Men's Basketball
Fighting Illini Game Notes vs. Northwestern

Brandon Paul leads the Big Ten in scoring during conf. games.
Brandon Paul leads the Big Ten in scoring during conf. games.

Feb. 3, 2012

Game 23 Notes // Illinois (16-6, 5-4) vs. Northwestern (13-8, 3-6)

Feb. 5, 2012 // 2 p.m. CT // Champaign, Ill. // Assembly Hall (16,618)

Complete Game Notes (PDF): Illinois | Northwestern | Big Ten

Gameday Links: Watch | Listen | Gametracker | Mobile Live Stats | Twitter | Buy Tickets

Preview Interviews: Coach Weber | Abrams | Paul | Richardson

TV: BTN - Eric Collins (Play-By-Play), Shon Morris (Analyst)
Radio: Illini Sports Network - Brian Barnhart (Play-By-Play), Jerry Hester (Analyst), Loren Tate (Reports)
Satellite Radio: Sirius - 91, XM - 91

Probable Starters (from the previous game)

Pos.	No.	Name    	Ht.	Wt.	Yr.	PPG	RPG	APG	Other
G	13 	Tracy Abrams 	6-1	185	Fr.	2.8	2.5	1.6	19.2 mpg
G	1	D.J. Richardson	6-3	195	Jr.	12.3	2.9	2.0	37.9  3FG%
G	3	Brandon Paul	6-4	200	Jr.	14.8	5.1	3.0	1.6 spg
G	2	Joseph Bertrand	6-5	195	r-So.	6.7	2.6	1.2	58.2  FG%
C	12	Meyers Leonard	7-1	245	So.	13.0	8.0	1.3	2.1 bpg

Off the Bench

Pos.	No.	Name    	Ht. 	Wt.	Yr.	PPG	RPG	APG	Other
G	0	Sam Maniscalco	6-0	180	Gr.	7.9	2.3	2.6	82.1  FT%
F	15	Mike Shaw	6-8	230	Fr.	1.1	2.3	0.1	8.3 mpg
G/F	20	Myke Henry	6-6	230	Fr.	3.2	1.4	0.1 	45.9  FG%
G/F	21	Devin Langford	6-7	200	Fr.
F/C	23	Ibby Djimde	6-8	250	Fr.	0.4	1.0	0.0	4.4 mpg
G	25	Jean Selus 	6-2	195	Sr.	0.0	0.2	0.2	6 minutes
F/C	32	Nnanna Egwu	6-11	245	Fr.	2.0	1.7	0.2	50.0  FG%
F	42	Tyler Griffey	6-8	230	Jr.	5.0	3.5	0.5	30 off. reb.
G	44	Kevin Berardini	6-0	175	r-So.	0.0	0.0	0.0	4 minutes

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Career Record: 312-146/.681 (14th year)
At Illinois: 209-92/.694 (9th year)
Big Ten: 88-57/.607
Associate Head Coach: Wayne McClain (11th year)
Assistant Coaches: Jay Price (9th year), Jerrance Howard (5th year)
Assistant to the Head Coach: Gary Nottingham (9th year)
Director of Basketball Operations: Sean Harrington (4th year)

Series Notes vs. Northwestern
Series Record: Illinois leads 129-36
Last Meeting:  Illinois 57, Northwestern 56 // Jan. 4, 2012 at Evanston
Series Streak: Illinois W-1
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 64-13
Series Streak at Champaign: Illinois W-9
Weber vs. Northwestern: 13-3

Opening Tip
Illinois will try to capitalize on the Assembly Hall homecourt advantage, as following Sunday's match-up with Northwestern, the Illini hit the road for four of the next five games.

Sunday's game will feature the Big Ten's top two scorers during league play. Illinois' Brandon Paul leads the conference, averaging 19.3 points. That ranks just ahead of Northwestern's John Shurna, who averages 19.3 points.

Illini-Northwestern Notes
Illinois has won nine straight home games over Northwestern, and dating back to 1980 has won 28 of the last 29 against NU at Assembly Hall. The Illini are 39-4 against the Wildcats at The Hall since its opening in 1963. Overall, Illinois has won 21 of the last 24 games against Northwestern.

