March 3, 2012
Illinois concludes the regular season on Sunday at No. 14 Wisconsin. The Illini are facing their second consecutive ranked opponent, third in the last four games, and ninth this season.
Illinois is 3-5 against ranked teams on the 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 came at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois is trying to snap a six-game road losing streak and an eight-game road skid versus ranked teams, looking for its first win at a Top-25 opponent since defeating No. 11 Wisconsin on Feb. 9, 2010 (63-56).
Illinois has won three times at the Kohl Center during UW Coach Bo Ryan's tenure (2005, 2006, 2010), the most of any Big Ten school and accounting for one-third of the Badgers' nine home conference losses.
Probable Starters (from the previous game)
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Other
G 13 Tracy Abrams 6-1 185 Fr. 4.4 2.3 1.8 41.6 FG%
G 1 D.J. Richardson 6-3 195 Jr. 11.9 3.0 1.8 35.3 3FG%
G 3 Brandon Paul 6-4 200 Jr. 14.8 4.7 2.9 1.5 spg
F 42 Tyler Griffey 6-8 230 Jr. 4.8 3.3 0.5 39 off. reb.
C 12 Meyers Leonard 7-1 245 So. 13.6 8.1 1.4 1.9 bpg
Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Other
G 0 Sam Maniscalco 6-0 180 Gr. 6.2 1.9 2.4 82.1 FT%
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-5 195 r-So. 6.3 2.7 1.4 53.2 FG%
F 15 Mike Shaw 6-8 230 Fr. 0.9 1.9 0.3 7.3 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 3.8 mpg
G 25 Jean Selus 6-2 195 Sr. 0.0 0.1 0.1 8 minutes
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 245 Fr. 1.9 1.6 0.2 49.1 FG%
G 44 Kevin Berardini 6-0 175 r-So. 0.0 0.0 0.0 5 minutes
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Career Record: 313-153/.672 (14th year)
At Illinois: 210-99/.680 (9th year)
Big Ten: 89-64/.582
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. Wisconsin
Series Record: Illinois leads 110-76
Last Meeting: Wisconsin 67, Illinois 63 (Jan. 22 at Champaign)
Series Streak: Wisconsin W-2
Record at Madison: Wisconsin leads 51-39
Series Streak at Madison: Wisconsin W-1
Weber vs. Wisconsin: 9-11
Illini Will Play in 8-9 Game at Big Ten Tournament
The Big Ten Tournament will be held next week at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Illinois will play in Thursday's opening round and is locked into the 8 vs. 9 game at 10:30 am CT/11:30 am ET on BTN. The Illini will play the loser of Saturday's Northwestern at Iowa game. Here are the potential scenarios for the Illini:
Northwestern beats Iowa: Illinois is the 9 seed, playing 8 seed Iowa
Iowa beats Northwestern and Illinois beats Wisconsin: Illinois is the 8 seed, playing 9 seed Northwestern
Iowa beats Northwestern and Wisconsin beats Illinois: Illinois is the 9 seed, playing 8 seed Northwestern
This marks the first time that Illinois will appear in the 8-9 game and just the fourth time in the 15-year history of the Big Ten Tournament - and first since 2008 - that the Illini will begin play on Thursday.
Fighting Illini Trends
Illinois is undefeated this season when leading at the half (12-0).
In Big Ten play, Illinois is 6-1 when shooting better than its opponent and 0-10 when shooting worse than its opponent.
Also in Big Ten play, Illinois is 6-1 when holding its opponent to less than 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and 0-10 when its opponent shoots 40 percent or better from behind the arc.
Meyers Leonard has scored in double figures in each of the last three games, averaging 20.3 points (61) over that stretch.
Leonard had a double-double against Iowa last Sunday with a career-high tying 22 points along with 14 rebounds. It was his eighth double-double of the season, ranking him third among Big Ten players behind Michigan State's Draymond Green and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.
Leonard is shooting 84.4 percent from the free throw line over the last seven games (27-32).
Brandon Paul has scored in double figures in two straight games, averaging 16.0 points (32) over that stretch. He combined for 11 points the previous two games.
Paul has made 5-of-10 from 3-point range over the last two games after going 2-of-12 from behind the arc the previous three games.
Freshman Tracy Abrams is averaging 10.8 points over the last five games (54), compared to his season scoring average of 4.4 points. He has scored in double figures in three of those five games, led by a career-high 22-point effort Feb. 15 vs. Purdue.
D.J. Richardson has made two 3-pointers in four consecutive games.
