Men's Basketball
Game 24 Notes & Links: Illinois at Penn State

Jon Ekey hit three threes in the 20-pt win over PSU on Jan. 4.
Jon Ekey hit three threes in the 20-pt win over PSU on Jan. 4.

Feb. 8, 2014

 Game 24: Illinois (13-10, 2-8) at Penn State (12-11, 3-7)
 When Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 | 3:15 p.m. CST
 Location University Park, Pa. | Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) | Seating | Parking
 Tickets Buy Online
 Television Big Ten Network (Eric Collins, PBP & Shon Morris, analyst)
 Watch Online
 Listen Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 92 / XM 190
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Penn State | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Penn State | Big Ten
 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. 11.9 3.5 3.1 Had 12 second-half points 1/4 win over PSU
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 16.9 5.9 1.8 Leads team in scoring and rebounding
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 200 r-Sr. 11.0 5.1 0.7 11 pts, 7 rebs in 1/4 win over PSU
F 33 Jon Ekey 6-7 225 Gr. 7.9 5.5 0.2 Leads team in made threes (42)
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 7.1 5.4 0.3 7th all-time at Illinois in blocks (119)
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 1 Jaylon Tate 6-3 160 Fr. 2.4 0.9 2.3 2.2 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 2.2 0.5 Team-best 80% from FT line (28-35)
C 22 Maverick Morgan 610 250 Fr. 1.6 1.4 0.1 Shooting 55.6 percent from field
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 4.1 1.3 0.8 5.7 ppg in Big Ten play
F 31 Austin Colbert 6-9 210 Fr. 1.5 1.0 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: 121-79/.605 (6th year)
At Illinois: 36-23/.610 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 10-18/.357
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. Penn State
Series Record: Illinois leads 26-13
Series Streak: Illinois W-2
Record at State College: Illinois leads 10-7
Series Streak at State College: Penn State W-2
Last Meeting: Illinois 75, Penn State 55 // Jan. 4, 2014 at Champaign
Groce vs. Penn State: 2-0

Opening Tips
• Illinois plays three of its next four games on the road, beginning Sunday at Penn State.

• Illinois heads to Happy Valley looking to end an eight-game skid. Illinois' last victory came on Jan. 4 against Penn State. In that game, the Illini held PSU to its current season low of 55 points and contained the Nittany Lion back court of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill - who average a combined 34 points per game - to a season-low combined total of 17 points.

• Illinois is 10-7 all-time at State College and 8-6 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Four of Illinois' last five wins in the building have been by double figures, while all six losses have been decided by three points or less, a total of just 12 points (average of 2.0 points).

• Illinois has won five of its last nine games at the Jordan Center dating back to 2003, but just one of the last five. The four losses have all come down to the closing seconds, decided by a total of just six points (one point in 2008 and 2009 and two points in 2011 and 2012).

Illini Items
Rayvonte Rice is the only player in the Big Ten Conference currently leading his team in scoring (16.9 ppg), rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (1.3 spg) on the season.

• Rice has tallied 20-plus points in two of the last three games. Over the three-game stretch, Rice has averaged 19.0 points (57) and 7.3 rebounds (22) while shooting 46.2 percent from the field (18-39) and 40 percent from 3-point range (6-15).

• Over the last two games, Joseph Bertrand has averaged 15.5 points (31) on 54.5 percent shooting (12-22). Bertrand tied his season high with 20 points against Iowa (Feb. 1).

• Over the last four games, Nnanna Egwu has averaged 8.5 points (34) on 51.7 percent shooting (15-29). This followed a four-game stretch where he totaled 10 points on combined 5-of-26 from the field.

• While it has not yet carried over into the win column, Illinois' offense has shown improvement. Over the last two games, the Illini are averaging 68.5 points on 42.6 percent shooting and 40 percent 3-point shooting. These numbers are drastically improved from the previous six games, where the Illini averaged 55.7 points on 34.6 shooting and 26.8 percent 3-point shooting.

