Game 19 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. #4 Michigan State
Jan. 17, 2014
Series Notes vs. Michigan State
The Illini defeated ranked Spartan squads in each of those three home wins, defeating No. 9 MSU in 2012, No. 17 MSU in 2011, and No. 5 MSU in 2010.
This is the sixth straight match-up in Champaign where the Illini will face a ranked Michigan State squad.
No. 4 Michigan State is the highest-ranked opponent to play at State Farm Center since last season when the Illini defeated No. 1 Indiana, 74-72, on Tyler Griffey's layup at the buzzer (Feb. 7, 2013).
Illinois faces its fourth ranked opponent this season - and first at home - in the fourth-ranked Spartans. The Illini fell to No. 15 Oregon in Portland (Dec. 14), defeated No. 23 Missouri in St. Louis (Dec. 21) and lost at No. 4 Wisconsin (Jan. 8). Overall, Illinois is 5-9 against ranked opponents under Groce.
Illinois is beginning a five-game stretch that includes four opponents ranked in the top 14. Illinois plays a total of eight games against currently ranked Big Ten teams - most in the conference.
Eddie Johnson Halftime Recognition
Johnson remains one of the best players in Illini history, and his number 33 hangs from the rafters of State Farm Center as part of the honored jerseys program. A two-time team MVP and first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 1981, Johnson finished his career as Illinois' all-time scoring leader with 1,692 points (now ranks seventh) and all-time leading rebounder with 831 boards (now ranks fifth).
Johnson went on to score more than 19,000 points during a 17-year NBA career and is currently a TV analyst covering the Phoenix Suns.
Illinois looks to get back on track at State Farm Center after Purdue snapped the UI's 13-game homecourt winning streak on Wednesday.
Illinois also aims to end its current three-game skid. While the Illini dropped three straight in conference play twice last year, they have not lost four straight under Coach John Groce.
The Illini are 9-1 this season and 23-3 overall under Groce when reaching the 70-point marker.
Illinois has done a good job of taking care of the basketball, averaging just 10 turnovers per game (third in Big Ten, 15th in NCAA). Illinois' turnover rate of 15.3 percent ranks 26th nationally.
The Illini are allowing an average of just 62.9 points per game this season (third in Big Ten, 27th in NCAA) on 40.5 percent shooting (fifth in Big Ten, 66th in NCAA).
Only three teams have exceeded 70 points against Illinois this season: Oregon, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Illinois stands out in a number of defensive categories, ranking 29th nationally in defensive efficiency (95.1), 51st in defensive 2-point percentage (43.9) and 21st in defensive free throw rate (31.2).
The Illini rank fourth in the Big Ten and 67th nationally in offensive rebound percentage, collecting 35.6 percent of their misses on the year.
The UI starting five has clearly carried the scoring load, combining for 80.8 percent of Illinois' points on the season (1014 of 1255). That percentage ranks fifth nationally among teams from the major conferences.
Rayvonte Rice ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring with a 17.7-point average (86th in NCAA). The last Illini player to lead the conference in scoring was Brian Cook, who averaged 20.0 points as a senior in 2003.
Tracy Abrams has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games, leading the Illini in scoring four times and averaging 14.6 points over that stretch (117).
Over the last four games, Abrams has totaled 16 assists compared to just four turnovers.
Abrams is second in the Big Ten with a 2.4 assist/turnover ratio during conference play.
Joseph Bertrand had scored in double figures in four-straight games for the first time in his career prior to the Northwestern game (season-low four points). He was back in double figures against Purdue, scoring 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Bertrand is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range this season (12-25) after entering his senior season as a career 31.3 percent shooter from behind the arc (20-64).
Bertrand is shooting 53.4 percent on 2-pointers (62-116) this season, while Rice is shooting 52.3 percent on 2s (81-155).
Jon Ekey has averaged 6.3 points (25) and 6.8 rebounds (27) over the last four games, after averaging 3.0 points and 3.0 boards the previous two games.
Nnanna Egwu, the Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker (60th in NCAA), has recorded at least two blocks in 15 of 18 games this year.
Egwu leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounding in conference play with an average of 3.6 rpg. He set a career high with nine offensive rebounds at Wisconsin (Jan. 8).
Kendrick Nunn is averaging 6.6 points in Big Ten play. Nunn has registered 33 points in five league contests after totaling 38 points in 13 non-conference games.
Malcolm Hill has played well lately at State Farm Center. He has logged double figure minutes in three of the last four home games (Dartmouth, Penn State, Purdue), averaging 8.3 points in those games (25).
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.
Last Time Out: Purdue 66, Illini 58 (Jan. 15)
The Illini fell behind by eight points but closed the half on a 14-2 run to take a 33-29 lead into the locker room. The lead then switched hands seven times in the second half as the teams battled back and fourth. Leading by one with 2:30 left, Purdue closed out the game by outscoring the Illini 8-to-1, scoring a basket on an offensive rebound and adding six free throws down the stretch.
The game was decided on the glass, as Purdue outrebounded the Illini 42-to-28, including a 23-to-7 margin in the second half. The Boilermakers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, gaining a 17-to-5 edge in second-chance points.
A Look Back at Last Year's Michigan State Game:
#13/9 Michigan State 80, Illinois 75 // Jan. 31, 2013 at East Lansing
But the Spartans charged out of the locker room and scored 14 unanswered to take a 41-37 lead. Illinois had four turnovers during that four-minute stretch that saw MSU gain momentum. The Illini hung tough from there, cutting it to a one-possession game 10 separate times over the final 11 minutes. But the UI could not slow down the Spartans' offense enough to retake the lead. MSU made 14-of-16 shots after the break and went to the free throw line 32 times off of 19 second-half Illini fouls, scoring 23 points at the stripe.
Looking Back at the Last Michigan State Game in Champaign:
Illinois 42, #9/10 Michigan State 41 // Jan. 31, 2012 at Champaign
Michigan State entered the contest averaging nearly 74 points in league play and leading the conference in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. But the Illini defense held MSU to season lows in all three categories, as the Spartans managed just 24.1 percent from the field (14-58) and 21.4 percent from behind the arc (3-14) en route to its 41 points. MSU dominated the glass, grabbing 23 offensive rebounds and outrebounding Illinois 49-to-32. The Illini, however, matched the Spartans with 13 second-chance points.
The game was played within a one-possession margin the entire first half. The Illini jumped out to a six-point lead early in the second half and held a 35-29 advantage with 7:45 remaining. Michigan State then went on a 9-0 run to take a 38-35 lead with four minutes left. The Spartans still led by three when freshman Tracy Abrams made the biggest shot of his rookie season, nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie it at 40 with 2:11 to go. Brandon Paul then hit two free throws with 45 seconds remaining for the eventual game winning points as the Illini defense stood strong in the closing seconds.
Paul recorded a game-high 18 points along with nine rebounds and five assists.
Five on the Starting Five