Joseph Bertrand is a different offensive player at home compared to on the road. Bertrand scored in double figures in six of nine conference home games, averaging 10.6 points (95). He has netted double figures on the road in just one of eight conference road games, meanwhile, averaging 4.5 points (36).
After making just one field goal from Jan. 22 through Feb. 18, freshman Nnanna Egwu has made 6-of-8 shots over the last three games.
Leonard's Block Party
Meyers Leonard leads the Big Ten in blocked shots on the season. His average of 1.9 blocks per game is currently tied for second on the Illini single-season list behind the record of 3.0 bpg set by Derek Holcomb in 1979. Leonard's 58 blocks, meanwhile, ranks third on the UI single-season chart. The Illini record is 86 rejections set by Holcomb in 1979. Leonard is one block away from tying Mike Tisdale (59 in 2010) for second on that list.
Paul one of Big Ten's Top Scorers
Brandon Paul is one of the Big Ten's leading scorers during conference play, averaging 17.4 points to rank fourth 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.
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 Feb. 26.
Leonard Improving at Historical Level
Meyers Leonard's progression has been dramatic when comparing the numbers from his freshman year to this season. Leonard has increased his scoring average by 11.5 points and his rebounding average by 6.9 boards. Those figures rank among the biggest improvements in school history from one season to the next:
Best UI Scoring Improvement (Avg.)
1. Rick Schmidt, 1974 +17.6 ppg (21.4-3.8)
2. Skip Thoren, 1964 +14.8 ppg (20.3-5.5)
3. Meyers Leonard, 2012 +11.5 ppg (13.6-2.1)
Best UI Rebounding Improvement (Avg.)
1. Skip Thoren, 1964 +8.0 rpg (13.8-5.8)
2. Meyers Leonard, 2012 +6.9 rpg (8.1-1.2)
3. Mike Davis, 2009 +6.3 rpg (8.1-1.8)
Looking Back at the Last Wisconsin Game:
Wisconsin 67, #22/25 Illinois 63 // Jan. 22 // Champaign
Wisconsin came out on top of a back and forth battle, defeating the Illini 67-63 on Jan. 22 to snap the UI's 14-game home winning streak. It was a game that featured 11 lead changes and eight ties and was played within a 12-point margin the entire way. The Illini went on an 11-3 run late in the first half to take a 22-21 lead and the teams entered the locker room tied at 26. The Illini led by four midway through the second half when the Badgers went on a key 7-0 run to move ahead 53-50 with seven minutes remaining. The Illini later trailed by one when UW's Jared Berggren scored on an offensive rebound basket to put the visitors ahead 60-57 with 2:14 left. The Illini could get no closer as Jordan Taylor scored seven points in the final 32 seconds to close out the road win for the Badgers.
Meyers Leonard led the Illini, collecting his sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Joseph Bertrand added 15 points, five rebounds and a career-high five assists. D.J. Richardson (13) and Brandon Paul (10) also scored in double figures.
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 last 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.
The Illini were unable to carry that momentum into Thursday's game, however, as Michigan scored 72 points and made 9-of-19 (47.4 percent) from behind the arc.
Five Quick Facts On ...
1. Leads Illini in scoring on the season (14.8 ppg) and ranks fourth in Big Ten in scoring during league play (17.4 ppg).
2. Scored in double figures in 21 times, with six games of 20+ points.
3. Leads Illini in assists with 2.9 average.
4. Scored career-high 43 points Jan. 10 vs. Ohio State (see box on page 10 for more details).
5. Has made 165 trips to the free throw line this season, the second-highest total among Big Ten guards behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (194 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 (13.6 ppg).
2. First in Big Ten in blocked shots, averaging 1.9 bpg (58). 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 58.1 percent (158-272).
4. Eight double-doubles on the season, ranking third among Big Ten players.
5. Increased his scoring average by 11.5 points (2.1 ppg last year), the second-best improvement in the Big Ten behind Penn State's Tim Frazier (+12.5 ppg).
1. Third on team in scoring with an average of 11.9 points.
2. Leads Illini with 67 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. Sixth on school's all-time 3-point field goals list with 191 career treys.
1. Started last 15 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 12 points in most recent outing Thursday vs. Michigan.
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. 11th in Big Ten in field goal shooting during conference play at 51.7 percent (60-116).
2. UI's fourth-leading scorer in league play with average of 7.7 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 4.8 points and 3.3 boards this year, nearly 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. Returned to starting lineup Feb. 18 at Nebraska and has started each of the last four games.
5. Has scored in double figures four times this year after totaling three double-figure scoring games over his first two seasons.