Men's Basketball
Game 27 Notes & Links: Illinois at Northwestern

Brandon Paul and the Illini are looking for their fourth straight win this Sunday.
Brandon Paul and the Illini are looking for their fourth straight win this Sunday.

Feb. 15, 2013

 Game 27: Illinois (18-8, 5-7) at Northwestern (13-12, 4-8)
 When Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 | 6:30 p.m. CT
 Location Evanaston, Ill. | Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
 Tickets Buy Online or call 888-GO-PURPLE
 Television BTN | (Eric Collins, PBP & Mike Kelley, analyst)
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Listen | Sirius 94 / XM 191
 Live Coverage GameTracker
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Northwestern | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Northwestern | Big Ten
 Social Media @IlliniHoops   |  #Illini   | Facebook | YouTube

 Illinois Probable Starters (from previous game)
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 13 Tracy Abrams 6-1 185 So. 10.8 3.7 3.5 16 assists & just 3 TO in last 3 games
G 1 D.J. Richardson 6-3 195 Sr. 12.5 4.2 1.6 Current B1G Co-Player of the Week
G 3 Brandon Paul 6-4 200 Sr. 16.7 4.3 2.8 Needs 9 points to reach 1,500 for career
F 0 Sam McLaurin 6-8 220 Gr. 4.3 3.5 0.5 UI career-high 8 pts Wed. vs. Purdue
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 235 So. 6.5 4.7 0.6 Leads team in rebs. & blocks
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 195 r-Jr. 8.4 4.7 0.7 Illini season-high 12 rebs. vs. Purdue
G 10 Mike LaTulip 6-0 165 Fr. 1.3 0.1 0.0 Walk-on has 19 pts in 35 mins
F 15 Mike Shaw 6-8 215 So. 0.9 0.7 0.2 Played season-high 19 mins at Wis.
G/F 20 Myke Henry 6-6 230 So. 3.3 1.8 0.2 8 pts. in 14 mins. in win over Purdue
G/F 21 Devin Langford 6-7 200 r-Fr. 0.5 0.8 0.2 4-9 field goals this season
F/C 23 Ibby Djimde 6-8 245 So. 0.0 0.2 0.0 16 minutes played this season
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 240 Jr. - - - Sitting out season due to transfer rules
G 31 Kevin Berardini 6-0 165 r-Jr. 0.6 0.3 0.3 5 points in 9 minutes played
F 42 Tyler Griffey 6-9 220 Sr. 7.6 3.5 0.6 Averaging 14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg in last 3

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 103-64/.617 (5th year)
At Illinois: 18-8/.692 (1st year)
Big Ten: 5-7/.417
Assistant Coaches: Dustin Ford (1st year), Paris Parham (1st year), Jamall Walker (1st year)
Special Assistant to the Head Coach: Brandon Miller (1st year)
Director of Basketball Operations: Mark Morris (1st year)
Video Coordinator: Andy Etheridge (1st year)

Series Notes vs. Northwestern
Series Record: Illinois leads 129-38
Series Streak: Northwestern W-2
Record at Evanston: Illinois leads 59-24
Series Streak at Evanston: Illinois W-1
Last Meeting: Northwestern 68, #23/22 Illinois 54 (Jan. 17 at Champaign)
Groce vs. Northwestern: 0-1

For Openers:
• Illinois won its 18th game of the season on Wednesday, surpassing its victory total from last year (17). And with five Big Ten wins, the Illini are one victory away from matching last year's win total in conference play (6).

• Illinois has won three straight Big Ten games for the first time since Jan. 4-10 last season. Illinois' last conference winning streak longer than three games was a five-game win streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 9, 2010.

• Illinois' active three-game winning streak is the second-longest in the Big Ten behind Michigan State (4).

• Illinois has five wins against the RPI Top 25, tied with Indiana and Kansas for the highest total nationally.

• Illinois has played eight RPI Top 25 opponents this season, tied with Kansas, Kansas State and Michigan State for the most of any team in the nation.

• The Illini have defeated a total of four opponents featured in the current AP Top 25, tied with Indiana, Louisville and Michigan State for the most of any team in the country.

• Illinois defeated Minnesota in its most recent road game. The Illini are aiming to win back-to-back conference road games for the first time since winning three straight during the 2010 season (Jan. 27 at Penn State, Feb. 3 at Iowa, Feb. 9 at Wisconsin).

• After falling to Northwestern in Champaign on Jan. 17, the Illini look to even the season series on Sunday in Evanston. The Wildcats have defeated the Illini twice in a season just three times, most recently in 1966.

• Illinois scored 79 points in the win over Purdue on Wednesday, topping 70 for the 16th time this season after doing so just 10 times in 32 games last year. The Illini are 14-2 on the year when reaching the 70-point marker.

