Game 24 Notes & Links: Illinois at Penn State
Feb. 8, 2014
Series Notes vs. 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).
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.
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)
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
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.
Looking Back at the Last Penn State Game:
Illini 75, Penn State 55 // Jan. 4, 2014 at State Farm Center
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
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