Men's Basketball
Senior Day Notes & Links: Illinois vs. Nebraska

D.J. Richardson poured in a career-high 30 points in Illinois' win at Nebraska in January.
D.J. Richardson poured in a career-high 30 points in Illinois' win at Nebraska in January.

March 1, 2013

 Game 30: Illinois (20-9, 7-8) vs. Nebraska (13-15, 4-11)
 When Saturday, March, 2013 | 4:15 p.m. CT
 Location Champaign, Ill. | Assembly Hall (16,618) | Fan Guide | Parking Map
 Tickets Saturday's game is SOLD OUT | Seating Chart
 AH50 Links Special Events | Greatest Moments | Fan Memories
 Television BTN | (Wayne Larrivee, PBP & Tim Doyle, Analyst)
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Listen (All-Access) | Sirius 94 / XM 192
 Live Stats Gametracker | Mobile Stats
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Nebraska | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Nebraska | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Presser | Brandon Paul | D.J. Richardson
 Social Media @IlliniHoops   |  #Illini   | Facebook | YouTube

 Illinois Probable Starters (from previous game)
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 13 Tracy Abrams 6-1 185 So. 10.6 3.6 3.4 Scoring up 6.3 ppg from last season
G 1 D.J. Richardson 6-3 195 Sr. 12.8 4.2 1.7 Scored CH 30 in win at Nebraska
G 3 Brandon Paul 6-4 200 Sr. 16.2 4.3 2.8 Needs 8 points for 9th on UI career list
F 0 Sam McLaurin 6-8 220 Gr. 4.3 3.4 0.5 Leads team & 9th in B1G in off. rebounds
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 235 So. 6.6 4.5 0.6 Leads team in rebounding & blocks
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 195 r-Jr. 8.0 4.4 0.6 7th in Big Ten in FG percentage (.517)
G 10 Mike LaTulip 6-0 165 Fr. 1.2 0.1 0.0 Walk-on has 19 pts in 38 mins
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. 3.3 1.9 0.1 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. 7.4 3.4 0.6 Has 2 game-winning shots this season

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 105-65/.618 (5th year)
At Illinois: 20-9/.690 (1st year)
Big Ten: 7-8/.467
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. Nebraska
Series Record: Illinois leads 9-3
Series Streak: Illinois W-1
Record at Champaign: Illinois leads 6-1
Series Streak at Champaign: Illinois W-6
Last Meeting:   Illinois 71, Nebraska 51 (Jan. 22 at Lincoln)
Groce vs. Nebraska: 1-0

Senior Day
Illinois' final home game on Saturday against Nebraska also is Senior Day at the Assembly Hall. Here is a look at the five departing seniors that will be honored before Saturday's game from the Fighting Illini Class of 2013: Kevin Berardini, Tyler Griffey, Sam McLaurin, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson.

Kevin Berardini is in his third year with the Illini after joining the team as a preferred walk-on. He has played in 25 career games, totaling 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal. He scored a career-high four points against Toledo in 2010. Berardini will graduate in May with a degree in political science.

Tyler Griffey has played in 117 career games, earning 42 starts. He has scored 507 points and grabbed 285 rebounds. Griffey tallied a season-high 16 points in the win at Minnesota and recorded one of the greatest moments in Illini basketball history when he hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer to take down top-ranked Indiana and set off a court storming celebration at the Assembly Hall. He also hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Gardner-Webb in November at The Hall. Griffey will graduate in May with a degree in kinesiology.

Sam McLaurin is in his first season with the Illini after joining the program as a graduate transfer. He has played in every game this year, starting the last 11, and is averaging 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds. McLaurin scored a season-high eight points in the win over Purdue and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the Big Ten, ranking eighth in that category. McLaurin will graduate in August with a master's degree in recreation, sport and tourism.

