Series Notes vs. Northwestern
Series Record: Illinois leads 129-37
Series Streak: Northwestern W-1
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 66-13
Series Streak at Champaign: Northwestern W-1
Last Year's Meetings:
Illinois 57, Northwestern 56 (Jan. 4, 2012 at Evanston)
Northwestern 74, Illinois 70 (Feb. 5, 2012 at Champaign)
Groce vs. Northwestern: First Meeting
John Groce is one win away from notching his 100th career victory as a head coach.
Thursday's contest versus Northwestern is Illinois' lone game over a nine-day span.
Illinois is 8-1 at home this season and looks to get back on the winning track after falling to Minnesota in its most recent appearance at the Assembly Hall. The Illini have only lost consecutive home games just once over the last three years.
Illinois has won 28 of the last 30 at home against Northwestern, and is 39-5 all-time versus the Wildcats at Assembly Hall. However, Northwestern was victorious in its most recent visit to Champaign last year, snapping a nine-game losing streak at The Hall. Overall, Illinois has won 21 of the last 25 games against NU.
While Illinois has been outrebounded on the season, the Illini own a rebound margin of +5.7 at home.
Tracy Abrams is averaging 15.0 points (75) and 5.2 rebounds (26) and is shooting 51.1 percent (24-47) over the last five games.
D.J. Richardson is averaging 13.0 points over the last three games (39) after averaging 6.8 points over the previous four games (27).
Richardson tied his season high with a game-high 16 points at Wisconsin, leading the Illini in scoring for the second time this season.
Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 18 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 24 straight games with at least one trey.
Joseph Bertrand has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games, averaging 10.7 points over that stretch (75).
Brandon Paul had his career-long streak 17 games scoring in double figures come to an end Saturday at Wisconsin.
Paul has led the Illini in scoring in all but four games this season.
Illinois has scored more than 70 points in 12 games after doing so just 10 times in 32 games last year. The Illini are 11-1 when reaching the 70-point marker, with the only loss to Missouri.
The Illini are 9-0 when shooting 45 percent or better, and 11-0 when shooting better than their opponent.
Illinois has outscored its opponent in points off turnovers in 15 of 18 games and owns a margin of +6.9 points per game in that category on the season.
Illinois is ranked in the Top 25 for the eighth consecutive week, checking in at No. 23 in the current AP poll. This is Illinois' longest run in the Top 25 since being ranked for 12 straight weeks during the 2010-11 season.
Illinois averages 77.0 points on 45.8 percent shooting and 37.4 percent 3-point shooting in its 14 wins compared to averaging 63.0 points on 34.9 percent shooting and 24 percent 3-point shooting in its four losses.
Last Time Out: Illini Can't Recover From Slow Start in Loss at Wisconsin - Jan. 12
Wisconsin jumped out on the Illini 14-0 on Saturday at the Kohl Center, and the Illini had to try to play catch up the rest of the afternoon before ultimately falling to the Badgers by the score of 74-51. The Illini had a tough day from the field, shooting just 35.3 percent (18-of-51) which included 2-of-14 from 3-point land. Wisconsin, which had shot 38 percent in its first two Big Ten games, heated up to 49 percent against the Illini and connected on 10-of-23 from behind the arc. The Badgers also owned a 43-to-24 advantage on the boards and converted 23 second-chance points.
Paul on Midseason Wooden Award List
Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul has been named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, presented by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The list is made up of 25 student-athletes who, based on their performances in November, December, and the beginning of January, are the frontrunners for college basketball's most prestigious honor.
Paul is having an All-America caliber season so far, averaging 18.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He has received national accolades twice this year, first on Nov. 25 after leading Illinois to the Maui Invitational title and earning tournament MVP honors, and then again on Dec. 10 after scoring a season-high 35 points in an 85-74 road win at No. 10 Gonzaga.
The Illini rank second in the Big Ten and 46th in the NCAA in blocked shots, averaging 4.9 per game. That currently ranks as the second-best single-season average in school history.
Do It All Paul Brandon Paul has been one of the most complete players in college basketball so far this season, affecting the game in all areas. In fact, he currently leads the Illini in points and rebounds and also led the team in assists prior to the Minnesota game and is now just one off the lead. Paul was just one of seven players in the nation to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists entering last week.
Northwestern 74, Illinois 70 // Feb. 5 // Champaign
Illinois had one of its best offensive performances of the season on Feb. 5. Unfortunately, Northwestern's offense was even better as NU defeated the Illini 74-70 at the Assembly Hall to earn its first victory in Champaign since 1999. The Illini shot 54.2 percent from the field and tied a season-high with 11 three-pointers. But the Wildcats countered with 60.4 percent accuracy, including 14-of-21 shooting in the second half (66.7 percent).
