Men's Basketball
Game 20 Notes & Links: Illinois at #17 Ohio State

Tracy Abrams and the Illini rank 11th in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (9.9).
Tracy Abrams and the Illini rank 11th in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (9.9).

Jan. 22, 2014

 Game 20: Illinois (13-6, 2-4) at No. 17 Ohio State (15-4, 2-4)
 When Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 | 6:02 p.m. CST
 Location Columbus, Ohio | Value City Arena (18,809) | Seating Chart | Parking
 Tickets Buy Online
 Television ESPN (Joe Tessitore, PBP & Sean Farnham, analyst)
 Watch Online WatchESPN
 Listen Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 91 / XM 91
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Ohio State | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Ohio State | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Teleconference | Tracy Abrams | Jon Ekey | 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. 12.8 3.9 3.4 22 assists/9 turnovers in B1G play
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 17.4 5.9 1.8 Scored double-figures in 18 of 19 games
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 200 r-Sr. 10.6 5.5 0.8 Shooting 44% from three-point range
F 33 Jon Ekey 6-7 225 Gr. 8.0 5.8 0.2 Leads team with 36 made threes
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 6.8 5.4 0.3 3.2 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. 2.5 0.9 2.2 2.6 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. 3.5 2.1 0.5 Has hit 26-of-33 from the line (.788)
C 22 Maverick Morgan 610 250 Fr. 1.8 1.5 0.2 Shooting 55.6 percent from field
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 4.0 1.3 0.7 Career-high 29 minutes vs. Michigan St.
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

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 121-75/.617 (6th year)
At Illinois: 36-19/.655 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 10-14/.417
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. Ohio State
Series Record: Illinois leads 104-71
Series Streak: Ohio State W-1
Record at Columbus: Ohio State leads 44-41
Series Streak at Columbus: Ohio State W-4
Last Year's Meetings:   #11/14 ILL 74, #8/8 OSU 55 (1/5/13 at Champaign) and #14/13 OSU 68, ILL 55 (3/10/13 at Columbus)
Groce vs. Ohio State: 1-1

Opening Tips
• Illinois faces its second straight ranked opponent and fifth of the season Thursday night at No. 17 Ohio State. The Illini are 1-3 against ranked teams so far this year, and 5-10 overall against ranked opponents under Coach John Groce.

• Illinois is entering the second game of a five-game stretch that includes four opponents ranked in the top 17. Illinois plays a total of nine games against currently ranked Big Ten teams, tied with Minnesota for most in the conference.

• The Illini have dropped five straight Big Ten road games, and three straight on the road versus Top-25 teams, with the most recent win coming last season at No. 18 Minnesota (57-53 victory on Feb. 10, 2013).

• Illinois has historically fared well in trips to Columbus, with the Buckeyes owning a slight 44-41 all-time series edge at home. The Illini are just 2-10 at Value City Arena, however, earning wins in 2004 and 2009. Illini Items

• The Illini are 9-1 this season and 23-3 overall under Groce when reaching the 70-point marker.

• Illinois is 3-0 this season in games decided by one or two points, and 8-0 overall under Groce.

• Illinois has done a good job of taking care of the basketball, averaging just 9.9 turnovers per game (third in Big Ten, ninth in NCAA). Illinois' turnover rate of 15.2 percent ranks 24th nationally.

• The Illini are allowing an average of 63.7 points per game this season (fifth in Big Ten, 39th in NCAA).

• Michigan State on Saturday was just the fourth team to top 70 points against the Illini defense this year.

• Illinois ranks 52nd nationally in defensive efficiency (97.1) and 29th in defensive free throw rate (31.7).

• The Illini rank fifth in the Big Ten and 76th nationally in offensive rebound percentage, collecting 34.9 percent of their misses on the year.

• The UI starting five has clearly carried the scoring load, combining for 80.3 percent of Illinois' points on the season (1057 of 1317). That percentage ranks fifth nationally among teams from the major conferences.

Rayvonte Rice ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring with a 17.4-point average. He has reached double figures in all but one game this season.

Tracy Abrams has scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games, averaging 14.7 points over that stretch (132). He has been the Illini's leading scorer in each of the last three games and five times over the last nine games.

• Over the last five games, Abrams has totaled 19 assists compared to just five turnovers.

• Abrams ranks third in the Big Ten with a 2.4 assist/turnover ratio during conference play.

Joseph Bertrand is shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range this season (12-27) after entering his senior season as a career 31.3 percent shooter from behind the arc (20-64).

• Bertrand is shooting 53.8 percent on 2-pointers (64-119) this season, while Rice is shooting 51.5 percent on 2s (84-163).

Jon Ekey has averaged 9.0 points (18) over the last two games, after averaging 4.0 points the previous two games.

Nnanna Egwu, the Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker (63rd in NCAA), has recorded at least two blocks in 15 games. • Egwu leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounding in conference play with an average of 3.2 rpg. He set a career high with nine offensive rebounds at Wisconsin (Jan. 8).

• Freshman Kendrick Nunn is fifth on the team in scoring during Big Ten play, averaging 6.3 points. Nunn has registered 38 points in six league contests after totaling 38 points in 13 non-conference games.

• Nunn's playing time has continued to increase this season. He is averaging 17.1 minutes off the bench over the last nine games - led by a career-high 29 minutes Saturday vs. Michigan State - after logging 9.4 minutes through the first 10 games.