Brandon Paul has appeared in 131 games, starting 82 times. He ranks 10th on the Illini all-time scoring list with 1,525 points and also is closing in on career numbers of 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals - on pace to become just the second player in school history to reach those milestones. Paul is a candidate for the Naismith Trophy, averaging 16.2 points and 4.3 rebounds this season. He was named MVP at the Maui Invitational and scored a season-high 35 points in the win at No. 10 Gonzaga. Paul was an All-Big Ten selection last season, scoring a career-high 43 points in a win over No. 5 Ohio State. It was the third-highest scoring mark in school history, earning him National Player of the Week accolades. Paul will graduate in May with a degree in recreation, sport and tourism.

D.J. Richardson is a four-year starter who ranks among Illinois' all-time top five players in both minutes played and games started. He stands 18th on the Illini career-scoring list with 1,407 points and is third in the UI record books with 263 three-pointers. Richardson is having an outstanding senior season, hitting a game-winning 3-pointer to beat Hawaii at the buzzer, earning Maui Invitational All-Tournament Team honors and erupting for a career-high 30 points in the win at Nebraska. He has scored in double figures in each of the last 10 games and leads the Illini in scoring during conference play, averaging 14.6 points. Richardson will graduate in May with a degree in communication.

50th Anniversary of Assembly Hall | Special Events | Greatest Moments | Fan Memories
The University of Illinois will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Assembly Hall during Saturday's home game against Nebraska. The senior day contest against the Cornhuskers is exactly 50 years from when the doors first opened to the $8.35 million architectural marvel on March 2, 1963.

To celebrate the historic anniversary, each fan will receive a commemorative 50th Anniversary ticket when entering the arena. A video will be shown of Illini greats and entertainers who have performed at The Hall through the years, and a video of the proposed Assembly Hall renovation project will be debuted.

In addition to the events at Saturday's game, memorable Assembly Hall moments are being highlighted at, on the Fighting Illini Basketball Facebook page, and on the @IlliniHoops Twitter page. Fans are encouraged to use the hashtag #AH50 to post their favorite Assembly Hall memories.

The Assembly Hall has served as home to the Fighting Illini men's basketball program since hosting its first game on March 4, 1963. Illinois has an impressive record of 553-149 (.788) in the building and has provided countless memories for the nearly 9.7 million fans that have passed through the turnstiles.

The Hall has been home to the Fighting Illini women's basketball program from 1981-93 and 1998-present. In addition, the building has hosted events for wrestling, volleyball and men's and women's gymnastics, and will host this year's Big Ten Wrestling Championships next weekend (March 9-10). The Assembly Hall also holds performances for Broadway musicals, commencement ceremonies, concerts and other shows, and has been home to Illinois High School Association state championships for boys basketball (1963-95), girls basketball (1978-90) and wrestling (1967-present).

For Openers:
• Illinois has played 11 RPI Top 25 opponents this season, the most of any team in the nation. Illinois is currently 5-6 vs. the RPI Top 25.

• Illinois' five wins against the RPI Top 25 are tied with Michigan State and Kansas for the second-highest total nationally, behind only Indiana (7).

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

• Illinois' win over Penn State on Feb. 21 was its 20th of the season, securing the program's fourth 20-win season in the last five years, 12th in the last 14 years, and 30th all-time.

• Illinois exceeded its win total from last season (17) on Feb. 13. And with its seventh Big Ten on Feb. 21, the Illini have also surpassed last year's win total in conference play (6).

• Illinois' recent five-game Big Ten winning streak was its longest conference winning streak since also winning five in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 9, 2010.

• The Illini have held their opponent to less than 60 points in six of seven conference wins this season (Ohio State-55, Nebraska-51, Minnesota-53, Purdue-59, Northwestern-41, Penn State-59).

• With the 64-59 victory over Penn State on Feb. 21, the Illini improved to 6-1 on the season in games decided by five points or less.

• 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 22 of 29 games. The Illini average 17.1 points off turnovers and own a margin of +4.8 points per game in that category on the season.

• Illinois has four victories this season where it overcame double-digit deficits (16-at Hawaii, 11-at Gonzaga, 14-Indiana, 12-at Minnesota).

Brandon Paul was named of 30 candidates for the Naismith Trophy on Tuesday. Paul is one of six Big Ten players on the list, the most of any conference.

