Men's Basketball
Illini Game Notes at No. 8/9 Ohio State

Brandon Paul exploded for a career-high 43 points and four blocks in Illinois' win over Ohio State on Jan. 10.
Brandon Paul exploded for a career-high 43 points and four blocks in Illinois' win over Ohio State on Jan. 10.

Feb. 20, 2012

 GAME 28: Illinois (16-11, 5-9) at No. 8/9 Ohio State (22-5, 10-4)
 Date Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012
 Time 6 pm CT
 Location Columbus, Ohio | Value City Arena (18,809)
 Television ESPN (Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich) | Watch (
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Affiliates | Listen | Sirius 91/XM 91
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 Game Notes Illinois | Ohio State | Big Ten
 Statistics Illinois | Ohio State | Big Ten
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Opening Tip
Illinois concludes a stretch of four out of five games on the road with Tuesday's contest at Ohio State.

The match-up with the eighth-ranked Buckeyes begins Illinois' stretch of three out of four games against ranked opponents to wrap up the regular season.

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

Illinois is 3-3 against ranked teams this year, owning victories over No. 19 Gonzaga, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 9 Michigan State.

Illinois is looking for its first road win over a Top-25 opponent since defeating No. 11 Wisconsin, 63-56, on Feb. 9, 2010.

Probable Starters (from the previous game)

Pos.	No.	Name    	Ht.	Wt.	Yr.	PPG	RPG	APG	Other
G	13 	Tracy Abrams 	6-1	185	Fr.	4.1	2.2	1.9	42.4  FG%
G	1	D.J. Richardson	6-3	195	Jr.	12.1	3.0	1.9	36.5  3FG%
G	2	Joseph Bertrand	6-5	195	r-So.	6.6	2.7	1.4	54.5  FG%
F	42	Tyler Griffey	6-8	230	Jr.	5.2	3.3	0.5	33 off. reb.
C	12	Meyers Leonard	7-1	245	So.	12.9	8.0	1.3	2.0 bpg

Off the Bench

Pos.	No.	Name    	Ht. 	Wt.	Yr.	PPG	RPG	APG	Other
G	0	Sam Maniscalco	6-0	180	Gr.	6.7	2.0	2.3	82.1  FT%
G	3	Brandon Paul	6-4	200	Jr.	14.9	4.8	3.0	1.5 spg
F	15	Mike Shaw	6-8	230	Fr.	1.0	2.2	0.2	7.8 mpg
G/F	20	Myke Henry	6-6	230	Fr.	3.3	1.1	0.1 	47.2  FG%
G/F	21	Devin Langford	6-7	200	Fr.
F/C	23	Ibby Djimde	6-8	250	Fr.	0.4	1.0	0.0	4.1 mpg
G	25	Jean Selus 	6-2	195	Sr.	0.0	0.1	0.1	7 minutes
F/C	32	Nnanna Egwu	6-11	245	Fr.	1.7	1.7	0.2	10.0 mpg
G	44	Kevin Berardini	6-0	175	r-So.	0.0	0.0	0.0	5 minutes

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Career Record: 312-151/.674 (14th year)
At Illinois: 209-97/.683 (9th year)
Big Ten: 88-62/.587
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. Ohio State
Series Record: Illinois leads 103-69
Last Meeting:  Illinois 79, Ohio State 74 (Jan. 10, 2012 // Champaign, Ill.)
Series Streak: Illinois W-1
Record at Columbus: Ohio State leads 42-40
Series Streak at Columbus: Ohio State W-2
Weber vs. Ohio State: 6-10

Two Illini Closing in on 1,000
A pair of Illini guards are quickly closing in on 1,000 points and could reach that milestone on the same night. Juniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson have both scored 989 career points, just 11 points away from becoming the 45th and 46th 1,000-point scorers in school history.

Last Time Out
Illinois' first visit to Lincoln, Neb. in 37 years was not a memorable one as Nebraska downed the Illini 80-57 on Saturday afternoon. Illinois looked strong early, jumping out to a quick 16-7 lead and maintaining a 24-16 advantage with eight minutes left in the first half. The Huskers then went on a tear, reeling off 14 unanswered points that swelled into a 36-4 run and gave the Huskers a 52-28 lead from which they did not look back.

The Illini had trouble once again from 3-point range, making just 6-of-23. The Huskers, meanwhile, made 10-of-20 treys and shot nearly 56 percent overall. D.J. Richardson led the Illini with 15 points while Tracy Abrams scored in double figures for the second straight game, totaling 11.

Looking Back at the Last Ohio State Game:

• Illinois 79, #5/5 Ohio State 74 // Jan. 10 at Champaign
Illinois overcame its largest deficit of the season - 11 points - to defeat No. 5 Ohio State at the Assembly Hall on Jan. 10, earning its first victory over a top-five opponent since beating No. 5 Michigan State on Feb. 6, 2010.

The Illini trailed 48-37 early in the second half before going on a 9-0 run with baskets by four different players to cut the deficit to two. After the Buckeyes pushed the lead back to seven, Illinois then went on a 10-0 run to take a 57-54 lead with 10:49 remaining. Brandon Paul scored eight of 10 points during the UI surge. Ohio State would not go away, regaining a two-point lead with three minutes left. That's when Paul took over, scoring the final 15 points for the Illini on a pair of 3-pointers and nine free throws. After hitting two free throws to tie the game, Paul's first three during his run gave the Illini a 69-66 lead with 2:02 to go. Following two more free throws, his second trey - and school-record tying eighth of the game - came with the shot clock expiring and OSU defender Aaron Craft blanketing him, putting the Illini ahead 74-70 with just 43 seconds left. He then hit five-of-six from the line in the final 22 seconds to close out the win.

