Men's Basketball
Game 25 Notes & Links: Illinois at Nebraska

Freshman Malcolm hill had a career-high 11 points in Sunday's win at Penn State.
Freshman Malcolm hill had a career-high 11 points in Sunday's win at Penn State.

Feb. 11, 2014

 Game 25: Illinois (14-10, 3-8) at Nebraska (12-10, 4-6)
 When Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 | 8 p.m. CST
 Location Lincoln, Neb. | Pinnacle Bank Arena (15,000) | Seating Chart / Parking
 Tickets Buy Online
 Television Big Ten Network (Cory Provus, PBP & Shon Morris, analyst)
 Watch Online
 Listen Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 108 / XM 190
 Live Stats Gametracker | Live Stats
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Nebraska | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Nebraska | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Teleconference | Jon Ekey | Malcolm Hill | Kendrick Nunn
 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. 11.5 3.5 3.2 Illini active career scoring leader (792 pts)
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 16.5 6.0 1.8 Leads team in scoring and rebounding
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 4.8 1.4 0.8 Shattered CH with 19 pts at PSU Sunday
G 21 Malcolm Hill 6-6 210 Fr. 3.6 2.2 0.5 Scored CH 11 pts. at PSU Sunday
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 6.9 5.3 0.3 3rd in B1G in blocked shots (2.3 bpg)
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 1 Jaylon Tate 6-3 160 Fr. 2.3 1.0 2.2 2.2 assist/turnover ratio
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 200 r-Sr. 10.6 4.9 0.7 CH of 25 pts came vs. Huskers in 2012
G 10 Mike LaTulip 6-1 170 So. 1.1 0.3 0.2 Hitting .429 from behind the arc
C 22 Maverick Morgan 610 250 Fr. 1.7 1.5 0.1 Shooting 58.6 percent from field
F 31 Austin Colbert 6-9 210 Fr. 1.7 1.0 0.3 Shooting 50 percent from the field
F 33 Jon Ekey 6-7 225 Gr. 7.9 5.4 0.2 Leads team in made threes (44)
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: 122-79/.607 (6th year)
At Illinois: 37-23/.617 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 11-18/.379
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. Nebraska
Series Record: Illinois leads 10-3
Series Streak: Illinois W-2
Record at Lincoln: Illinois leads 3-1
Series Streak at Lincoln: Illinois W-1
Last Year's Meetings:   ILL 71, NEB 51 (Jan. 22, 2013 at Lincoln) & ILL 72, NEB 65 (March 2, 2013 at Champaign)
Groce vs. Nebraska: 2-0

Opening Tips
• Fresh off its victory Sunday at Penn State, Illinois returns to the road Wednesday at Nebraska. It is the second game of a current four-game stretch for the Illini that includes three away games.

• Wednesday's contest features the top two newcomer scorers in the Big Ten in Rayvonte Rice (16.5 ppg, sixth) and Nebraska's Terran Petteway (17.5 ppg, fourth).

• Illinois is attempting to notch road wins in back-to-back games for the first time in five years, since Feb. 12-15, 2009 (at Northwestern and at Indiana).

• The Illini held Penn State to a season-low tying 55 points in Sunday's win. The Illini also held the Nittany Lions to 55 points during a victory on Jan. 4. Illinois' defense has now limited its opponent to 65 points or less in 13 of its 14 victories this season, and 20 of its last 21 wins dating back to Feb. 10 of last year.

•The Illini will play their first game in Nebraska's new facility, Pinnacle Bank Arena. Illinois was victorious in its debut in four of the current Big Ten venues: Minnesota's Williams Arena (1929), Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena (1953), Michigan's Crisler Center (1968) and Wisconsin's Kohl Center (1998).

Rayvonte Rice is the only player in the Big Ten Conference currently leading his team in scoring (16.5 ppg), rebounding (6.0 rpg) and steals (1.3 spg) on the season.