• Purdue scored just 59 points against Illinois. The Illini have now held their opponent to less than 60 points in four of five conference wins (Ohio State-55, Nebraska-51, Minnesota-53, Purdue-59).

• Illinois has outscored its opponent in points off turnovers in 20 of 26 games. The Illini average 17.5 points off turnovers and own a margin of +5.8 points per game in that category on the season. This statistic has played a major role in two recent wins, as the Illini racked up 28 points off 14 Indiana turnovers on Feb. 7 and scored 24 points off 17 Purdue turnovers on Wednesday.

• The Illini grabbed 20 offensive rebounds versus the Boilermakers, converting those opportunities into a season-high 23 second-chance points. It was Illinois' best effort on the offensive glass since collecting 20 against Dayton on March 24, 2010.

• Illinois is 13-1 on the season when shooting better than its opponent.

• Illinois has four victories this season where it overcame double-digit deficits (16-at Hawaii, 11-at Gonzaga, 14-Indiana, 12-at Minnesota).

• With wins over No. 1 Indiana and No. 18 Minnesota last week, the Illini defeated ranked conference foes in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2010 season; a 78-73 home win over No. 5 Michigan State (Feb. 6) followed by a 63-56 win at No. 11 Wisconsin (Feb. 9).

• Illinois' win top-ranked Indiana was its third all-time over a No. 1-ranked team. The Illini's previous two victories over No. 1 came against Michigan State (Jan. 11, 1979) and Wake Forest (Dec. 1, 2004).

• Illinois' win over the No. 1 Hoosiers was its third victory of the season over a top-10 team, following wins over then-No. 10 Gonzaga and then-No. 8 Ohio State. This is the seventh different Illini team in school history to beat at least three top-10 opponents, and the first since the 2004-05 UI squad did so with victories over No. 1 Wake Forest, No. 9 Arizona and No. 4 Louisville.

D.J. Richardson has scored in double figures in each of the last seven games - his career-long streak in Big Ten play - averaging 17.1 points over that stretch (120). He is shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range over the last seven games (22-52) after shooting 21.6 percent from behind the arc over the previous eight games (11-51).

• Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 26 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 32 straight games with at least one trey.

Tyler Griffey has averaged 14.0 points (42) and 6.0 rebounds (18) on 48.4 percent shooting from the field (15-31) over the last three games. This follows a stretch where Griffey totaled 18 points over the previous eight games.

Tracy Abrams has combined for a total of 16 assists with only three turnovers over the last three games. Abrams had seven assists in the win over Purdue on Wednesday, one short of his season high.

• Illinois averages 75.5 points on 45.1 percent shooting and 37.1 percent 3-point shooting in its 18 wins, compared to averaging 63.6 points on 38 percent shooting and 23.9 percent 3-point shooting in its eight losses.

• Illinois is shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range in its 12 games away from home, an increase over the UI's 42.3 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range in its 14 games at Assembly Hall.

Last Time Out: Illini Rout Purdue - Feb. 13
Illinois earned a long-awaited victory over Purdue, rolling past the Boilermakers 79-59 on Wednesday night at the Assembly Hall. The win snapped an eight-game skid against the Boilers, giving the Illini their first win over Purdue since 2009.

The Illini scored eight unanswered points before the first media timeout to grab their first lead, and held it for the remainder of the night. Illinois led 43-29 at the half and the advantage stayed in double figures the rest of the way, swelling to as many as 25 points with six minutes left before settling on the final 20-point margin.

The Illini had a balanced attack, with seven players tallying at least eight points. D.J. Richardson led all scorers with 18, while Tracy Abrams had 13 and Tyler Griffey also reached double figures with 12. Joseph Bertrand just missed a double-double, registering nine points and a career-high 12 boards, the highest rebounding total by a UI player on the season. Sam McLaurin had a season-high eight points, and Nnanna Egwu and Myke Henry also added eight apiece.

Richardson Named Big Ten Player of the Week
D.J. Richardson is the reigning Big Ten co-Player of Week after leading the Fighting Illini to a pair of wins over Top 20 teams last week. He shares the honor with Wisconsin's Ben Brust.

Richardson had a game-high 23 points against top-ranked Indiana, including 15 in the second half as the Illini erased a 14-point deficit to knock off No. 1 for just the third time in school history. With the Illini trailing 70-62 with under four minutes to play, Richardson scored eight consecutive points in just over two minutes to tie the game at 70 and then stole the ball from Indiana's Victor Oladipo with five seconds left to set the stage for Tyler Griffey's heroics in the final seconds.

The Peoria, Ill., native then had 13 points at No. 18 Minnesota as the Illini defeated their second straight Top 20 opponent. For the week, Richardson averaged 18.0 points and 2.5 steals per game and shot 50 percent from the field (12-of-24) and 54 percent from behind the arc (7-of-13).