Illinois Basketball Honored Coaches Program Concludes With Mills, Jones
The coaching legacies of the late Doug Mills and Ralph Jones will be honored in a pregame ceremony Sunday at the Assembly Hall. They join standouts Lou Henson and Harry Combes in being permanently recognized at the Assembly Hall through the creation of the Honored Coaches program. Their coaching banners will be displayed from the rafters, hanging alongside the Honored Jerseys that feature 30 all-time great Illini players.

Representing Doug Mills in the banner ceremony will be his daughter Molly Mills. Representing Ralph Jones will be David and John Woods, the son and grandson, respectively of Ray Woods, and Sheryl Oilar, the great granddaughter of Ralf Woods. The Woods brothers were Illini All-Americans who played for Ralph Jones.

Illinois won nearly 70 percent of its games in 11 seasons under the direction of Doug Mills, compiling a 151-66 record from 1937-47. During that time, the Illini won three Big Ten Championships in 1937, 1942 and 1943. Mills coached the famed Whiz Kids, who were 12-0 during conference play in 1943 and went 17-1 overall before all five starters entered the armed forces.

Ralph Jones served eight seasons at Illinois from 1913-20, leading the Illini to a 71.4 percent winning percentage during his tenure (85-34). Jones guided the Illini to an undefeated season in 1915, as Illinois went a perfect 16-0 and was named national champion by the Helms Foundation. In addition to the 1915 Big Ten title, the Illini also won the conference in 1917.

Basketball mentors selected as Honored Coaches must have achieved all of the following criteria: 1) minimum career winning percentage at Illinois of .650; 2) Big Ten championship or NCAA Final Four appearance; 3) minimum of eight years as head coach at Illinois, which covers two four-year class cycles of student-athletes; 4) non-active coach.

Super Bowl Prelude
Illinois is playing its eighth game on Super Bowl Sunday and has a home game for the seventh time. The Illini are 5-2 all-time when playing before the Super Bowl:

Date	        Result	                                Site
Jan. 22, 1989	Illinois 103, Georgia Tech 92 (2OT)	Assembly Hall
Jan. 30, 1994	Illinois 88, Indiana 81	                Assembly Hall
Jan. 25, 1998	Illinois 64, Michigan 53	        Assembly Hall
Jan. 30, 2000	Michigan State 91, Illinois 66	        East Lansing, Mich.
Feb. 3, 2002	Michigan State 67, Illinois 61	        Assembly Hall
Feb. 6, 2005	Illinois 60, Indiana 47	                Assembly Hall
Feb. 1, 2009	Illinois 62, Iowa 54	                Assembly Hall

Last Time Out
Illinois was tough enough to defeat ninth-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday night, 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 Tracy Abrams made the biggest shot of his young career, 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 was the only Illini to score in double figures, recording a game-high 18 points. Paul had a great all-around game, adding nine boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals.

Illinois' 42 points was its fewest in a win since defeating Notre Dame, 40-38, on Dec. 8, 1947, and fewest in a conference win since beating Wisconsin, 38-31, on Jan. 1, 1946.

The Illini improved to 5-5 in home games against Top-10 opponents under Coach Bruce Weber. Three of those wins have now been against Michigan State. The Illini previously defeated the No. 7-ranked Spartans at the Assembly Hall in 2006 and beat No. 5-ranked MSU at The Hall in 2010.

Taking Down Another Top-10 Foe
Illinois defeated No. 9 Michigan State on Tuesday night, earning its second Top-10 win of the season. The Illini previously knocked off No. 5 Ohio State on Jan. 10. Illinois sits in rare company with a pair of wins over Top-10 ranked opponents, one of eight programs to accomplish the feat this season. The Illini are one of just two teams to notch both Top-10 wins in conference play, along with Florida State:

Teams With Two Wins Over Top-10 Ranked Opponents
Florida State - def. No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Duke
Georgetown - def. No. 4 Louisville, No. 8 Memphis
Illinois - def. No. 5 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State
Indiana - def. No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Ohio State
Kansas - def. No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Baylor
Kentucky - def. No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 North Carolina
Michigan - def. No. 8 Memphis, No. 9 Michigan State
Ohio State - def. No. 4 Duke, No. 8 Florida, No. 8 Indiana

Paul Stepping Up After Half
In each of the last six games, Brandon Paul has scored more points in the second half compared to the first half. He has scored in double figures in the second half alone nine times this season, including four of the last five games. In Tuesday's win over Michigan State, Paul accounted for 13 of Illinois' 20 second-half points, including all but two of the UI's second-half baskets.

