Men's Basketball
Game 19 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. #4 Michigan State

Freshman Malcolm Hill had 7 points and 5 rebounds against Purdue Wednesday.
Freshman Malcolm Hill had 7 points and 5 rebounds against Purdue Wednesday.

 Game 19: Illinois (13-5, 2-3) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (16-1, 5-0)
 When Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 | 7 p.m. CT
 Location Champaign, Ill. | State Farm Center (16,618) | Fan Guide | Parking Map
 Tickets Single-game Tickets | Seating Chart
 Promotions Eddie Johnson Halftime Recognition | Basketball Promotions
 Television BTN (Eric Collins, PBP and Jim Jackson, analyst)
 Watch Online
 Listen Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 92 / XM 193
 Live Stats Gametracker | Mobile Stats
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Michigan State | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Michigan State | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Press Conference | Nnanna Egwu | Tracy Abrams | Rayvonte Rice
 Social Media @IlliniHoops   |  #Illini | @IlliniAthletics | Facebook | YouTube

 Illinois Probable Starters (from previous game)
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 13 Tracy Abrams 6-2 190 Jr. 12.7 4.0 3.4 19 assists/8 turnovers in B1G play
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 17.7 5.9 1.8 2nd in Big Ten in scoring
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 200 r-Sr. 11.0 5.7 0.9 Shooting 48% from three-point range
F 33 Jon Ekey 6-7 225 Gr. 7.8 6.0 0.2 Leads team in made threes and rebounds
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 7.2 5.6 0.3 3.6 off. rpg in B1G play leads conf.
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 1 Jaylon Tate 6-3 160 Fr. 2.6 1.0 2.3 2.9 assist/turnover ratio
G 10 Mike LaTulip 6-1 170 So. 1.1 0.3 0.2 Hitting .429 from behind the arc
G 21 Malcolm Hill 6-6 210 Fr. 3.3 2.1 0.6 Has hit 25-of-32 from the line (.789)
C 22 Maverick Morgan 610 250 Fr. 1.7 1.4 0.2 Shooting 56.5 percent from field
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 3.9 1.2 0.6 Leading scorer off bench
F 31 Austin Colbert 6-9 210 Fr. 1.6 1.1 0.3 Shooting 48 percent from the field
G 3 Ahmad Starks * 5-9 170 Sr. 10.4* 2.0* 2.3* Transfer must sit out 2013-14 season
G 11 Aaron Cosby * 6-3 195 Jr. 12.6* 2.5* 3.0* Transfer must sit out 2013-14 season
F 35 Darius Paul * 6-8 220 So. 10.4* 5.7* 1.7* Transfer must sit out 2013-14 season
 *2012-13 stats at former school

Jan. 17, 2014

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 121-74/.621 (6th year)
At Illinois: 36-18/.667 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 10-13/.435
Assistant Coaches: Dustin Ford (2nd year), Paris Parham (2nd year), Jamall Walker (2nd year)
Special Assistant to the Head Coach: Ryan Pedon (1st year)

Series Notes vs. Michigan State
Series Record: Tied, 56-56
Series Streak: Michigan State W-1
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 37-17
Series Streak at Champaign: Illinois W-3
Last Year's Meeting: #13/9 Michigan State 80, Illinois 75 (Jan. 31, 2013 at East Lansing)
Groce vs. Michigan State: 0-1

Opening Tips
• Illinois has won seven of the last nine over Michigan State in Champaign, including three straight.

• 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
Illini great Eddie Johnson will be honored at halftime of Saturday's game. This season marks the 35th anniversary of his game-winning shot against No. 1 Michigan State at then-Assembly Hall on Jan. 11, 1979. Johnson hit a 15-footer from the right baseline with four seconds left, giving the Illini a 57-55 win over the eventual NCAA Champion Spartans. It marked Illinois' first-ever win over a No. 1-ranked team.

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.

Illini Items
• Saturday's game against Michigan State is sold out, marking the second sellout of the season at State Farm Center following the Big Ten opening win over Indiana on New Year's Eve.

• 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)
Illinois fell for the first time this season when leading at the half and had its 13-game homecourt winning streak snapped in Wednesday night's loss to Purdue.

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.

Tracy Abrams led the Illini with 13 points and a game-high five assists, while Rayvonte Rice and Joseph Bertrand added 11 points apiece.

The Last Meeting
Michigan State80
January 31, 2013
East Lansing, Mich.
Illinois Falls Short of No. 13 Michigan State, 80-75
Tracy Abrams scored 16 points, but Keith Appling led a pivotal run early in the second half and finished with 24 points and seven assists to help No. 13 Michigan State beat Illinois 80-75 on Thursday night.

A Look Back at Last Year's Michigan State Game:

• #13/9 Michigan State 80, Illinois 75 // Jan. 31, 2013 at East Lansing
Illinois played an outstanding first half of basketball in East Lansing and hung with the Spartans until the end, but a rough start to the second half was the difference as No. 13 Michigan State defeated the Illini by five points. The Illini excelled on both ends of the court in the opening 20 minutes, shooting nearly 50 percent and turning the ball over just one time. Illinois' active defense also forced MSU into nine first-half turnovers, and the Illini converted those into 12 points in building a 37-27 lead at intermission.

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.

Tracy Abrams led the Illini with 16 points. He had a great all-around game, adding six assists, five rebounds and four steals. D.J. Richardson finished with 14 points and Brandon Paul added 13.

Looking Back at the Last Michigan State Game in Champaign:

• Illinois 42, #9/10 Michigan State 41 // Jan. 31, 2012 at Champaign
Illinois was tough enough to defeat ninth-ranked Michigan State, claiming a 42-41 victory in a physical game reminiscent of an early '80s Big Ten defensive battle.

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

Rayvonte Rice
1. Big Ten's second-leading scorer with average of 17.7 points.
2. Leads Illini with 1.3 steals per game and is second on team with 5.9 rebounds per game
3. Has been the UI's top scorer in 12 games.
4. Scored at least 12 points in first 16 games of season, with six 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career scoring leader with 1,302 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on the team in scoring at 12.7 ppg, the best scoring average of his career (10.6 ppg last year).
2. Team leader in assists, averaging 3.4 per game.
3. Scored in double figures in seven of last eight games, led by season-high 22 points vs. Missouri (Dec. 21).
4. Nearly 2-to-1 assist/turnover ratio on the season (1.97).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 744 points.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Team's third-leading scorer is averaging double figures for first time, a career-best 11.0 points.
2. Also has improved his rebounding, averaging career-best 5.7 boards this season.
3. Shooting 52.5 percent from the field, ranking 10th in the Big Ten.
4. Has made 48 percent from 3-point range this year after entering season as career 31.3 percent 3-point shooter.
5. Illinois' lone scholarship senior to play entire career with the Orange and Blue.

Jon Ekey
1. Graduate transfer from Illinois State ranks fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.8 points.
2. Knocked down 34 threes in 18 games after making a total of 31 treys in 33 games last season at ISU.
3. Average of 1.9 threes per game ranks ninth in Big Ten.
4. Illini's leading rebounder with average of 6.0 boards (15th in Big Ten).
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 540 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Illini's fifth-leading scorer with career-best 7.2-point average.
2. Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker is averaging 2.2 blocks, up from average of 1.4 blocks last season.
3. Leads Big Ten in offensive rebounds in conference play with 3.6 per game.
4. Tied season high with 10 rebounds at Wisconsin (Jan. 8), including career high nine on offensive end.
5. Started 54 of Illinois' last 57 games dating back to the end of his freshman campaign.

Complete Illinois-Michigan State Game Notes (PDF)