Men's Basketball
Game 28 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. Penn State

Sam McLaurin and the Illini have won 4 straight heading into Thursday's PSU game.
Sam McLaurin and the Illini have won 4 straight heading into Thursday's PSU game.

Feb. 20, 2013

 Game 28: Illinois (19-8, 6-7) vs. Penn State (8-17, 0-13)
 When Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 | 7:15 p.m. CT
 Location Champaign, Ill. | Assembly Hall (16,618) | Fan Guide | Parking Map
 Tickets Buy Online or call 1-866-ILLINI-1 | Seating Chart
 Television BTN | (Dave Revsine, PBP & Jim Jackson, Analyst)
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 94 / XM 190
 Live Stats Gametracker | Mobile Stats
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Penn State | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Penn State | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Presser
 Social Media @IlliniHoops   |  #Illini   | Facebook | YouTube

 Illinois Probable Starters (from previous game)
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 1 D.J. Richardson 6-3 195 Sr. 12.7 4.3 1.6 Averaging 17.3 ppg over last 8 games
G 3 Brandon Paul 6-4 200 Sr. 16.4 4.4 2.9 Needs one point to reach 1,500 for career
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 195 r-Jr. 8.3 4.6 0.7 Leads team in rebounding (4.6 rpg)
F 0 Sam McLaurin 6-8 220 Gr. 4.3 3.4 0.6 Leads team in 10th in B1G in off. rebounds
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 235 So. 6.4 4.6 0.6 Leads team & 6th in B1G in blocks
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 10 Mike LaTulip 6-0 165 Fr. 1.2 0.1 0.0 Walk-on has 19 pts in 38 mins
G 13 Tracy Abrams 6-1 185 So. 10.9 3.7 3.6 20 assists & just 6 TO in last 4 games
F 15 Mike Shaw 6-8 215 So. 0.9 0.8 0.1 Played season-high 19 mins at Wis.
G/F 20 Myke Henry 6-6 230 So. 3.2 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. 0.2 0.3 0.0 Scored first 2 pts of season at NW
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 0.2 0.2 5 points in 12 minutes played
F 42 Tyler Griffey 6-9 220 Sr. 7.6 3.5 0.7 Averaging 12.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg over last 4

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 104-64/.619 (5th year)
At Illinois: 19-8/.704 (1st year)
Big Ten: 6-7/.462
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. Penn State
Series Record: Illinois leads 24-13
Series Streak: Penn State W-1
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 11-5
Series Streak at Champaign: Illinois W-2
Last Meeting: Penn State 54, #22/25 Illinois 52 (Jan. 19, 2012 at State College)
Groce vs. Penn State: First Meeting

For Openers:
• Illinois has 19 wins on the season, surpassing its victory total from last year (17). And with six Big Ten wins, the Illini have equaled last year's win total in conference play.

• Illinois is one win away from recording its 20th victory. Illinois is aiming for its fourth 20-win season in the last five years, 12th in the last 14 years, and 30th all-time.

• Illinois has won four straight Big Ten games, its longest conference winning streak since winning five in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 9, 2010.

• Illinois' active four-game winning streak is the longest in the Big Ten, tied with Indiana.

Brandon Paul is one point away from becoming the 10th player in Illini history to score 1,500 career points.

• Illinois has four wins against the RPI Top 25, tied with Kansas and Kansas State for the second-highest total nationally and trailing only No. 1 Indiana (5).

• The Illini have defeated a total of four opponents featured in the current AP Top 25, tied with Marquette and Michigan State for the second-most of any team in the country behind only Indiana (5).

• Illinois has posted a victory margin of at least 20 points in consecutive Big Ten games for the first time since 2005, when the Orange and Blue registered a 36-point victory over Northwestern (Feb. 23) followed by a 34-point triumph over Purdue (March 3).

• After Northwestern managed just 41 points on its homecourt Sunday, the Illini have now held their opponent to less than 60 points in five of six conference wins (Ohio State-55, Nebraska-51, Minnesota-53, Purdue-59, Northwestern-41).

• Northwestern's 41 points and 25 percent shooting on Sunday were the lowest totals by a UI opponent since last season when Michigan State scored 41 points on 24.1 percent shooting (Jan. 31, 2012). The Wildcats made just 12 baskets, meanwhile, the fewest allowed by the Illini since Savannah State had 10 field goals on Nov. 21, 2006.

