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

The Illini came home with a 57-53 win the last time they traveled to Williams Arena.
The Illini came home with a 57-53 win the last time they traveled to Williams Arena.

Feb. 18, 2014

 Game 27: Illinois (14-12, 3-10) at Minnesota (17-9, 6-7)
 When Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 | 8 p.m. CST
 Location Minneapolis, Minn. | Williams Arena (14,625) | Seating Chart
 Tickets Buy Online
 Television Big Ten Network (Steve Physioc, PBP & Shon Morris, analyst)
 Watch Online
 Listen Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 91 / XM 91
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Minnesota | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Minnesota | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Teleconference | Jon Ekey | Tracy Abrams | Nnanna Egwu
 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. 11.2 3.5 3.0 Late 3 secured last year's win at the Barn
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 4.9 1.3 0.9 11.0 ppg since entering starting lineup
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 16.6 5.9 1.6 Scored 20+ nine times this season
G 21 Malcolm Hill 6-6 210 Fr. 3.7 2.2 0.5 CH 11 pts in first start at PSU Feb. 9
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 6.7 5.9 0.5 Averaging 13.0 rpg in last two
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 1 Jaylon Tate 6-3 160 Fr. 2.2 1.0 2.1 2.0 assist/turnover ratio
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 200 r-Sr. 10.0 4.7 0.7 Team-best .425 from behind the arc
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. 1.5 1.4 0.1 Shooting 56.7 percent from field
F 31 Austin Colbert 6-9 210 Fr. 1.6 0.9 0.2 Shooting 48.0 percent from the field
F 33 Jon Ekey 6-7 225 Gr. 7.4 5.5 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: 122-81/.601 (6th year)
At Illinois: 37-25/.597 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 11-20/.355
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. Minnesota
Series Record: Illinois leads 118-64
Series Streak: Illinois W-2
Record at Minneapolis: Minnesota leads 45-43
Series Streak at Minneapolis: Illinois W-1
Last Year's Meetings:  
     #8/10 Minnesota 84, #12/13 Illinois 67 (1/9/13 at Champaign)
     Illinois 57, #18/18 Minnesota 53 (2/10/13 at Minneapolis)
     Illinois 51, Minnesota 49 (3/14/13 at Chicago)
Groce vs. Minnesota: 2-1

Opening Tips
• Illinois concludes a four-game stretch featuring three road games with Wednesday's contest at Minnesota.

• This is the only game this season between Illinois and Minnesota. It is the Illini's third Big Ten one-play, following Northwestern (Jan. 12) and Purdue (Jan. 15). The UI's remaining single is March 4 at home vs. Michigan.

• Illinois has won 10 of its last 12 games at Williams Arena dating back to 2000. The Illini have recorded 43 wins all-time at Minnesota, the UI's second-most road victories against a Big Ten opponent (60 at Northwestern).

• Illinois fell to Ohio State on Saturday despite limiting the Buckeyes to a season-low 48 points. It marked Illinois' second conference loss while holding its opponent below 50 points, the first time that has happened to the Illini since 1947.

• Illinois' defense has limited the 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.

Schedule Updates
• Time for the Illinois at Michigan State game March 1 has been moved to 3 p.m. CT on ESPN/2.

• Date/Time/TV has been selected for the Illinois at Iowa game. It will be held March 8 at 7:30 p.m. CT on BTN.

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 in games decided by one or two points, and 8-0 overall under Groce.

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

• Illinois is 9-0 when shooting better than its opponent, and 22-1 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 10.4 turnovers per game (fourth in Big Ten, 25th in NCAA). Illinois' turnover rate of 15.7 percent ranks 45th nationally.

• The Illini are allowing an average of 63.7 points per game this season (fourth in Big Ten, 33rd in NCAA).

• Illinois ranks 36th nationally in defensive efficiency (96.5).

Rayvonte Rice is the only player in the Big Ten Conference currently leading his team in scoring (16.6 ppg), rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (1.3 spg) on the season.

• Rice ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring with a 16.6-point average. He has reached double figures in all but three games on the season. Rice has nine 20-plus point performances, including three in the last six games.