• Illinois topped 40 percent shooting against Iowa and Wisconsin, doing so in consecutive games for the first time since a seven-game stretch in December (Dec. 3 through Dec. 31).

• Illinois also shot 40 percent from 3-point range versus both the Hawkeyes and Badgers, doing so in back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 11 and Nov. 17.

• The Illini scored 74 points against Iowa last Saturday, but fell for just the second time this season when scoring 70-plus points. Illinois is 9-2 this season and 23-4 overall under Coach John 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 is 8-0 on the season when shooting better than its opponent, and 21-1 overall under Groce.

• Illinois has either led or been tied with seven minutes or less in six of its losses:

Led at Georgia Tech, 64-60, with 1:09 remaining.
Led vs. Oregon, 59-58, with 3:30 remaining.
Tied at Northwestern, 34-34, with 7:00 remaining.
Led Purdue, 52-51, with 6:00 remaining.
Tied at Ohio State, 46-46, with 6:00 remaining.
Led Iowa, 70-68, with 5:00 remaining.

• Illinois has done a good job of taking care of the basketball, averaging just 10.3 turnovers per game (third in Big Ten, 20th in NCAA). Illinois' turnover rate of 15.9 percent ranks 39th nationally.

• The Illini are allowing an average of 64.6 points per game this season (fifth in Big Ten, 45th in NCAA).

• Illinois ranks 53rd nationally in defensive efficiency (97.5) and 58th in defensive free throw rate (34.2).

• The UI starting five has clearly carried the scoring load, combining for 81 percent of Illinois' points on the season (1259 of 1555). That percentage ranks fifth nationally among teams from the major conferences.

Rayvonte Rice ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring with a 16.9-point average. He has reached double figures in all but two games on the season.

Joseph Bertrand is shooting 52.3 percent on 2-pointers (80-153) this season, while Rice is shooting 50 percent on 2s (96-192).

Nnanna Egwu, the Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker (56th in NCAA), has recorded at least two blocks in 18 games.

• Egwu ranks third in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding in conference play with an average of 2.5 rpg.

Last Time Out: Wisconsin 75, Illini 63 (Feb. 4)
Illinois battled Wisconsin throughout the evening but could not get stops down the stretch, falling to the Badgers by 12 points at State Farm Center.

The Illini were in familiar position with seven minutes remaining, trailing 51-49. It was then just a 3-point deficit with 5:30 to go, but the Badgers scored on nine of their final 11 possessions to outscore the Illini 20-to-11 at the end. Three of those possessions ended in back-breaking 3-pointers. Wisconsin broke out of a shooting slump to tie its high for made 3-pointers in Big Ten play with 10 treys. Nearly every other statistical category was even on the evening, but the Badgers' 10 threes compared to four for the Illini resulted in an 18-point difference behind the arc.

Rayvonte Rice led the Fighting Illini with a game-high 24 points and just missed a double-double, grabbing a game-high nine rebounds, more than double the total of the next closest Illini. Joseph Bertrand had 11 points and Nnanna Egwu added 10.

Recent Results Not the Norm for Groce
John Groce has been a part of winning programs throughout his 21-year career, coaching teams that have made 17 postseason appearances and won 67 percent of their games. So it's no surprise to find that Illinois' current eight-game skid is the first he has faced in his coaching career. His previous long during his six seasons as a head coach was a four-game stretch during his second season at Ohio.

Groce also never encountered a slide greater than four games during eight combined years as an assistant at Ohio State, Xavier and Butler. In fact, Groce had previously been a part of only two streaks in his entire career longer than four games, both occurring while he was an assistant at North Carolina State, most recently a 7-game skid during his final season as an assistant there in 2000.

The Last Meeting
Penn State55
January 4, 2014
State Farm Center
Illinois Breezes By Penn State, 75-55
Rayvonte Rice scored 15 points to lead four Illinois players in double figures as the Illini defeated Penn State 75-55 on Saturday.

Looking Back at the Last Penn State Game:

• Illini 75, Penn State 55 // Jan. 4, 2014 at State Farm Center
1. The Illini held the Nittany Lions to their lowest offensive output on the season with 55 points, nearly 25 points below their season average.

