illini-Ohio State
Illinois will take the floor on Saturday in front of the first sellout crowd of the season. It will be the first capacity crowd at Assembly Hall since last year's Wisconsin game (Jan. 22, 2012).
The home game against Michigan on Jan. 27 is also sold out. Tickets are available for remaining Illini games online at FightingIllini.com, by phone at 1-866-ILLINI-1, or in person at the Illinois Ticket Office at the Assembly Hall.
Coaching Ties John Groce will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline Saturday in Ohio State's Thad Matta. Prior to his four years as head coach at Ohio, Groce spent eight years as an assistant to Matta at three different schools, including four seasons on Matta's OSU staff from 2005-08. During Groce's time in Columbus, the Buckeyes amassed a record of 105-35, made two NCAA Tournament appearances - including the NCAA championship game in 2007 - and won back-to-back outright Big Ten Championships in 2006 and 2007. Groce also served three years on Matta's staff at Xavier from 2002-04 and one season at Butler in 2001.
Brandon Miller, Groce's special assistant to the head coach, also has ties to the OSU staff. He spent seven years with Matta, including six at Ohio State, most recently as an assistant for three seasons from 2009-11.
Orange Krush Reunion Set for Saturday
More than 150 Orange Krush alumni will be at the Assembly Hall on Saturday, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Krush Foundation. The Orange Krush student support group was started by former head coach Lou Henson in the 1970s. However, in 1998, it became a charity foundation as well, and has since donated more than $2.3 million to charity with a focus on supporting the University and community causes. Krush has specifically aided Illini athletics through numerous scholarships and funds supporting the basketball program, managers, graduate assistants and sports medicine.
Krush will hold a reception at the Colonnades Club prior to the Illini-Ohio State game. Featured guests will include Lou Henson, Alan Solow and Peter Korst (the students who met with Coach Henson in his living room to start Krush), Alex Marks (member of the original Krush Foundation Board and former leader of Illini Pride and Orange Krush), Mike Raycraft (current UI professor and Athletic Board member and former DIA staff member who created the concept of the Krush Foundation) and McKennon Biers (current Vice-President of Illini Pride in charge of Orange Krush).
Abrams Reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Tracy Abrams earned Big Ten Player of the Week accolades on Monday. He received the honor for the first time in his career after leading the Illini to victory over Auburn at the United Center last weekend. Abrams poured in a career-high 27 points and pulled down a career-best eight rebounds. He hit 6-of-11 field goals and 13-of-15 free throws - career highs for both makes and attempts - while also adding game highs of four steals and five assists with only one turnover in 35 minutes playing the point.
Brandon Paul has scored in double figures in all 15 games this season. It equals the longest streak of his career, along with a stretch of 15 straight in double figures last season (Dec. 19-Feb. 15).
Paul was 5-of-10 from the field Wednesday at Purdue, the first time in the last five games and fifth time this season he shot 50 percent or better.
Tracy Abrams has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games.
Abrams has totaled 10 assists the last two games (5.0 apg) after totaling four assists over the previous three games (1.3 apg).
Joseph Bertrand has scored in double figures in three of the last four games, averaging 11.3 points over that stretch (45).
D.J. Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 15 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 21 straight games with at least one trey.
Tyler Griffey has made 6-of-11 from 3-point range the last three games after making just 1-of-12 from behind the arc the previous four games.
Griffey is shooting nearly 61 percent from the field over the last four games (14-23).
Illinois has scored more than 70 points in 11 of 15 games after doing so just 10 times in 32 games last year.
The Illini made 10 three-pointers Wednesday at Purdue, the first time in the last five games and ninth time this season making double digits from behind the arc.
Illinois has outscored its opponent in points off turnovers in 13 of 15 games and owns a margin of +8.1 points per game in that category on the season.
Illinois is ranked in the Top 25 for the sixth consecutive week, checking in at No. 11 in the current AP poll. That is one spot away from Illinois' highest ranking of the season - 10th in the Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 polls.
Last Time Out: Illini Drop Big Ten Opener at Purdue
Illinois' late comeback fell short Wednesday in West Lafayette as the Boilermakers defeated the Illini in the Big Ten opener, 68-61. Illinois led for the majority of the first half and was ahead 45-39 with 12 minutes remaining. But that's when Purdue began a game-changing 20-4 run to seize control. During that stretch, the Illini made just 1 of 15 shots as the tide turned to a 59-49 advantage for the Boilermakers with just over three minutes left.