• Rice is averaging 7.2 rebounds over the last five games (36).

Nnanna Egwu is averaging 13.0 rebounds over the last two games (26). He set career highs in each of the last two games, grabbing 12 at Nebraska and then breaking that mark with 14 versus Ohio State.

• Egwu is the Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker (58th in NCAA), avearaging 2.2 bpg. His season total of 58 blocks currently ranks fourth on the Illini all-time single-season list, and just two away from second on that list.

Kendrick Nunn is averaging 11.0 points (33) in his three games as a starter, while Malcolm Hill is averaging 7.0 points (21) in his three starts. Over the last three games, they are shooting a combined 47.5 percent (19-40).

Tracy Abrams scored 14 points Saturday versus Ohio State, reaching double figures for the first in four games and marking his highest point total in the last seven games. Abrams tied his career high with three 3-pointers against the Buckeyes.

Last Time Out: #22 Ohio State 48, Illini 39 (Feb. 15)
Illinois played well enough defensively but struggled on offense in a nine-point loss to No. 22 Ohio State on Saturday night at State Farm Center.

The Illini got off to a good start, hitting four of its first seven shots and jumping out to a 15-9 lead. Illinois began to cool off from the field but continued to clamp down on defense, taking a 23-20 lead into intermission. The Buckeyes opened the second half on a 10-2 run to grab a five-point advantage. The next run by the visitors put the game out of reach. Leading by just one at 30-29, OSU scored 12 straight over six-and-a-half minutes to open up a 42-29 margin with five minutes left. The Illini could get no closer than five the rest of the way.

Illinois held the Buckeyes to 48 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Normally those figures would result in victory, but the Illini managed just 28.3 percent shooting en route to its 39 points. Tracy Abrams led the Illini with 13 points while Rayvonte Rice added 11. Nnanna Egwu had another solid all-around game, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with six points, three blocks and two assists.

Looking Back at Last Season's Minnesota Games:

• #8/10 Minnesota 84, #12/13 Illinois 67 // Jan. 9 at Champaign
Minnesota defeated the Illini to became the first road team to win in the Assembly Hall on the season. The Illini trailed by 12 points early in the second half before going on a 10-0 run to bring the home crowd to its feet and close to within 44-42. But the Gophers capitalized on UI turnovers on the next two possessions, rattling off seven unanswered points in just 26 seconds to open up a nine-point advantage. The Illini then closed to within four at 51-47, but Minnesota added another quick 7-0 run to take an 11-point lead with eight minutes remaining. The Illini got no closer than nine the rest of the way.

Illinois shot just 35.4 percent and connected on just 3-of-24 from behind the arc. The Gophers, meanwhile, hit at a 52.9 percent clip, including 60 percent from 3-point land (9-15). Brandon Paul led the Illini with 21 points, while D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams added 14 point each.

• Illinois 57, #18/18 Minnesota 53 // Feb. 10 at Minneapolis
Illinois fought back from a 12-point deficit to defeat No. 18 Minnesota in Minneapolis. 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.

The Last Meeting
Minnesota (First Round)49
March 14, 2013
United Center, Chicago
Paul Hits Buzzer-Beater to Lift Illini Past Gophers
Brandon Paul's buzzer-beater gave Illinois a 51-49 victory over Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday. Watch Paul's Game-Winner | Box Score | Printable Box | Photo Gallery |

• Illinois 51, Minnesota 49 // March 14 at Chicago
Brandon Paul hit a 15-foot jumper as time expired to give Illinois the victory over Minnesota. It marked the third buzzer-beating win for Illinois on the season, following a D.J. Richardson 3-pointer in overtime for a 78-77 win at Hawaii (Nov. 16) and a Tyler Griffey layup to beat No. 1 Indiana, 74-72, in Champaign (Feb. 7).

• Paul carried the Illini against Minnesota, pouring in a game-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. Paul also surpassed 1,600 points for his career, becoming just the ninth player in Illinois history to reach that milestone.