This is the first career Big Ten Player of the Week honor for Richardson and the third for an Illini this season. Brandon Paul was named Big Ten and National Player of the Week on Dec. 10 after his 35-point performance in a win at Gonzaga and Tracy Abrams took home conference honors on Dec. 31 following his 27-point game in the victory over Auburn at the United Center.

The Last Meeting
January 17, 2013
Assembly Hall
No. 23 Illini Defeated by Wildcats, 68-54
Brandon Paul scored 21 points, but No. 23 Illinois suffered its third straight loss, 68-54, to Northwestern on Thursday night. Highlights | Box Score | Printable Box | Photo Gallery |

Looking Back at the Last Northwestern Game:

• Northwestern 68, #23/22 Illinois 58 // Jan. 17 at Champaign
Northwestern earned a 68-54 victory at the Assembly Hall. The Illini had to battle back from another slow start, falling behind 10-3 out of the gate. The Wildcats led by as many as 17 in the first half and controlled the tempo throughout the game, keeping the hosts from making a game-changing run. Illinois got within nine on two occasions late, but the Wildcats answered each time to push the lead back to double figures before icing the game with 12-of-12 shooting at the line over the final 75 seconds.

Brandon Paul once again led the Illini with a game-high 21 points, while Tracy Abrams added 10 points and four assists and Tyler Griffey had six points and a game-high six rebounds in his first game coming off the bench.

Looking Back at the Last Road Game Versus Northwestern:

• Illinois 57, Northwestern 56 // Jan. 4, 2012 at Evanston
The Illini came out on top in another wild game in Evanston, defeating Northwestern 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 Nnanna Egwu, who scored nine points - all in the first half.

Five Key Facts On ...

Brandon Paul
1. Big Ten's No. 3 leading scorer with an average of 16.7 points.
2. Has scored at least 13 points in all but three games this season, with nine 20-plus point performances.
3. Second among Big Ten players in free throw makes (113), and attempts (157), behind Indiana's Cody Zeller.
4. Nine points away from becoming the 10th Illini in school history to score 1,500 career points.
5. 10 off the team lead in rebounds (4.3 rpg), challenging to become the first UI player to lead the Illini in both scoring and rebounding in a single season since Shaun Pruitt in 2008.

D.J. Richardson
1. Second on the Illini in scoring with an average of 12.5 points.
2. Has scored in double figures in each of the last seven games, averaging 17.1 points over that stretch (120).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 32 straight games making at least one 3-pointer, the longest by a player from a BCS conference.
4. Third among Big Ten players in 3-point field goals this season with an average of 2.4 makes per game and is third in school history in career 3-point field goals with 257.
5. Has started 122 career games, fourth on the UI's all-time starts list.

Tracy Abrams
1. Third Illini scoring in double figures with an average of 10.8 points.
2. Has increased his scoring average by 6.5 points (4.3 last year).
3. Leads the team and ranks 10th in the Big Ten in assists (3.5 apg).
4. Has combined for a total of 16 assists with only three turnovers over the last two games.
5. Shooting nearly 48 percent on 2-pointers this season (78-163).

Joseph Bertrand
1. Illini sixth-man is team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 8.4 points.
2. Ranks eighth in the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 52.4 percent (87-166).
3. Tied for team lead in rebounding (4.7 rpg), led by career-high 12 boards Wednesday vs. Purdue.
4. Scored in double figures nine times off the bench, led by season-high 17 points vs. Wisconsin (Feb. 3).
5. Shooting 34.1 percent from 3-point range, making 15-of-44, after going just 3-of-11 from behind the arc through his first two seasons combined.

Tyler Griffey
1. Fifth on the team in scoring, averaging a career-best 7.6 points.
2. Has made two game-winners at the buzzer at the Assembly Hall, a layup vs. Indiana (Feb. 7) and a three-pointer vs. Gardner-Webb (Nov. 25).
3. Averaging 18.0 points and (42) and 6.0 rebounds (18) over the last three games.
4. Scored a season-high 16 points Sunday at Minnesota.
5. Grabbed season-high eight rebounds vs. Indiana (Feb. 7).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Started all 26 games and is averaging 24.6 minutes after averaging 9.8 minutes last season.
2. Averaging 6.5 points and tied for team lead with average of 4.7 rebounds, more than tripling his production over last season (1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg).
3. Sixth in the Big Ten in blocked shots (1.3 bpg).
4. Scored 14 points vs. Wisconsin (Feb. 3), the second-highest total of his career.
5. Grabbed career-best 10 boards at Nebraska (Jan. 22) and vs. Michigan (Jan. 27).