Brandon Paul led the Illini with 22 points and hit six 3-pointers while Meyers Leonard scored 21 - one shy of his career high - and grabbed a game-high nine boards.
Illinois 57, Northwestern 56 // Jan. 4 // Evanston
The Illini came out on top in another wild game in Evanston, defeating Northwestern on Jan. 4. It marked the third game in the last four years decided by one point between the Illini and Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Illini were victorious thanks to a pair of big plays by underclassmen. Myke Henry grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled on a follow-up attempt with six seconds left. Henry made the first free throw to give the UI the lead. After missing the second, NU's Drew Crawford raced up court and shot the potential game-winner, which was swatted away by Meyers Leonard at the buzzer.
The victory completed an impressive comeback by the Illini, who trailed by 10 points with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Illinois then went on a 16-2 run over the next five minutes to take a 42-38 lead. The Illini enjoyed its largest lead of the night at 55-47 with 1:43 remaining when the Wildcats made a late charge, outscoring the visitors 9-1 to tie the game at 56-all and set up the final plays by Henry and Leonard.
Illinois had three players score in double figures, led by Leonard's team-high 12 points. Joseph Bertrand and Brandon Paul added 10 apiece, while Bertrand and Leonard each grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. The Illini also got a huge contribution from Nnanna Egwu, who scored nine points - all in the first half.
Current Illini vs. Northwestern
Brandon Paul (6 G): 12.8 ppg (77), 3.0 rpg (18) - Highlights: Team-high 22 points with six 3-pointers last year in Champaign ... 10 points and game-high four assists last year in Evanston ... Team-high 21 points with five rebounds in 2011 in Evanston ... 12 points in 2010 in Evanston ... Eight points in 2010 in Champaign.
D.J. Richardson (6 G): 10.5 ppg (63), 3.2 rpg (19) - Highlights: Nine points on three 3-pointers last year in Champaign ... Eight points and game-high four assists last year in Evanston ... ... 10 points in 2011 in Champaign ... Team-high 17 points with five rebounds and four assists in 2010 in Evanston ... 12 points, five rebounds and season-high five assists in 2010 in Champaign.
Joseph Bertrand (3 G): 8.0 ppg (24), 4.3 rpg (13) - Highlights: 12 points last year in Champaign ... 10 points and game-high eight rebounds last year in Evanston.
Nnanna Egwu (2 G): 4.5 pts (9), 0.0 rpg (0) - Highlight: Season-high nine points last year in Evanston.
Tracy Abrams (2 G): 3.0 ppg (6), 3.5 rpg (7), 5.5 apg (11) - Highlight: Six points and career-high eight assists last year in Champaign ... Five rebounds last year in Evanston.
Myke Henry (2 G): 3.0 ppg (6), 1.5 rpg (3) - Highlights: Six points - including game-winning free throw with six seconds left - and three rebounds last year in Evanston.
Tyler Griffey (4 G): 3 pts, 3 reb
Kevin Berardini (1 G): 0 pts, 1 reb
Five on the Starting Five
1. Leads the Illini in points and rebounds and is one shy of the team lead in assists - challenging 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 18.1 points.
3. Has scored at least 13 points in all but one game this season, with seven 20-plus point performances.
4. Second among Big Ten players in free throw makes (88), and attempts (121), behind Indiana's Cody Zeller.
5. Fifth among Big Ten players in 3-point field goals with an average of 2.4 makes per game.
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 four of the last five games, led by career-high 27 points vs. Auburn (Dec. 29).
4. Leads the team in assists (3.2 apg).
5. Has exceeded his point total from all of last season, scoring 81 more points this year in 182 less minutes.
1. Third Illini scoring in double figures with an average of 11.1 points.
2. Seventh in the Big Ten in steals (1.7 spg).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 24 straight games making at least one 3-pointer.
4. Ranks fifth in school history in career 3-point field goals with 234.
5. Has started 114 career games, eighth on the UI's all-time starts list.
1. Fifth on the team in scoring, averaging a career-best 7.8 points.
2. Shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range.
3. Five points away from matching his scoring total from all of last season.
4. Has made 24 threes in 18 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 (64 of 117).
1. Started all 18 games and is averaging 24.2 minutes after averaging 9.8 minutes last season.
2. Averaging 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, nearly tripling his production over last season (1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg).
3. Fifth in the Big Ten in blocked shots (1.4 bpg).
4. Had a career-high 16-point performance with eight rebounds vs. Ohio State (Jan. 5).
5. Career-high five blocks at Purdue (Jan. 2), the most by a Big Ten player this season.