Senior Night Notes & Links: Illinois vs. #12 Michigan
March 3, 2014
Series Notes vs. Michigan
The Illini are closing out the regular season with three games against Top 25 opponents. The 12th-ranked Wolverines are the second game in that stretch, following the UI victory at No. 18 Michigan State. The Illini finish at No. 24 Iowa on Saturday.
The Illini have won four of six and carry a three-game winning streak into Tuesday's match-up with Michigan. This is Illinois' longest conference winning streak since claiming five in a row last season (Feb. 7-21, 2013).
Illinois' defense has held each of its last four opponents to less than 50 points. It is the first time since the 1947 Big Ten season that the Illini have held four straight league foes below 50 points (Jan. 6-25, 1947). Over the last four games, Illini opponents are averaging just 48.0 points. Illinois is second in the Big Ten in scoring defense on the season at 62.0 ppg.
Following the 53-46 victory over Michigan State on Saturday, Illinois has now limited the opponent to 65 points or less in 16 of its 17 wins this season, and 23 of its last 24 wins dating back to Feb. 10 of last year.
Illinois is shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range during its current three-game winning streak. The Illini shot 30.8 percent from behind the arc over the previous 26 games.
Illinois has made at least eight three-pointers in each of its last three games after doing so only four times through the first 26 contests.
The Illini have totaled 34 steals over the last three games and are averaging 20.7 points per game off turnovers over this stretch.
The Illini have registered at least 12 assists in each of the last three games after doing so only once through the first 13 Big Ten games.
Looking ahead to next week's Big Ten Tournament, seeds seven through 12 are still in play for the Illini.
Bertrand has played in 111 career games, earning 42 starts. He has scored 748 points and grabbed 360 rebounds over his four-year tenure. Bertrand is third on the team in scoring this season with an average of 9.2 points. He has scored in double figures in 15 games, led by a season-high 20 versus Iowa (Feb. 1) and Jacksonville State (Nov. 10). He is shooting 47.9 percent from the field, ranking 13th in the Big Ten.
Bertrand earned a bachelor's degree in recreation, sport and tourism last August and is now working toward a second degree in agricultural leadership education.
Ekey 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 23 times. He is fourth on the Illini in scoring with an average of 7.3 points, and third on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.2 boards. Ekey also leads the team with 48 three-pointers, ranking 10th in the Big Ten with an average of 1.7 treys per game. Ekey has scored in double figures in eight games, led by back-to-back 19-point performances versus Bradley (Nov. 17) and Chicago State (Nov. 22). Ekey is pursuing a master's degree in recreation, sport and tourism.
Family 4-Pack Ticket Offer for Michigan Game
Facing the Ranked
The Illini have dropped three games against ranked teams this season at State Farm Center . Illinois' last home win over a ranked opponent was last year's 74-72 buzzer-beater over No. 1 Indiana (Feb. 7, 2013).
Nunn Repeats Freshman of the Week Honors
Nunn is now the Illini's third-leading scorer in Big Ten play, averaging 8.1 points.
Notes from the Last Time Out: Illini 53, Michigan State 49 (March 1)
2. It also was the 900th Big Ten win for the Illini, making them the first conference team to reach 900 B1G victories.
3. This was the first win for the Illini at Michigan State since 2006, but the fourth there since 2002. Illinois left the Breslin Center victorious in 2002, 2005, 2006 and now 2014, which is tied with Ohio State for the most by an opposing team over the last 13 seasons.
4. It was the Illini's first road win over a ranked team since winning at No. 18 Minnesota last year (Feb. 10, 2013).
5. The Illini defense continued to dominate, holding its fourth-straight opponent under 50 points. It is the first time since the 1947 Big Ten season that the Illini have held four straight foes below 50 points (Jan. 6-25, 1947).
6. The 46 points by Michigan State was its lowest scoring total in a Big Ten game since losing at Illinois, 42-41, on Jan. 31, 2012. It marked MSU's lowest point total at home since Nov. 8, 2006 (45-36 win over Brown), and lowest point total at the Breslin Center in a Big Ten game since Jan. 4, 1997 (68-43 loss to Minnesota).