Sam McLaurin
1. Fifth-year transfer is playing 21.3 minutes per game.
2. Averaging 5.9 points (47) and 3.6 rebounds (29) as a starter the last eight games.
3. Leads team and ranks 10th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds, averaging 2.3 per game.
4. Scored season-high eight points Wednesday vs. Purdue.
5. Third on the team with 17 blocked shots.

Illini Storm Back to Beat No. 18 Minnesota in Minneapolis - Feb. 10
Illinois fought back from a 12-point deficit to defeat No. 18 Minnesota in Minneapolis on Sunday. After falling behind 13-2 at the start and trailing 26-14, the Illini outscored the Gophers 17-4 over the final 3:45 of the first half to take a 31-30 lead into halftime. The second half was played within a margin of five points, the Illini moving ahead for the final time on a basket by Tracy Abrams with 5:52 left. The Gophers were still within one when Abrams made the game's final basket, a step-back 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put the Illini ahead by four with 15 seconds left and secure the road win.

Tyler Griffey led the Illini with 16 points, his highest total in Big Ten play. D.J. Richardson added 13 points and Brandon Paul had 10. Abrams, meanwhile, had six assists without a turnover in addition to his five points in crunch time.

Griffey's Buzzer Beater Takes Down No. 1 Indiana - Feb. 7
In one of the most thrilling comebacks of the college basketball season, Illinois knocked off the No. 1 team in the country for the third time in school history with a 74-72 victory over top-ranked Indiana on Feb. 7. The Hoosiers showed why they carried the No. 1 billing, running efficient offense throughout the game and answering every run the Illini made. Indiana broke ahead from a 13-all tie at the 10-minute mark of the first half and maintained its lead from that point until the end. Illinois trailed by as many as 14 points on three occasions and still trailed 70-61 with 3:33 remaining.

That's when Illinois made its charge, closing the game on a 13-2 run. After a Brandon Paul free throw cut it to eight, D.J. Richardson rattled off eight straight points on a pair of 3-pointers and a step-back 19-footer that tied the game at 70 with 1:19 left. Victor Oladipo put Indiana back up by two with a layup, the Hoosiers' only basket in the game's final five minutes. Paul then hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 72 and set up the exciting final series. Indiana held for the last shot, but Oladipo lost control of the ball and Richardson picked it up and raced down court and attempted a layup that Oladipo blocked out of bounds.

The Illini were out of timeouts with only nine-tenths of a second remaining. Paul was the inbounder and he took his time surveying the court before Tyler Griffey broke free cutting toward the basket. Paul threw a bounce pass into the empty lane where Griffey caught it in stride and made the uncontested layup. The horn sounded as the ball went through the net, and the Orange Krush poured onto the court to celebrate.

Notes From the Historic Win Over Indiana
• This was Illinois' third win in school history over a No. 1-ranked team. All three wins have come at the Assembly Hall. The Illini are now 3-20 all-time against the No. 1 team in the AP poll.
• Illinois now has three victories over top-10 teams, tying the third-most single-season wins over top-10 opponents in school history.
• Illinois now has two wins over top-10 Big Ten teams, accomplishing the feat for the second straight season and just the fifth time in school history.
Tyler Griffey's buzzer-beating layup was his second game winner of the season at the Assembly Hall. He nailed a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left as the Illini defeated Gardner-Webb, 63-62, on Nov. 25.
D.J. Richardson finished with a game-high 23 points, the second-best performance of his career.
Brandon Paul tallied his ninth 20-point game this season, finishing with 21 points.
• The Illini senior class of Richardson, Paul, Griffey and Sam McLaurin combined for 85.1 percent of the UI's scoring in the win, totaling 63 points. That is their highest combined total in a game this season. Their previous high was 56 points in the win over USC (Nov. 19).
• The trio of Richardson, Paul and Griffey, meanwhile, combined for 58 points on the night, the highest combined total of their four-year careers. Their previous best was 53 points last season in the win over Ohio State (Jan. 10, 2012).
• Richardson (23) and Paul (21) topped the 20-point mark in the same game for the first time in their career.
• Illinois trailed by as many as 14 points and faced a 41-29 deficit at the half, overcoming their second-largest halftime deficit (12) of the season. The Orange and Blue trailed by 13 at intermission in their last-second overtime win against Hawaii (Nov. 16).
• This was the second time in Indiana's last three trips to Champaign that the Illini won on a buzzer beater. Former Illini point guard Demetri McCamey hit a runner just outside the lane as the game clock expired to knock off the Hoosiers, 72-70, on Jan. 30, 2010.
• Illinois beat Indiana in Champaign for the 10th time in the last 11 games, and evened the all-time series with the Hoosiers at 84 wins apiece.

Complete Illinois-Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)