• Fellow freshman Malcolm Hill also has played well lately, combining for 15 points and seven rebounds over 26 minutes the last two games.

Last Time Out: #4 Michigan State 78, Illini 62 (Jan. 18)
Illinois dropped its fourth-straight game, falling to fourth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday night at State Farm Center. The Illini hung with the Spartans early, but MSU closed the half on an 11-3 run to take a 35-25 lead into intermission. Illinois continued to try and chip away at the deficit, moving to within six points with six minutes remaining. What followed was the game's pivotal sequence, as Keith Appling hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and at the other end a Jon Ekey 3-pointer was negated by an illegal screen. The Spartans outscored the Illini 19-to-9 over the final six minutes to close out the win.

Illinois' defense had been its calling card throughout the season, but the Illini had trouble slowing down the Spartans, who shot 55.8 percent on the night and 40 percent from 3-point range. Illinois, meanwhile, managed just 37.7 percent shooting. Tracy Abrams led the Illini with 15 points while Rayvonte Rice and Jon Ekey added 12 each.

The Last Meeting
Ohio State68
March 10, 2013
Columbus, Ohio
Illinois Falls at No. 14 Ohio State, 68-55
Brandon Paul scored 21 points Sunday to lead the Illini, who lost 68-55 at #14 Ohio State.
ESPN Highlights | Box Score | Printable Box | Photo Gallery |

Looking Back at Last Year's Ohio State Games:

#11/14 Illinois 74, #8/8 Ohio State 55 // Jan. 5, 2013 at Champaign
• The 19-point win over No. 8 Ohio State marked Illinois' largest margin of victory over a top-10 opponent in close to 50 years, dating back to Dec. 4, 1964, when the Illini defeated No. 2 UCLA, 110-83.
• The last time Illinois defeated a top-10 Big Ten opponent by a larger margin was on Feb. 20, 1954, when Illinois defeated No. 10 Iowa, 74-51.
Nnanna Egwu had a career-high 16 points, shooting a career-best 7-for-10 from the field and adding a team-high eight rebounds.
• Ohio State entered the game averaging just 10.3 turnovers. However, the Buckeyes turned the ball over 16 times against the Illini, including 11 in the first half alone. Illinois scored 17 points off of turnovers.
• The Illini defense held the Buckeyes to 55 points, its lowest output since scoring 51 in a Feb. 18, 2012 loss at Michigan.

#14/13 Ohio State 68, Illinois 55 // March 10, 2013 at Columbus
Illinois matched-up evenly with No. 14 Ohio State for 34 minutes on the Buckeyes home court, but a late first-half run by the hosts was the difference as Illinois fell in the final game of the regular season. Illinois led 22-21 with six minutes remaining in the first half before the Buckeyes closed the half on a 12-2 run. During that stretch the Illini managed just two free throws, missing all eight field goal attempts and committing three turnovers. That spurt gave OSU a nine-point lead at the half. Illinois pulled to within seven points on three separate occasions in the second half but was unable to get any closer. Brandon Paul led the Illini with a game-high 21 points, while D.J. Richardson added 10.

Current Illini vs. Ohio State:

Tracy Abrams (4 G): 7.5 ppg (30), 3.0 rpg (12), 2.8 apg (11), 1.8 spg (7)
   Highlights: Nine points, four assists and three steals last year in Columbus ... 13 points with six rebounds, game-high five assists and three steals last year in Champaign.

Joseph Bertrand (4 G): 6.0 ppg (24), 3.3 rpg (13)
   Highlights: 12 points, five rebounds and career-high three blocks last year in Champaign ... 10 points and seven rebounds in 2012 in Champaign.

Nnanna Egwu (4 G): 6.0 ppg (24), 3.0 rpg (12)
   Highlight: Career-high 16 points with eight rebounds last year in Champaign.

Five on the Starting Five

Rayvonte Rice
1. Big Ten's fourth-leading scorer with average of 17.4 points.
2. Also leads Illini in rebounds (5.9 rpg, 16th in Big Ten) and steals (1.2 spg, 11th in Big Ten).
3. Has been the UI's top scorer in 13 games.
4. Scored in double figures in 18 of 19 games with six 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career scoring leader with 1,314 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on the team in scoring at 12.8 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 eight of last nine games, led by season-high 22 points vs. Missouri (Dec. 21).
4. 2-to-1 assist/turnover ratio on the season (64 ast / 32 to).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 759 points.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Team's third-leading scorer is averaging double figures for first time, a career-best 10.6 points.
2. Also has improved his rebounding, averaging career-best 5.5 boards this season.
3. Shooting 52.1 percent from the field, ranking 11th in the Big Ten.
4. Has made 44.4 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 8.0 points.
2. Knocked down 36 threes in 19 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 second-leading rebounder with average of 5.8 boards (17th in Big Ten).
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 542 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Illini's fifth-leading scorer with 6.8-point average.
2. Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker is averaging 2.1 blocks, up from average of 1.4 blocks last season.
3. Leads Big Ten in offensive rebounds in conference play with 3.2 per game.
4. Tied season high with 10 rebounds at Wisconsin (Jan. 8), including career high nine on offensive end.
5. Started 55 of Illinois' last 58 games dating back to the end of his freshman campaign.

Complete Illinois-Ohio State Game Notes (PDF)