Paul scored a career-high 43 points on the night, the third-highest single-game total in school history and the most by a Big Ten player in a league game in 18 years. Paul did more than just score, however, adding a game-high eight rebounds and career-high four blocked shots to his totals. Joining Paul in double figures were Meyers Leonard (14 points) and D.J. Richardson and Joseph Bertrand (10 each).

Paul's 43-point performance vs. Ohio State
Brandon Paul was named Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Big Ten Player of the Week by the conference office on Jan. 16 following his historic 43-point outing in Illinois' 79-74 win over No. 5 Ohio State on Jan. 10. Here are 10 notes about Paul's performance against the Buckeyes:

1. Paul scored a career-high 43 points, the third-most in a game in school history and the most since Andy Kaufmann scored 46 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1990.

2. Paul's 43 points equaled the second-highest single-game total in the NCAA this season behind only Creighton's Doug McDermott, who scored 44 points vs. Bradley on Jan. 7.

3. Paul's 43 points were the most by a Big Ten player in a game since Glenn Robinson scored 44 vs. Kansas in the 1994 Sweet 16. They were the most in a Big Ten conference game since Robinson scored 49 vs. Illinois on March 13, 1994.

4. Paul made 8-of-10 from three-point range to match the Illinois record for most threes in a game. He shares the record with Dee Brown, Trent Meacham and Kevin Turner.

5. Paul was incredibly efficient in the game, hitting 11-of-15 (.733) field goals, 8-of-10 (.800) three-pointers and 13-of-15 (.867) from the line. With 43 points on just 15 field goal attempts, Paul is the first NCAA player in the past 16 seasons with 43+ points on 15 or fewer FGA.

6. Paul scored Illinois' final 15 points of the game over the last 2:40, outscoring OSU 15-8 down the stretch.

7. Paul also had a team-high eight rebounds and a career-high four blocks, including a key one late on Jared Sullinger with 30 seconds remaining. Over the past 10 seasons, the only other players with 40 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a game are Al Thornton (2006-07) and Chris Kaman (2002-03).

8. The 43 points by Paul are the fourth-most ever scored against Ohio State and are the most against the Buckeyes since Central Michigan's Tommie Johnson had 45 on Jan. 2, 1987.

9. Paul's 43 points were more than the team total of five opponents Ohio State has defeated this season.

10. Paul scored 28 points in the second half, more than any UI player has scored in a full game this season.

Leonard's Block Party
Meyers Leonard leads the Big Ten in blocked shots on the season. His average of 2.0 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 10 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
Kansas State - def. No. 7 Missouri, No. 9 Baylor
Kentucky - def. No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 8 Florida
Michigan - def. No. 8 Memphis, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 6 Ohio State
Missouri - def. No. 3 Baylor, No. 8 Kansas, No. 6 Baylor
Ohio State - def. No. 4 Duke, No. 8 Florida, No. 8 Indiana

Two Top-10 Big Ten Wins
With wins over No. 5 Ohio State and No. 9 Michigan State, this marks the third year in school history that Illinois has defeated more than one Top-10 opponent during league play. The last time was in 1989, when the Flyin' Illini took down three Top-10 conference foes. The first happened in 1952. In both of those previous seasons, the Illini advanced to the Final Four.

Year	Top 10 Wins	                                Season Result
2012	No. 5 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State	        ?
1989	No. 6 Michigan, No. 3 Indiana, No. 8 Michigan	Final Four
1952	No. 4 Indiana, No. 4 Iowa	                Final Four

Close Games Becoming a Habit
It seems that nearly 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 rank third nationally in the most games decided by five points or less this season:

Delaware	14
Gardner-Webb	14
Illinois	13
Louisiana Tech	13
E. Michigan	13

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.

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 Quick Facts On ...

Brandon Paul
1. Leads Illini in scoring on the season (14.9 ppg) and ranks fourth in Big Ten in scoring during league play (18.2 ppg).
2. Scored in double figures in 19 times, with six games of 20+ points.
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 (187 FTA).

Meyers Leonard
1. Leads the Illini and ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.0 rpg), and is second on the team in scoring (12.9 ppg).
2. First in the conference in blocked shots, averaging 2.0 bpg (54). On pace to have the second-best single-season average in school history.
3. Third in the Big Ten and 15th in the NCAA in field goal shooting at 58.5 percent (138-236).
4. Seven double-doubles on the season, ranking third among Big Ten players.
5. Increased his scoring average by 10.8 points (2.1 ppg last year), the second-best improvement in the Big Ten behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (+12.2 ppg).

D.J. Richardson
1. Third on team in scoring with an average of 12.1 points.
2. Leads Illini with 61 three-pointers on the season.
3. Average of 2.3 threes per game ranks third in Big Ten.
4. 11 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
5. Eighth on school's all-time 3-point field goals list with 185 career treys.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Seventh in the Big Ten in field goal shooting during conference play at 53.4 percent (55-103).
2. UI's fourth-leading scorer in league play with average of 8.6 points.
3. Has recorded career-high five assists in last two outings vs. Purdue and Nebraska.
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 12 games after starting first two games of his career.
2. Scored a career-high 22 points last Wednesday vs. Purdue.
3. Reached double figures again with 11 points Saturday at Nebraska.
4. Dished out career-high eight assists Feb. 5 vs. Northwestern, most by an Illini this season.
5. First Illini true-freshman point guard to start first career game since Dee Brown in 2002-03.