D.J. Richardson has scored in double figures in each of the last 10 games - his career-long streak in Big Ten play - averaging 16.6 points over that stretch (166). Richardson has led the Illini in scoring in each of the last four games.

D.J. Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 29 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 35 straight games with at least one trey.

• While Brandon Paul leads the Illini in scoring on the season (16.2 ppg), D.J. Richardson is Illinois' leading scorer in conference play with an average of 14.6 points.

Sam McLaurin is shooting 56.1 percent from the field (23-41) during his 11 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 74.2 points on 44.8 percent shooting and 36.5 percent 3-point shooting in its 20 wins, compared to averaging 63 points on 38.3 percent shooting and 24.8 percent 3-point shooting in its nine losses.

• Illinois is shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from 3-point range in its 14 games away from home, an increase over the UI's 42.2 percent shooting from the field and 30.7 percent from 3-point range in its 15 games at Assembly Hall.

All-Around Paul Closing in on Historic UI Club
Illini senior Brandon Paul has made an impact in every area during his Illini career. He is one of just to 10 players in UI history to score 1,500 points, and with eight more rebounds, he would become just the fifth Illini player ever in the 1,500-point/500-rebound club:

Deon Thomas, 1991-94 (2,129 points, 846 rebounds)
Brian Cook, 2000-03 (1,748 points, 815 rebounds)
Eddie Johnson, 1978-81 (1,692 points, 831 rebounds)
Mark Smith, 1978-81 (1,653 points, 722 rebounds)
Brandon Paul, 2010-13 (1,525 points, 492 rebounds)

Paul also is just six assists away from reaching 300 for his career, and three steals shy of 150. When adding in those categories to 1,500 points and 500 rebounds, Paul is closing in on becoming only the second player in Fighting Illini history to reach all of those milestones:

Mark Smith, 1978-81 (1,653 rebounds, 722 rebounds, 350 assists, 161 steals)
Brandon Paul, 2010-13 (1,525 points, 492 rebounds, 294 assists, 147 steals)

The Last Meeting
January 22, 2013
Lincoln, Neb.
Richardson Leads Illinois Past Nebraska, 71-51
D.J. Richardson scored a career-high 30 points as Illinois ended a three-game losing streak with a 71-51 win at Nebraska Tuesday night. Highlights | Box Score | Printable Box | Notes | Photo Gallery |

Notes from the Last Nebraska Game:

Illinois 71, Nebraska 51 // Jan. 27 at Lincoln
• The win over Nebraska was the 100th career victory for Illinois coach John Groce.
D.J. Richardson had a career night, pouring in 30 points to shatter his previous career high of 20, which he had done three times. Richardson hit a career-high nine field goals on 14 attempts, nailed a career-high six three-pointers on nine attempts, and was perfect on six free throw attempts.
• Richardson became the second Illini to record a 30-point game this season, joining Brandon Paul (35 points at Gonzaga, Dec. 8). It is the first season Illinois has had two different players record 30-point games since 1993-94 (Kiwane Garris and Deon Thomas). The last season Illinois had multiple 30-point performances, meanwhile, was in 2003-04 (Deron Williams, twice).
• The Illini never trailed against the Huskers, marking the eighth time this season that Illinois has won without falling behind at any point in the game (now nine times this season; last at Northwestern, Feb. 17).
• Illinois dominated the glass, outrebounding the Huskers 40-28. Nnanna Egwu pulled down a career-high 10 boards, the first double-digit rebound game for a UI player on the season.
Joseph Bertrand had an impressive all-around game against the Huskers with a career-high five steals and season high-tying seven rebounds to go along with eight points in 27 minutes.

Looking Back at Last Year's Home Game Versus Nebraska:

• Illinois 59, Nebraska 54 // Jan. 7, 2012 at Champaign
A game went down to the wire for the third straight time at Assembly Hall, and once again the Illini prevailed, posting a five-point victory over Nebraska. Following a sloppy first half that saw the teams combine for 20 turnovers and a 25-22 score in favor of the Huskers, the offense heated up in the second half and the Illini did a better job taking care of the basketball. Illinois had just two turnovers after intermission and shot nearly 58 percent from the field. Nebraska, meanwhile, shot almost 53 percent in the second half but had eight more miscues to record 20 turnovers.

