Feb. 28, 2012
Illinois wraps up Big Ten play with back-to-back games against ranked teams, beginning Thursday vs. No. 13 Michigan on Senior Night, the final game of the season at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois is 3-4 against ranked teams this year, owning victories over No. 19 Gonzaga (Dec. 3), No. 5 Ohio State (Jan. 10) and No. 9 Michigan State (Jan. 31). All three of Illinois' Top-25 wins have come at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois is aiming for consecutive victories for the first time since winning three straight from Jan. 4-10.
Illinois has won 13 straight against Michigan at the Assembly Hall, which is the Illini's longest active homecourt winning streak over a Big Ten opponent. Michigan's last victory in Champaign came in 1995.
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 40.6 FG%
G 1 D.J. Richardson 6-3 195 Jr. 12.1 3.0 1.8 35.5 3FG%
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-5 195 r-So. 6.3 2.7 1.3 53.3 FG%
F 42 Tyler Griffey 6-8 230 Jr. 5.0 3.4 0.6 39 off. reb.
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 245 Fr. 1.9 1.6 0.2 48.0 FG%
Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Other
G 0 Sam Maniscalco 6-0 180 Gr. 6.5 2.0 2.4 82.1 FT%
G 3 Brandon Paul 6-4 200 Jr. 14.8 4.6 3.0 1.5 spg
C 12 Meyers Leonard 7-1 245 So. 13.4 8.1 1.4 2.0 bpg
F 15 Mike Shaw 6-8 230 Fr. 0.9 2.1 0.3 7.7 mpg
G/F 20 Myke Henry 6-6 230 Fr. 3.3 1.0 0.1 48.3 FG%
G/F 21 Devin Langford 6-7 200 Fr.
F/C 23 Ibby Djimde 6-8 250 Fr. 0.3 0.9 0.0 4.0 mpg
G 25 Jean Selus 6-2 195 Sr. 0.0 0.1 0.1 7 minutes
G 44 Kevin Berardini 6-0 175 r-So. 0.0 0.0 0.0 5 minutes
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Career Record: 313-152/.673 (14th year)
At Illinois: 210-98/.682 (9th year)
Big Ten: 89-63/.586
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. Michigan
Series Record: Illinois leads 85-73
Last Meeting: Michigan 70, Illinois 61 (Feb. 12 at Ann Arbor)
Series Streak: Michigan W-2
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 54-23
Series Streak at Champaign: Illinois W-13
Weber vs. Michigan: 10-6
Illini Seniors to Be Honored Thursday
Illinois will recognize its senior student-athletes and managers during a pre-game ceremony Thursday night. While the Illini have no four-year players on the current roster, seniors Sam Maniscalco and Jean Selus will be honored as they take the Assembly Hall court for the final time.
Maniscalco is in his first year with the Illini after transferring from Bradley following the completion of his undergraduate degree. Maniscalco has fought through injuries to play in 25 games this season, earning 13 starts. He ranks fourth on the Illini in scoring with an average of 6.5 points and is second on the team in assists with 2.4 apg. Maniscalco has scored in double figures seven times, led by a season-high 24 points at Maryland. He earned a spot on the Cancun Challenge All-Tournament team after helping lead the Illini to the title with 19 points vs. Richmond and 14 vs. Illinois State. He tallied a season-high six assists twice, vs. Gonzaga and Cornell. Maniscalco is enrolled in the UI master's program in recreation, sport and tourism.
Selus is in his second year with the Illini program as a walk-on after playing for two seasons at Parkland Junior College in Champaign. Selus has appeared in 13 career games, six last season and seven this season. He scored his first career point last year against Yale. Selus is majoring in African American Studies.
Big Ten Tournament Prospectus
The Big Ten Tournament will be held March 8-11 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Illinois will play in Thursday's opening round and is in contention for seeds 7 through 11, to be determined by the outcome of this week's games.
Fighting Illini Trends
Meyers Leonard had a double-double against Iowa on Sunday with a career-high tying 22 points along with 14 rebounds. It was his first double-double in eight games and eighth of the season, ranking him third among Big Ten players behind Michigan State's Draymond Green and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.
Leonard has scored 20+ points in each of the last two games, posting consecutive 20-point outings for the first time in his career.
Leonard is averaging 21.5 points (43) and 9.5 rebounds (14) over the last two games.
Leonard is shooting 87.5 percent from the free throw line over the last six games (21-24).
After D.J. Richardson was held scoreless on Feb. 15 vs. Purdue, he has since scored in double figures in each of the last three games, averaging 13.0 points (39).
After Brandon Paul had his career-best double figure scoring streak snapped at 15 games on Feb. 18 at Nebraska, he scored in double figures for the first time in three games with 17 points vs. Iowa on Sunday.
Paul shot 3-of-5 from 3-point land against Iowa after going 2-of-12 from behind the arc over the previous three games.
Freshman Tracy Abrams is averaging 10.5 points over the last four games (42), compared to his season scoring average of 4.1 points.
Joseph Bertrand is a different offensive player at home compared to on the road. Bertrand has scored in double figures in six of eight conference home games, averaging 11.1 points (89). He has netted double figures on the road in just one of eight conference road games, meanwhile, averaging 4.5 points (36).
After going scoreless from Jan. 31-Feb. 15, Sam Maniscalco has totaled 11 points over the last three games. He had five points vs. Iowa on Sunday, his highest output since scoring 10 against Minnesota in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.