• The Illini tied the game at 49 on a 3-pointer by D.J. Richardson with 44 seconds left. The tying shot came after a 75-second possession that saw the Illini take five shots, including two missed threes by Richardson, and get four offensive rebounds. Illinois then forced a turnover on the defensive end with 14.6 on the clock to set the stage for Paul's heroics in the final seconds.

• The Illini fell behind 7-2 with 16:32 left in the first half, but took control of the game with a 19-2 run that spanned 11:56 to lead 21-9 after a dunk by Nnanna Egwu at the 5:51 mark. During the run, Illinois forced nine Minnesota turnovers and held the Gophers to just 1-8 shooting.

• Illinois shot just 32.1 percent but stayed in the game thanks to defense that forced 19 Minnesota turnovers, the second-most by a UI opponent on the season (Western Carolina, 22). Illinois converted the 19 Gopher turnovers into 21 points.

Current Illini vs. Minnesota:

Tracy Abrams (5 G): 6.0 ppg (30), 3.8 rpg (19)
Highlights: Five points, team-high six rebounds and game-high six assists without a turnover last season in Minneapolis ... 14 points and four rebounds earlier last season in Champaign.

Joseph Bertrand (5 G): 5.8 ppg (29), 1.4 rpg (7)
Highlights: Six points and four rebounds last season in Champaign ... 13 points in 2012 in Champaign.

Nnanna Egwu (5 G): 4.8 ppg (24), 5.4 rpg (27)
Highlights: Six points and six rebounds last year in Big Ten Tournament opening round ... Eight points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots earlier last season in Champaign ... Five rebounds and three blocks in 2012 in Champaign.

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 16.8 points.
2. Also leads Illini in steals (1.3 spg, ninth in Big Ten) and tied for team lead in rebounds (5.9 rpg, 12th in Big Ten)
3. Has been the UI's top scorer in 16 games.
4. Scored in double figures in 23 of 26 games with nine 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 5 active career scoring leader with 1,414 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on the team in scoring at 11.2 ppg, the best average of his career (10.6 ppg last season).
2. Team leader in assists, averaging 3.0 per game (12th in Big Ten).
3. Scored in double figures in 16 games, led by season-high 22 points vs. Missouri (Dec. 21).
4. Shooting 74.8 percent from the free throw line on the season (86-115).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 808 points.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Team's third-leading scorer is averaging double figures for first time, a career-best 10.0 points.
2. Also has improved his rebounding, averaging career-best 4.7 boards this season.
3. Shooting 48.5 percent from the field, ranking 10th in the Big Ten.
4. Has made 42.5 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 7.4 points.
2. Knocked down 44 threes in 26 games after making a total of 31 treys in 33 games last season at ISU.
3. Average of 1.7 threes per game ranks 10th in Big Ten.
4. Illini's third-leading rebounder with average of 5.5 boards (16th in Big Ten).
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 574 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Illini's fifth-leading scorer with 6.7-point average and tied for team lead in rebounds, averaging 5.9 rpg.
2. Big Ten's No. 3 shot blocker is averaging 2.2 blocks, up from average of 1.4 blocks last season.
3. Total of 58 blocks currently ranks fourth on the UI all-time single-season list.
4. Second in Big Ten in offensive rebounds in conference play with 2.8 per game.
5. Started 62 of Illinois' last 65 games dating back to the end of his freshman campaign.

Kendrick Nunn
1. Fourth on team in scoring in Big Ten play, averaging 6.9 points.
2. Averaging 11.0 points over last three games as a starter (33).
3. Scored a career-high 19 points in first career start at Penn State (Feb. 9).
4. Shooting 50 percent from the field (16-32) and 43.8 percent from 3-point range (7-16) over the last five games.
5. Continues tradition of Simeon products wearing No. 25 jersey at Illinois in honor of Ben Wilson (details p. 13).

Malcolm Hill
1. Averaging 7.0 points over last three games as a starter (21).
2. Scored a career-high 11 points in first career start at Penn State (Feb. 9).
3. Has logged double figure minutes in six straight games, and 10 of the last 12.
4. Eight games of seven-plus points, including six during Big Ten play.
5. Shooting 81.4 percent from the free throw line on the year.

Complete Illinois-Minnesota Game Notes (PDF)