Men's Basketball
Men's Basketball Game Notes at Nebraska

Joseph Bertrand exploded for a career-high 25 points on 11-12 FG when the Illini defeated Nebraska on Jan. 7.
Joseph Bertrand exploded for a career-high 25 points on 11-12 FG when the Illini defeated Nebraska on Jan. 7.

Feb. 17, 2012

 GAME 27: Illinois (16-10, 5-8) at Nebraska (11-13, 3-10)
 Date Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012
 Time 4 pm CT
 Location Lincoln, Neb. | Devaney Center (13,595)
 Television BTN (Kevin Kugler and Jim Jackson) | Watch
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Affiliates | Listen | Sirius 93/XM 191
 Tickets Buy Online
 Live Stats Live Stats
 Game Notes Illinois | Nebraska
 Statistics Illinois | Nebraska
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Opening Tip
Illinois aims to get back in the win column on Saturday against Nebraska. The Illini are making their first visit to Lincoln in 37 years, since a 60-58 win on Nov. 28, 1975. Saturday's game in Lincoln followed by Tuesday's contest at No. 6 Ohio State will conclude a stretch of four out of five games on the road for the Illini.

Illinois is trying to snap a four-game losing streak, its longest since dropping five straight from Dec. 30, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008.

Illinois' last two victories have been against a pair of Top-10 teams currently tied for first place in the Big Ten standings in Ohio State and Michigan State.

Probable Starters (from the previous game)

Pos.	No.	Name    	Ht.	Wt.	Yr.	PPG	RPG	APG	Other
G	13 	Tracy Abrams 	6-1	185	Fr.	3.8	2.3	1.9	41.4  FG%
G	1	D.J. Richardson	6-3	195	Jr.	12.0	2.9	1.9	36.9  3FG%
G	3	Brandon Paul	6-4	200	Jr.	15.4	4.9	3.0	1.5 spg
G	2	Joseph Bertrand	6-5	195	r-So.	6.8	2.7	1.3	55.0  FG%
C	12	Meyers Leonard	7-1	245	So.	13.0	8.1	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.	6.9	2.0	2.5	82.1  FT%
F	15	Mike Shaw	6-8	230	Fr.	1.0	2.2	0.1	7.9 mpg
G/F	20	Myke Henry	6-6	230	Fr.	3.1	1.2	0.1 	48.9  FG%
G/F	21	Devin Langford	6-7	200	Fr.
F/C	23	Ibby Djimde	6-8	250	Fr.	0.4	0.9	0.0	4.2 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.	1.7	1.5	0.2	47.6  FG%
F	42	Tyler Griffey	6-8	230	Jr.	5.3	3.4	0.5	32 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: 312-150/.675 (14th year)
At Illinois: 209-96/.685 (9th year)
Big Ten: 88-61/.591
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. Nebraska
Series Record: Illinois leads 8-2
Last Meeting: Illinois 59, Nebraska 54 (Jan. 7, 2012 // Assembly Hall)
Series Streak: Illinois W-1
Record at Lincoln: Illinois leads 2-0
Series Streak at Lincoln: Illinois W-2
Weber vs. Nebraska: 1-0

Two Illini Closing in on 1,000
A pair of Illini guards are rapidly approaching the 1,000-point club. Junior Brandon Paul is Illinois' active career scoring leader with 987 points, just 13 away from becoming the 45th 1,000-point scorer in school history. Fellow junior D.J. Richardson, meanwhile, is 13 points behind Paul with 974 for his career, only 26 points shy of 1,000.

Last Time Out
Illinois was unable to get back on the winning track, falling to Purdue 67-62 Wednesday night in Champaign. The Illini trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half before cutting the deficit to three early after intermission. The Boilers then pushed their lead up to nine with 12 minutes remaining, but Illinois went on a 10-3 run to make it a two-point game at 51-49 with 9:19 left. The Illini later closed to within two points on four more occasions with chances to tie or take the lead, but just could not convert offensively. Robbie Hummel, meanwhile, scored Purdue's last seven points in the final four minutes to seal the win for the Boilers.

Tracy Abrams led the Illini with a career-high 22 points, while Brandon Paul scored 19 and Joseph Bertrand added 12. The Illini were hurt by cold perimeter shooting, going just 3-for-21 from behind the arc.