Last Time Out
Illinois snapped its six-game skid with a spirited 65-54 win over Iowa on Sunday at the Assembly Hall, recording its first double-digit margin of victory in conference play. After the Hawkeyes scored the game's first five points, the Illini answered with a 13-0 run to take the lead for good. Illinois led by as many as 12 in the first half and after the Hawkeyes cut the lead to 38-34 with 13 minutes left, the Illini went on an 11-4 spurt to push the lead back to double figures with seven minutes remaining. One last Iowa push got the visitors to within five, but a 3-point play by Meyers Leonard followed by a Brandon Paul 3-pointer again gave the Illini a double figure lead and the hosts made 6-of-6 free throws in the final minute to close out the win.
Meyers Leonard led the Illini, tying his season-high with 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds to record his eighth double-double of the season. Brandon Paul scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half and D.J. Richardson also finished in double figures with 12 points.
Recent Defense Not the Norm for Illini
Illinois' lapse on defensive lately is a sharp contrast to the numbers the Orange and Blue have allowed in previous years as well as earlier this season.
In conference play, the Illini led the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense each of the last three years, topped the chart in 3-point field goal percentage defense two of the last three years, and ranked in the top three in scoring defense two of the last three years.
Taking a broader look at Weber's previous eight seasons in Champaign, the Illini led the conference in scoring defense four times, ranked in the top three in field goal percentage defense six times, and in the top three in 3-point field goal percentage defense five times.
Through the first nine games of Big Ten play this year, the Illini defense allowed 63.3 points (570) on 41.9 percent shooting from the field (203-485) and 35.2 percent shooting from 3-point range (50-142). But over the six-game losing streak, Illini opponents averaged 76.3 points (458) on 54.2 percent shooting (162-299) and 47.4 percent shooting from behind the arc (46-97).
Illinois got back to playing the defense it has been known for in Sunday's win over Iowa. The Illini allowed just 54 points on 36.7 percent shooting and 35.3 percent 3-point shooting. It was the fewest points allowed since Michigan State scored 41 on Jan. 31. It also marked the first time in seven games that the Illini defense held an opponent below 45 percent shooting and below 40 percent from 3-point range.
Richardson and Paul Score 1,000
Junior guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul are the newest members of the Fighting Illini 1,000-point club, both reaching the milestone last week.
Richardson tallied his 1,000th point when he made a free throw with 1:12 left at Ohio State on Feb. 21. Paul then became the 46th player in Illini history to score 1,000 points when he nailed a 3-pointer with 13:03 left in the first half against Iowa on Sunday.
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 57 blocks, meanwhile, ranks third on the UI single-season chart. The Illini record is 86 rejections set by Holcomb in 1979. Leonard is two blocks away from tying Mike Tisdale (59 in 2010) for second on that list.
Paul Near Top of Big Ten Scoring List
Brandon Paul is one of the Big Ten's leading scorers during conference play, averaging 17.6 points to rank third on the league list. Paul has scored in double figures in all but two 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.
Looking Back at the Last Michigan Game:
#22/25 Michigan 70, Illinois 61 // Feb. 12 // Ann Arbor // Box Score
Illinois dropped a nine-point decision at No. 22 Michigan on Feb. 12. The Illini scored seven of the game's first nine points but the Wolverines answered with a quick 10-1 run of its own to take the lead. With Meyers Leonard sidelined with two fouls for the majority of the first half, the Illini hung around thanks to the production of reserve Tyler Griffey, but Michigan's 56.5 shooting in the opening 20 minutes gave the hosts a six-point lead at the break. The Wolverines extended their lead to as many as 14 before the Illini cut it in half with a 7-0 run to pull within 58-51 with five minutes remaining. But the Illini could get no closer than seven the rest of the way as Michigan made 7-of-8 from the line to seal it.
Brandon Paul led the Illini with a game-high 21 points, his sixth 20-point performance in conference play. Griffey had his best game as an Illini, scoring a career-high 18 points and grabbing five boards in 29 minutes of action. D.J. Richardson also scored in double figures with 12.
Five Quick Facts On ...
1. Leads Illini in scoring on the season (14.8 ppg) and ranks third in Big Ten in scoring during league play (17.6 ppg).
2. Scored in double figures in 20 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 10 for more details).
5. Has made 158 trips to the free throw line this season, the second-highest total among Big Ten guards behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (191 FTA).
1. Leads the Illini and ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounding (8.1 rpg), and is second on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg).
2. First in Big Ten in blocked shots, averaging 2.0 bpg (55). 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 58.2 percent (152-261).
4. Eight double-doubles on the season, ranking third among Big Ten players.
5. Increased his scoring average by 11.3 points (2.1 ppg last year), the second-best improvement in the Big Ten behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (+12.4 ppg).
1. Third on team in scoring with an average of 12.1 points.
2. Leads Illini with 65 three-pointers on the season.
3. Average of 2.2 threes per game ranks third in Big Ten.
4. Scored 1,000th career point Feb. 21 at Ohio State, 45th player in Illini history to reach that milestone.
5. Seventh on school's all-time 3-point field goals list with 189 career treys.
1. Started last 14 games after starting first two games of his career.
2. Scored a career-high 22 points Feb. 15 vs. Purdue.
3. Reached double figures again with 11 points Feb. 18 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.
1. Ninth in Big Ten in field goal shooting during conference play at 51.8 percent (57-110).
2. UI's fourth-leading scorer in league play with average of 7.8 points.
3. Recorded career-high five assists Feb. 15 vs. Purdue and again Feb. 18 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).
1. Averaging 5.0 points and 3.4 boards this year, tripling his scoring and rebounding averages from last season (1.6 ppg and 1.2 rpg in 2010-11).
2. Ranks second on the Illini with 39 offensive rebounds.
3. Scored a career-high 18 points Feb. 12 at Michigan.
4. Shooting 36.8 percent from 3-point range over the last 10 games (7-19).
5. Has scored in double figures four times this year after totaling three double-figure scoring games over his first two seasons.