• Illinois is 14-1 on the season when shooting better than its opponent.

• Illinois has exceeded 70 points 16 times 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.

• Illinois has outscored its opponent in points off turnovers in 21 of 27 games. The Illini average 17.5 points off turnovers and own a margin of +5.6 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 Feb. 13.

• The Illini grabbed 20 offensive rebounds versus the Boilermakers last Wednesday, 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 has four victories this season where it overcame double-digit deficits (16-at Hawaii, 11-at Gonzaga, 14-Indiana, 12-at Minnesota).

D.J. Richardson has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games - his career-long streak in Big Ten play - averaging 17.3 points over that stretch (138). He is shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range over the last eight games (24-59) after shooting 21.6 percent from behind the arc over the previous eight games (11-51). • D.J. Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 27 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 33 straight games with at least one trey.

• While Brandon Paul leads the Illini in scoring on the season (16.4 ppg), D.J. Richardson is Illinois' leading scorer in conference play with an average of 14.7 points.

Tracy Abrams has combined for 20 assists with only six turnovers during Illinois' current 4-game winning streak. And while Abrams totaled just five points through the first two games of that streak, he has averaged 13 points over the last two games.

Tyler Griffey has averaged 12.3 points (49) and 5.8 rebounds (23) on 45 percent shooting from the field (18-40) over the last four games. This follows a stretch where Griffey totaled 18 points over the previous eight games.

Sam McLaurin is shooting 56.8 percent from the field (21-37) during his nine games in the starting lineup.

• With wins over No. 1 Indiana (Feb. 7) and No. 18 Minnesota (Feb. 10), 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 over 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.

• Illinois averages 74.8 points on 45 percent shooting and 36.8 percent 3-point shooting in its 19 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 35.8 percent from 3-point range in its 13 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.

Defense is the Difference
Illinois has tightened the defense during its current four-game winning streak, a sharp contrast to the previous three games. Illinois has allowed an average of 56.3 points on 37.9 shooting over the last four games. The Illini are forcing an average of 14.5 turnovers and playing aggressively without fouling, as opponents are averaging just 14.5 free throw attempts. The following graphic compares the data from the last four games to the previous three:

Last Time Out: Illini Roll Past Northwestern in Evanston - Feb. 17
Illinois extended its winning streak to four in a row with a dominating 62-41 road win over Northwestern on Sunday night. The Illini scored the game's first seven points and opened up an 11-point lead less than nine minutes into the contest. After the Wildcats cut the lead to four, Illinois responded with a staggering 26-0 run spanning 9:29 to break the game wide open at 45-15 with 13:53 remaining. In addition to the nine-and-a-half minute scoring drought, Northwestern went 11:53 without a field goal. The margin remained in the 20s the rest of the way as the Illini secured their second straight road win and third in the last four.

Illinois led from start to finish, the ninth time this season the Illini have never trailed in a game. D.J. Richardson continued his impressive play, scoring a game-high 18 points to go along with eight rebounds. Tracy Abrams also reached double figures with 13 points and Brandon Paul had a solid all-around game with eight points, six boards and five assists.

Illinois' defense rose to the occasion again, allowing the Wildcats just 41 points on 25 percent shooing, the lowest totals by a UI opponent since last season when Michigan State scored 41 points on 24.1 percent shooting (Jan. 31, 2012). The Wildcats finished with just 12 baskets, the fewest allowed by the Illini since Savannah State had 10 field goals on Nov. 21, 2006.

Assembly Hall 50th Anniversary Ticket Special
Fans can help celebrate 50 years of the Assembly Hall by taking advantage of a special 50th anniversary ticket offer which includes four tickets to this year's final home game, March 2 against Nebraska at 4:15 pm. The four for $50 ticket offer is available exclusively online at

The March 2 game, which is exactly 50 years from the day the Assembly Hall opened its doors, will serve as a celebration of five memorable decades. It also will be the final home game for Illini seniors Tyler Griffey, Sam McLaurin, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, who will be honored in senior day ceremonies before taking on the Cornhuskers.