2. Illinois held its opponent to under 30 percent shooting for the first time this season, as Penn State shot a season-low 29.8 percent (17-57). It was the lowest field goal percentage allowed by the Illini since Northwestern shot 25 percent (12-48) on its home court last season in a 62-41 loss to the Illini (Feb. 17, 2013).

3. PSU guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill entered the game as the highest scoring back court duo in the country at 36.2 points per game, but managed only a combined 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting against the Illini. Frazier had 10 and Newbill seven.

4. Illinois jumped out to a 9-0 lead and held Penn State scoreless for the opening 6:48 of the contest.

5. The Illini started both the first and second half on a 9-0 run and led wire-to-wire for the fifth time this season.

6. Rayvonte Rice led the Illini in scoring with 15 points.

7. Tracy Abrams stepped up in the second half, scoring all 12 of his points after the break, and also finished with a season-high five assists and six rebounds.

8. Jon Ekey hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points to go along with a game-high eight rebounds.

9. Freshmen Malcolm Hill (8 points) and Jaylon Tate (6 points) were both a perfect 4-of-4 at the free throw line, while fellow freshman Kendrick Nunn added five points, giving the trio of Illini rookies a combined 19 points off the bench, their third-highest collective output this year.

A Look Back at the Last Penn State Game in State College:

• Penn State 54, #22/25 Illinois 52 // Jan. 19, 2012 at Bryce Jordan Center
It was deja vu all over again for Illinois in Happy Valley, falling again to Penn State in the closing seconds.

The Illini jumped out to a 17-9 lead but then went more than five-and-a-half minutes without a field goal as the Lions went on an 11-2 run to move ahead. PSU led by two at intermission and began the second half on a 10-3 spree to open up its largest lead of the night at 35-26 with 14 minutes remaining.

The Illini then began to slowly chip away, drawing to within one point on three separate occasions before finally pulling even at 52-all on a 3-pointer by Brandon Paul with 40 seconds remaining. Tim Frazier scored on the Lions' ensuing possession, hitting a pull-up jumper with eight seconds left to put the hosts up two. The Illini's bid to force overtime was denied when Sam Maniscalco's layup was blocked by a PSU defender at the buzzer.

Paul led the Illini with a game-high 20 points and Meyers Leonard added 15. While those two accounted for 35 points on 11-of-23 shooting, the rest of the Illini managed just 17 points on 6-of-26 from the field.

Five on the Starting Five

Rayvonte Rice
1. Big Ten's sixth-leading scorer with average of 16.9 points.
2. Also leads Illini in rebounds (5.9 rpg, 14th in Big Ten ) and steals (1.3 spg, 10th in Big Ten)
3. Has been the UI's top scorer in 15 games.
4. Scored in double figures in 21 of 23 games with eight 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 5 active career scoring leader with 1,371 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on the team in scoring at 11.9 ppg, the best scoring average of his career (10.6 ppg last year).
2. Team leader in assists, averaging 3.1 per game (12th in Big Ten).
3. Scored in double figures in nine of last 13 games, led by season-high 22 points vs. Missouri (Dec. 21).
4. Shooting 75.2 percent from the free throw line on the season (79-105).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 790 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 5.1 boards this season.
3. Shooting 50.8 percent from the field, ranking eighth 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 7.9 points.
2. Knocked down 42 threes in 23 games after making a total of 31 treys in 33 games last season at ISU.
3. Average of 1.8 threes per game ranks eighth in Big Ten.
4. Illini's second-leading rebounder with average of 5.5 boards (16th in Big Ten).
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 559 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Illini's fifth-leading scorer with 7.1-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. Third in Big Ten in offensive rebounds in conference play with 2.5 per game.
4. Just missed double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds Jan. 23 at Ohio State.
5. Started 59 of Illinois' last 62 games dating back to the end of his freshman campaign.

Complete Illinois-Penn State Game Notes