Close Games Becoming a Habit
It seems every time the Illini take the floor the outcome is decided in the final seconds. Illinois has been involved in 11 games decided by five points or less this season. That tally does not include the first Minnesota game, which was tied at the end of regulation (final margin in double overtime was nine points). Louisiana Tech is the only team in the nation that has played more games this season decided by five or less.

Each of Illinois' last seven games has been decided by five points or less. That is the UI's longest streak in conference play in the modern era and its longest in 83 years, since the Illini had eight straight games decided by five or less during league play in 1929. It also is the nation's longest streak this season.

Overall, the Illini are 11-4 in games decided by single digits and 7-4 in games decided by five or less. That is a welcome change from last year when Illinois could not get over the hump in a number of close contests, dropping eight games where the UI led, was tied, or trailed by one point in the final minute.

Looking Back at the Last Northwestern Game:

• Illinois 57, Northwestern 56 // Jan. 4 // Evanston
The Illini came out on top in another wild game in Evanston, defeating Northwestern 57-56 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 freshman Nnanna Egwu, who scored nine points -- all in the first half.

Paul Tops Big Ten Scoring List
Brandon Paul is the Big Ten's leading scorer halfway through conference action, averaging 19.8 points in league play. He has scored in double figures in all nine league games, with four outings of 20 or more points.

The last Illini player to lead the conference in scoring was Brian Cook during his senior season in 2003. Cook averaged exactly 20.0 points during league play, which also is the last time an Illini player averaged at least 20 points.

Five on the Starting Five

Brandon Paul
1. Leads Illini in scoring on the season (14.8 ppg) and leads Big Ten in scoring during league play (19.8 ppg).
2. Scored in double figures in 15 of the last 16 games, including each of the last 11. Averaging 19.3 points (212) and 6.3 rebounds (69) over the last 11 games.
3. Scored career-high 43 points Jan. 10 vs. Ohio State (see box on page 5 for more details).
4. Leads Illini in assists with 3.0 average.
5. Has made 121 trips to the free throw line this season, the second-highest total among Big Ten guards behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (162 FTA).

Meyers Leonard
1. Leads the Illini and ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.0 rpg), and is second on the team in scoring (13.0 ppg).
2. First in the conference in blocked shots, averaging 2.1 bpg (46).
3. Seven double-doubles on the season, ranking third among Big Ten players.
4. Seventh in the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 56.6 percent (111-196).
5. Increased his scoring average by 10.9 points (2.1 ppg last year), the second-best improvement in the Big Ten behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (+11.7 ppg).

D.J. Richardson
1. Third on team in scoring with an average of 12.3 points.
2. Leads Illini in 3-point shooting at 37.9 percent (50-132).
3. Average of 2.3 threes per game ranks third in Big Ten.
4. Increased his scoring average by 3.9 points over last year (8.4 ppg), when he was UI's fifth-leading scorer.
5. Despite playing nearly 84 percent of available minutes, has a turnover rate of only 12.3 percent.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Averaging 11.0 points (110) on 63.3 percent shooting (50-79) over the last 10 games, scoring in double figures six times.
2. Third in the Big Ten in field goal shooting in conference play at 58.6 percent (41-70).
3. Averaging 10.1 points in Big Ten play, 3.4 points better than his all-games average of 6.7 points.
4. Scored career-high 25 points Jan. 7 vs. Nebraska.
5. Made 12 consecutive shots in two-game stretch the first week of January (last four at Northwestern, first eight vs. Nebraska) after making 13 consecutive shots over two-game stretch the last week of December (all nine vs. Missouri, first four vs. Minnesota).

Tracy Abrams
1. Started last seven games after starting first two games of his career.
2. Averaging 5.7 points (17) on 50 percent shooting (6-12) over the last four games.
3. Scored career-high nine points Jan. 22 vs. Wisconsin.
4. Averaging 3.0 rebounds over last nine games (27).
5. First Illini true-freshman point guard to start first career game since Dee Brown in 2002-03.