The Last Meeting
Penn State54
January 19, 2012
University Park, Pa.
Illinois Can't Catch Penn State, 54-52
Brandon Paul had 20 points to pace the Illini, while Meyers Leonard added 15 in a 54-52 loss to Penn State in Happy Valley on Thursday night. Highlights | Box Score | Photo Gallery |

Looking Back at the Last Penn State Game:

• Penn State 54, #22/25 Illinois 52 // Jan. 19, 2012 at State College
It was deja vu all over again for Illinois in Happy Valley, falling to Penn State 54-52 on Jan. 19. It marked the Illini's fourth loss in the last five years at State College - all of which have gone down to the final possession and been decided by one or two points.

The Illini jumped out to a 17-9 lead but then went more than five-and-a-half minutes without a field goal as the Lions went on an 11-2 run to move ahead. PSU led by two at intermission and began the second half on a 10-3 spree to open up its largest lead of the night at 35-26 with 14 minutes remaining. The Illini then began to slowly chip away, drawing to within one point on three separate occasions before finally pulling even at 52-all on a 3-pointer by Brandon Paul with 40 seconds remaining. Tim Frazier scored on the Lions' ensuing possession, hitting a pull-up jumper with eight seconds left to put the hosts up two. The Illini's bid to force overtime was denied when Sam Maniscalco's layup was blocked by a PSU defender at the buzzer.

Paul led the Illini with a game-high 20 points and Meyers Leonard added 15. While those two accounted for 35 points on 11-of-23 shooting, the rest of the Illini managed just 17 points on 6-of-26 from the field.

Looking Back at the Last Home Game Versus Penn State:

• Illinois 68, Penn State 51 // Feb. 1, 2011 at Champaign
Illinois defeated Penn State at the Assembly Hall by the score of 68-51. The Illini started strong, putting together a 16-2 run midway through the first half to open up a 29-14 lead. The Lions cut the lead to five before the UI pushed it back to eight at intermission. Penn State got as close as six points on four separate occasions early in the second half, but the Illini reeled off seven unanswered points to take a commanding 52-39 lead with 9:23 left. Illinois kept the lead in double figures the rest of the night en route to the 17-point victory. Illinois moved the ball well throughout the game, recording 21 assists on 24 baskets. Mike Davis led all scorers with a season-high 22 points. He made seven baskets - five of them dunks - and shot 8-of-10 at the line. D.J. Richardson and Bill Cole each had breakout games offensively, finishing with 10 points apiece.

Five Key Facts On ...

Brandon Paul
1. Big Ten's No. 4 leading scorer with an average of 16.4 points.
2. Has scored at least 13 points in all but four games this season, with nine 20-plus point performances.
3. Second among Big Ten players in free throw makes (116), and attempts (161), behind Indiana's Cody Zeller.
4. One point away from becoming the 10th Illini in school history to score 1,500 career points.
5. Seven off the team lead in rebounds (4.4 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 12.7 points, and leads the team in scoring during Big Ten play at 14.7 ppg.
2. Has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games, averaging 17.3 points over that stretch (138).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 33 straight games making at least one 3-pointer, the longest by a player from a BCS conference.
4. Fourth 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 259.
5. Has started 123 career games, fourth on the UI's all-time starts list.

Tracy Abrams
1. Third Illini scoring in double figures with an average of 10.9 points.
2. Has increased his scoring average by 6.6 points (4.3 last year).
3. Leads the team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in assists (3.6 apg).
4. Has combined for a total of 20 assists with only six turnovers over the last four games.
5. Shooting 48 percent on 2-pointers this season (80-166).

Joseph Bertrand
1. Illini sixth-man is team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 8.3 points.
2. Leads team in rebounding (4.6 rpg), led by career-high 12 boards vs. Purdue (Feb. 13).
3. Ranks seventh in the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 52.7 percent (89-169).
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 12.3 points and (49) and 5.8 rebounds (23) over the last four games.
4. Scored a season-high 16 points at Minnesota (Feb. 10).
5. Grabbed season-high eight rebounds vs. Indiana (Feb. 7).

Nnanna Egwu
1. Started all 27 games and is averaging 24.3 minutes after averaging 9.8 minutes last season.
2. Averaging 6.4 points and ranks second on the team with average of 4.6 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 21.5 minutes per game.
2. Averaging 5.9 points (53) and 3.4 rebounds (31) and shooting 56.8 percent (21-37) as a starter the last nine 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.

Complete Illinois-Penn State Game Notes (PDF)