The Illini trailed 48-45 with five minutes left but scored five straight points on a 3-point play by Joseph Bertrand and a jumper by Brandon Paul to take the lead. Nebraska would later tie the game on two occasions, but Bertrand put the Illini ahead for good, hitting another bucket with 54 seconds remaining to break a 54-all tie. The Illini added a trio of free throws in the final seconds to close it out.

Bertrand was unstoppable on the day, scoring a career-high 25 points. He made his first eight shots and finished 11-of-12 from the field. Paul also registered double figures with 11.

Illini Turnaround Ranks Among Best
Illinois is 5-1 during the second half of conference play. This is a drastic turnaround from the half-way point of the league race, when the Illini owned record of 2-7. Illinois has already totaled three more wins in the second portion of the Big Ten season compared to the first, one of the best turnarounds in school history. In the modern era, only the 1988 Illinois team recorded a better win-improvement during the second half of league play (+4) than John Groce's inaugural Illini squad, which still has three games remaining.

Five Key Facts On ...

Brandon Paul
1. Big Ten's No. 4 leading scorer with an average of 16.2 points.
2. Has scored at least 13 points in 24 of 29 games this season, with nine 20-plus point performances.
3. Second among Big Ten players in free throw makes (121), and attempts (171), behind Indiana's Cody Zeller.
4. Scored his 1,500th career point on Feb. 21 vs. Penn State, becoming the 10th player in school history to reach that milestone.
5. Five off the team lead in rebounds (4.3 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. Leads the team in scoring during Big Ten play at 14.6 ppg (seventh in Big Ten).
2. Has scored in double figures in each of the last 10 games, averaging 16.6 points over that stretch (166).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 35 straight games making at least one 3-pointer, the longest by a player from a BCS conference.
4. Third among Big Ten players in 3-point field goals this season with an average of 2.3 makes per game and is third in school history in career 3-point field goals with 263.
5. Has started 125 career games, fourth on the UI's all-time starts list.

Tracy Abrams
1. Third Illini scoring in double figures with an average of 10.6 points.
2. Has increased his scoring average by 6.0 points (4.3 last year).
3. Leads the team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in assists (3.4 apg).
4. Shooting 48.6 percent on 2-pointers this season (85-175).
5. Illinois is 8-2 this season in games where he records at least five assists.

Joseph Bertrand
1. Illini sixth-man is team's fourth-leading scorer, averaging 8.0 points.
2. Second on team in rebounding (4.4 rpg), led by career-high 12 boards vs. Purdue (Feb. 13).
3. Ranks eighth in the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 51.7 percent (92-178).
4. Scored in double figures nine times off the bench, led by season-high 17 points vs. Wisconsin (Feb. 3).
5. Has made 16 three-pointers this season, after combining for just 3 treys through his first two seasons.

Tyler Griffey
1. Fifth on the team in scoring, averaging a career-best 7.4 points.
2. Has made two game-winners at the Assembly Hall, a layup at the buzzer vs. Indiana (Feb. 7) and a three-pointer with four seconds left vs. Gardner-Webb (Nov. 25).
3. Averaging 9.8 points and (59) and 4.5 rebounds (27) over the last six games, scoring in double figures three times.
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 29 games and is averaging 24.4 minutes after averaging 9.8 minutes last season.
2. Averaging 6.6 points and leads team with average of 4.5 rebounds, tripling his production over last season (1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg).
3. Seventh 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 21.7 minutes per game.
2. Averaging 5.6 points (62) and 3.5 rebounds (38) and shooting 56.2 percent (23-41) as a starter the last 11 games.
3. Leads team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds, averaging 2.3 per game.
4. Scored season-high eight points vs. Purdue (Feb. 13).
5. Third on the team with 19 blocked shots.

Complete Illinois-Nebraska Senior Day Notes (PDF)