The Illini charged back down the stretch, as Brandon Paul made two 3-pointers and D.J. Richardson added a trey to bring the UI within two at 63-61 with 31 seconds left. Illinois then fouled Jacob Lawson with 21 seconds to go and he missed both free throws, but D.J. Byrd came up with the offensive rebound and called timeout before falling out of bounds. Byrd then connected on a 3-point play to put the Boilers up by five and secure the win.
#8/9 Ohio State 83, Illinois 67 // Feb. 21 at Columbus | Recap
The offensive firepower of No. 8 Ohio State was on display early and often as the Illini fell to the Buckeyes in Columbus, 83-67. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-8 lead nearly 10 minutes into the game, making 11 of its first 12 shots. Illinois regrouped and outscored the hosts 18-14 the rest of the half to trail 42-26 at intermission, but the Illini could get no closer in the second half.
Meyers Leonard led the Illini with 21 points - just one shy of his career high. Leonard shot 7-of-12 from the field and made 7-of-9 at the line. D.J. Richardson also scored in double figures with 12 points and grabbed a game-high six boards.
Illinois 79, #5/5 Ohio State 74 // Jan. 10 at Champaign | Recap
Illinois overcame its largest deficit of the season - 11 points - to defeat No. 5 Ohio State at the Assembly Hall on Jan. 10. The Illini trailed 48-37 early in the second half before going on a 9-0 run with baskets by four different players to cut the deficit to two. After the Buckeyes pushed the lead back to seven, Illinois then went on a 10-0 run to take a 57-54 lead with 10:49 remaining. Brandon Paul scored eight of 10 points during the UI surge. Ohio State would not go away, regaining a two-point lead with three minutes left.
That's when Paul took over, scoring the final 15 points for the Illini on a pair of 3-pointers and nine free throws. After hitting two free throws to tie the game, Paul's first three during his run gave the Illini a 69-66 lead with 2:02 to go. Following two more free throws, his second trey - and school-record tying eighth of the game - came with the shot clock expiring and OSU defender Aaron Craft blanketing him, putting the Illini ahead 74-70 with just 43 seconds left. He then hit five-of-six from the line in the final 22 seconds to close out the win.
Paul scored a career-high 43 points on the night, the third-highest single-game total in school history and the most by a Big Ten player in a league game in 18 years. Paul did more than just score, however, adding a game-high eight rebounds and career-high four blocked shots to his totals. Joining Paul in double figures were Meyers Leonard (14 points) and D.J. Richardson and Joseph Bertrand (10 each).
Five on the Starting Five
1. Leads the Illini in points, rebounds and assists - on pace to become the first Illini player ever to lead the team in all three categories (by average) in a single season.
2. Big Ten's No. 2 leading scorer with an average of 18.5 points.
3. Has scored in double figures in all 15 games, with six 20-plus point performances.
4. Second among Big Ten players in free throw makes (70) and attempts (96), behind Indiana's Cody Zeller.
5. Second among Big Ten players in 3-point field goals with 39 on the season.
1. Second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.1 points.
2. Has increased his scoring average by 7.4 points (4.7 last year).
3. Scored in double figures in five of the last seven games, led by career-high 27 points Dec. 29 vs. Auburn.
4. Leads the team in steals (1.6 spg) and ranks second on the team in assists (3.3 apg).
5. Has exceeded his point total from all of last season, scoring 45 more points this year in 255 less minutes.
1. Third Illini scoring in double figures with an average of 10.7 points.
2. Second on the team in rebounding (4.7 rpg) and steals (1.5 spg).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 21 straight games making at least one 3-pointer.
4. Ranks fifth in school history in career 3-point field goals with 228.
5. Has started 111 career games, tied for ninth on the UI's all-time starts list.
1. Fourth on the team in scoring, averaging a career-best 9.1 points.
2. Shooting 45.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten.
3. Nine points away from matching his scoring total from all of last season.
4. Has made 24 threes in 15 games after making a total of 16 treys in 32 games last season.
5. More than half of his field goal attempts have been from 3-point range (53 of 102).
1. Started all 15 games and is averaging 24.0 minutes after averaging 9.8 minutes last season.
2. Averaging 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds, nearly tripling his averages from last season (1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg).
3. Ranks fifth in the Big Ten in blocked shots with (1.4 bpg).
4. Career-high five blocks Wednesday at Purdue, the most by a Big Ten player this season.
5. Posted career highs vs. Missouri on Dec. 22 with 12 points and nine rebounds.