Last Time Out: Illini 60, Penn State 55 (Feb. 9)
Illinois snapped an eight-game losing streak, and seven-game Big Ten road losing streak, with a five-point victory Sunday at Penn State. The second half featured eight lead changes before the Illini defense rose to the occasion down the stretch. Illinois trailed 52-49 with 9:44 remaining, but took the lead after baskets by Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. A free throw by Rayvonte Rice later gave the Illini a two-point lead, but it was cut to one with 51 seconds left on a PSU free throw. That set up the play of the game, as Tracy Abrams drove the lane with the shot clock winding down and found Nunn in the corner, who drained a baseline 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to put the Illini up by four. Penn State then cut it to two, but Abrams knocked down a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining to again make it a two-possession game. After a PSU miss, Rice then added one more free throw for the final margin.

The Illini outscored the Nittany Lions 11-to-3 in the final 9:44, holding PSU to just one field goal on its home court. The Illini freshman class had a breakout game, combining for 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting. Kendrick Nunn led the way in his first start with a career-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Malcolm Hill, also starting for the first time, added 11 points.

Notes from the Win Over Penn State
• For the first time this season, Coach John Groce changed the starting lineup Sunday at Penn State, inserting freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill as starters. It marked the first time the Illini had two true freshmen start since March 4, 2012 at Wisconsin (Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu).

• Nunn erupted for a career-high 19 points against the Nittany Lions, the most by an Illini freshman since Feb. 15, 2012, when Abrams scored 22 versus Purdue.

• Hill also finished in double figures with 11 while fellow newcomers Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert added four points apiece. In all, the freshman class totaled 38 points against PSU. It marked the highest point total by an Illini freshman class against a conference opponent since the quarterfinals of the 2008 Big Ten Tournament, when UI rookies accounted for 40 points in an overtime victory over Purdue.

• Ten players logged double-digit minutes at Penn State, most for the Illini since the season-opening win over Alabama State when all 11 eligible players on the roster played at least 10 minutes.

• Illinois improved to 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less, and 12-3 overall under Groce.

• Illinois is now 9-0 on the season when shooting better than its opponent, and 22-1 overall under Groce.

• The 55 points by Penn State on 38.2 percent shooting marked the lowest outputs against the Illini defense since Jan. 12, when Northwestern totaled 49 points on 37.2 percent accuracy.

• Illinois had 10 assists compared to only six turnovers against the Lions, recording a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for the first time in seven games.

Illini Items
• 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 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 10.2 turnovers per game (third in Big Ten, 19th in NCAA). Illinois' turnover rate of 15.7 percent ranks 33rd nationally.

• The Illini are allowing an average of 64.2 points per game this season (fourth in Big Ten, 39th in NCAA).

• Illinois ranks 49th nationally in defensive efficiency (97.3) and 46th in defensive free throw rate (33.6).

Rayvonte Rice ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring with a 16.5-point average. He has reached double figures in all but three games on the season.

Joseph Bertrand is shooting 51.3 percent on 2-pointers (80-156) this season, while Kendrick Nunn is shooting 50 percent (29-58) and Rice is shooting 49.2 percent (97-197).

Nnanna Egwu, the Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker (55th in NCAA), has recorded at least two blocks in 19 games.

Looking Back at Last Year's Nebraska Games:

The Last Meeting
March 2, 2013
Assembly Hall
Illinois Knocks Off Nebraska on Senior Day, 72-65
The Fighting Illini held off Nebraska, 72-65, on Senior Day at Assembly Hall Saturday.
Highlights | Box Score | Printable Box | Photos | Notes | Press Conference |

• Illinois 71, Nebraska 51 // Jan. 22, 2013 at Lincoln
• The win over Nebraska was the 100th career head coaching victory for John Groce.

D.J. Richardson had a career night, pouring in 30 points to shatter his previous career high of 20, which he had done three times. Richardson hit a career-high nine field goals on 14 attempts, nailed a career-high six three-pointers on nine attempts, and was perfect on six free throw attempts.

• The Illini never trailed against the Huskers, marking the eighth time on the season that Illinois has won without falling behind at any point in the game.

• Illinois dominated the glass, outrebounding the Huskers 40-28. Nnanna Egwu pulled down 10 boards, the first double-digit rebound game for a UI player on the season.