Paul Near Top of Big Ten Scoring List
Brandon Paul is the Big Ten's third-leading scorer in conference action, averaging 19.5 points. Paul has scored in double figures in all 13 Big Ten games, with six 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.

Leonard's Block Party
Meyers Leonard leads the Big Ten in blocked shots on the season. His average of 2.1 blocks per game currently ranks second on the Illini single-season list behind the record of 3.0 bpg set by Derek Holcomb in 1979. Leonard's 54 blocks, meanwhile, is tied for fourth place on the UI single-season chart. The Illini record is 86 rejections set by Holcomb in 1979.

Taking Down Another Top-10 Foe
Illinois defeated No. 9 Michigan State on Jan. 31, 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 at least two wins over Top-10 ranked opponents, one of nine programs to accomplish the feat this season:

Teams With Multiple 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, No. 6 Baylor
Kentucky - def. No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 8 Florida
Michigan - def. No. 8 Memphis, No. 9 Michigan State
Missouri - def. No. 3 Baylor, No. 8 Kansas, No. 6 Baylor
Ohio State - def. No. 4 Duke, No. 8 Florida, No. 8 Indiana

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 13 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 OT was nine points). The Illini are tied for the national lead with the most games decided by five points or less this season:

Illinois         13
Delaware         13
Gardner-Webb     13
Louisiana Tech   13
Eastern Michigan 12
Idaho            12
Samford          12

Illinois recently had eight straight games decided by five points or less (Jan. 4-Feb. 5). That was the UI's longest streak of the modern era and its longest in 83 years, since the Illini also had eight straight games decided by five or less during Big Ten play in 1929. It also was the nation's longest streak this season:

Illinois        8
Columbia        7
Louisiana Tech  6
San Diego State 6

Overall, the Illini are 11-7 in games decided by single digits and 7-6 in games decided by five or less. That is an improvement from last year when Illinois could not get over the hump in a number of close contests, winning only two games by five or less while dropping eight games where the UI led, was tied, or trailed by one point in the final minute. Illinois' seven victories by five points or less are the most in a season under Weber, and the most since the 1998-99 Illini won eight in that fashion. Following is a year-by-year look at the Illini in games decided by five points or less under Weber:

Season   Record
2011-12   7-6
2010-11   2-7
2009-10   5-6
2008-09   4-4
2007-08   4-6
2006-07   6-2
2005-06   4-4
2004-05   2-2
2003-04   4-1

Five on the Starting Five...

Brandon Paul
1. Leads Illini in scoring on the season (15.4 ppg) and ranks third in Big Ten in scoring during league play (19.5 ppg).
2. Scored in double figures in 19 of the last 20 games, including each of the last 15. Averaging 19.1 points (287) and 5.5 rebounds (83) over the last 15 games.
3. Leads Illini in assists with 3.0 average.
4. Scored career-high 43 points Jan. 10 vs. Ohio State (see box on page 5 for more details).
5. Has made 147 trips to the free throw line this season, the second-highest total among Big Ten guards behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (185 FTA).

Meyers Leonard
1. Leads the Illini and ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.1 rpg), and is second on the team in scoring (13.0 ppg).
2. First in the conference in blocked shots, averaging 2.1 bpg (54). On pace to have the second-best singleseason average in school history.
3. Third in the Big Ten and 17th in the NCAA in field goal shooting at 58.3 percent (134-230).
4. Seven double-doubles on the season, ranking third among Big Ten players.
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 (+12.1 ppg).

D.J. Richardson
1. Third on team in scoring with an average of 12.0 points.
2. Leads Illini in 3-point shooting at 36.9 percent (59-160).
3. Average of 2.3 threes per game ranks third in Big Ten.
4. 26 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
5. Despite playing more than 85 percent of available minutes, has a turnover rate of less than 14 percent.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Ninth in the Big Ten in field goal shooting during conference play at 54 percent (54-100).
2. Averaging 9.2 points in Big Ten play, compared to his all-games average of 6.8 points.
3. Scored 12 points and had five assists in most recent performance Wednesday vs. Purdue.
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 11 games after starting first two games of his career.
2. Scored a career-high 22 points Wednesday vs. Purdue.
3. Dished out career-high eight assists Feb. 5 vs. Northwestern, most by an Illini this season.
4. Did not commit a turnover in 31 minutes of action Feb. 12 at Michigan.
5. First Illini true-freshman point guard to start first career game since Dee Brown in 2002-03.