7. Illinois racked up 14 steals on the day, the most in a game since Jan. 2, 2010, vs. Gonzaga (15). Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams both had five steals against the Spartans, setting a career high for Rice and tying a career high for Abrams.
8. The Illini nearly led wire-to-wire and trailed only once for a total of 58 seconds. Illinois used an 11-2 run early in the game to turn a 10-7 lead into a 21-9 advantage at the 10:31 mark. After MSU tied it at 28 at halftime and took a 30-28 lead just seconds into the second half, the Illini responded with a 12-2 run to open up a 40-32 lead with 15:26 remaining. The Spartans got no closer than three the rest of the way.
9. Illinois shot 47.7 percent from the field (21-of-44), its best shooting game during Big Ten play and highest since hitting 52.0 percent against Dartmouth on Dec. 10, 2013. The Illini held the Spartans to 39.1 percent shooting to improve to 11-0 this season and 24-1 overall under Groce when out-shooting their opponent.
10. The Illini forced 16 Michigan State turnovers, the most they've forced in a game since Indiana had 23 in the conference opener on Dec. 31. Despite having 15 turnovers of their own, the Illini held a 25-9 advantage in points off turnovers, their highest differential of the season in that category (+16).
11. Freshman Malcolm Hill had 10 points, his second straight game in double-figures and the fourth of his career. He was joined in double-figures by Abrams (12 points) and Rice (10 points).
12. Fellow freshman Kendrick Nunn continued his solid play as of late, scoring eight points, pulling down a game- and career-high six rebounds, and tying his career-high with four assists. He also hit 2-of-4 from behind the arc, bringing his three-point shooting to 53.3 percent (16-of-30) since entering the starting lineup six games ago.
Illinois is 3-0 in games decided by one or two points, and 8-0 overall under Groce.
Illinois is 5-1 in games decided by five points or less, and 12-3 overall under Groce.
Illinois is 11-0 when shooting better than its opponent, and 24-1 overall under Groce.
Illinois has either led or been tied with seven minutes or less in six of its losses:
The Illini are allowing an average of 62.0 points per game this season (second in Big Ten, 21st in NCAA).
Illinois ranks 14th nationally in defensive efficiency (94.2).
Illinois has done a good job of taking care of the basketball, averaging just 10.4 turnovers per game (fourth in Big Ten, 35th in NCAA).
Kendrick Nunn is averaging 12.2 points (73) in his six games as a starter, while Malcolm Hill is averaging 7.7 points (46) in his six starts. They are shooting a combined 50.6 percent (41-81) in the starting lineup.
Rayvonte Rice ranks eighth in the Big Ten in scoring with a 15.8-point average. He has reached double figures in all but four games on the season. Rice has nine 20-plus point performances, including three in the last eight games.
Rice is averaging 7.0 rebounds over the last eight games (56) and has been the UI's top rebounder four times.
Rice also has recorded 9 steals over the last two games.
Nnanna Egwu is averaging 9.2 rebounds over the last five games (46).
Egwu is the Big Ten's No. 2 shot blocker (54th in NCAA), averaging 2.2 bpg. His season total of 65 blocks currently ranks second on the Illini all-time single-season list.
Tracy Abrams has totaled 15 assists over the last three games, averaging 5.0 apg.
Jon Ekey is shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range over the last three games (4-9).
Looking Back at Last Year's Michigan Games:
#2/3 Michigan 74, Illinois 60 // Jan. 27, 2013 at Champaign
Brandon Paul was one of three Illini to score in double figures, leading the way with 15 points. D.J. Richardson had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Tracy Abrams added 10 points. Nnanna Egwu, meanwhile, grabbed a game-high 10 boards.
#7/7 Michigan 71, Illinois 58 // Feb. 24, 2013 at Ann Arbor
Current Illini vs. Michigan
Tracy Abrams (4 G): 8.3 ppg (33), 3.3 rpg (13)
Nnanna Egwu (4 G): 4.8 ppg (19), 4.3 rpg (17)
Joseph Bertrand (4 G): 4.0 ppg (16), 2.5 rpg (10)
Five Facts on the Following Illini