Joseph Bertrand had an impressive all-around game against the Huskers with a career-high five steals and seven rebounds to go along with eight points in 27 minutes.

• Illinois 72, Nebraska 65 // March 2, 2013 at Champaign
The Illini made big plays down the stretch in a seven-point victory over Nebraska. In a game that featured 10 ties and 13 lead changes, it was only fitting that things went down to the wire. The Illini trailed 57-55 when Brandon Paul hit a jumper with 5:39 left to tie it. D.J. Richardson nailed a 3-pointer on Illinois' next possession and Tracy Abrams then scored on a layup to make it seven unanswered points by the Illini, giving the hosts a 62-57 lead with four minutes left. The Cornhuskers got within one possession at the 3-minute mark, but Paul made a driving layup to make it a 4-point advantage. The Huskers were unable get any closer as the Illini made 6-of-6 from the line in the final minute to close out the victory.

Illinois had a balanced attack with five players scoring in double figures. It was a combined effort between the sophomore and senior classes on Senior Day at the Assembly Hall. Tracy Abrams led the way with 16 points while Brandon Paul scored 14 and D.J. Richardson added 13. Nnanna Egwu chipped in with 10 points and five boards.

Current Illini vs. Nebraska

Joseph Bertrand (4 G): 9.0 ppg (36), 4.3 rpg (17)
Highlights: Seven points, eight rebounds and career-high five steals last season in Lincoln ... Career-high five assists in 2012 in Lincoln ... Career-high 25 points in 2012 in Champaign.

Tracy Abrams (4 G): 8.8 ppg (35), 2.0 rpg (8)
Highlights: Team-high 16 points last season in Champaign ... 11 points in 2012 in Lincoln ... Eight points in 2012 in Champaign.

Nnanna Egwu (4 G): 4.8 ppg (19), 5.5 rpg (22)
Highlight: 10 points last season in Champaign ... Eight points and 10 rebounds earlier last season in Lincoln.

Mike LaTulip (1 G): 0 pts, 0 reb

Five Facts on the Following Illini

Rayvonte Rice
1. Big Ten's sixth-leading scorer with average of 16.5 points.
2. Also leads Illini in rebounds (6.0 rpg, 13th 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 24 games with eight 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 5 active career scoring leader with 1,380 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on the team in scoring at 11.5 ppg, the best scoring average of his career (10.6 ppg last year).
2. Team leader in assists, averaging 3.2 per game (12th in Big Ten).
3. Scored in double figures in 15 games, led by season-high 22 points vs. Missouri (Dec. 21).
4. Shooting 74.3 percent from the free throw line on the season (81-109).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 792 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 4.9 boards this season.
3. Shooting 49.7 percent from the field, ranking ninth in the Big Ten.
4. Has made 43.2 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 44 threes in 24 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 5.4 boards (17th in Big Ten).
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 562 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Illini's fifth-leading scorer with 6.9-point average.
2. Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker is averaging 2.3 blocks, up from average of 1.4 blocks last season.
4. Averaging 3.3 blocks over the last three games (10).
3. Third in Big Ten in offensive rebounds in conference play with 2.5 per game.
5. Started 60 of Illinois' last 63 games dating back to the end of his freshman campaign.

Kendrick Nunn
1. Scored a career-high 19 points Sunday at Penn State in first career start.
2. Also tied career high with four rebounds against the Nittany Lions.
3. Shooting 55 percent from the field (11-20) and 50 percent from 3-point range (5-10) over the last three games.
4. Averaging 6.9 points in Big Ten play, after averaging 2.9 points during the non-conference.
5. Continues tradition of Simeon products wearing No. 25 jersey at Illinois in honor of Ben Wilson (details p. 12)

Malcolm Hill
1. Scored a career-high 11 points Sunday at Penn State in first career start.
2. Has logged double figure minutes in four straight games, and eight of the last 10.
3. Seven games of seven-plus points, including five during Big Ten play.
4. Shooting 79.5 percent from the free throw line on the year.
5. Career-high six rebounds in first two collegiate games, vs. Alabama State and Jacksonville State.

Complete Illinois-Nebraska Game Notes