Men's Basketball
Game 32 Notes & Links: Illinois at #14/13 Ohio State

Nnanna Egwu had 16 points and eight rebounds in the Jan. 5 Illini win over Ohio State.
Nnanna Egwu had 16 points and eight rebounds in the Jan. 5 Illini win over Ohio State.

March 9, 2013

 Game 32: Illinois (21-10, 8-9) at #14/13 Ohio State (22-7, 12-5)
 When Sunday, March 10, 2013 | 11:30 a.m. CT
 Location Columbus, Ohio | Value City Arena (19,049)
 Tickets Buy Online or call 614-292-2624
 Television ESPN | (Bob Wischusen, PBP & Dan Dakich, analyst)
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Listen | Sirius 91 / XM 91
 Live Coverage GameTracker
 Printable Game Notes Illinois | Ohio State | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Ohio State | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Teleconference | 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 4.1 1.6 Lead B1G in 3s made in conf. games (2.5)
G 3 Brandon Paul 6-4 200 Sr. 16.2 4.4 2.9 1 of 5 Illini with 1,500 p, 500 r in career
F 0 Sam McLaurin 6-8 220 Gr. 4.2 3.4 0.5 Leads team & 8th in B1G in off. rebounds
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 235 So. 6.6 4.6 0.5 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. 7.7 4.4 0.7 7th in Big Ten in FG percentage (.514)
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. 3.5 2.1 0.2 SH 12 pts & CH 9 mins vs. Nebraska
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. 7.2 3.4 0.6 Has 2 game-winning shots this season

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 106-66/.616 (5th year)
At Illinois: 21-10/.677 (1st year)
Big Ten: 8-9/.471
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. Ohio State
Series Record: Illinois leads 104-70
Series Streak: Illinois W-1
Record at Columbus: Ohio State leads 43-41
Series Streak at Columbus: Ohio State W-3
Last Meeting:   #11/14 Illinois 74, #8/8 Ohio State 55 (Jan. 5 at Champaign)
Groce vs. Ohio State: 1-0

For Openers:
• Illinois owns victories over the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the current Top 25, defeating both Gonzaga and Indiana. Butler is the only other team with wins over the Bulldogs and Hoosiers, and the Illini defeated Butler as well.

• Illinois has played nine RPI Top 25 opponents this season, tied with Sunday's opponent Ohio State for the fourth-highest total in the nation and one behind Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin (10 each). Illinois is currently 5-4 vs. the RPI Top 25.

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

• Illinois' four-win improvement during the second half of the Big Ten schedule is tied for the best turnaround in school history, along with the 1988 UI squad.

• The Illini have played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, owning the seventh-ranked SOS.

• Looking ahead to next week's Big Ten Tournament, seeds six through nine are all still in play for the Illini (details on P. 3-4).

Brandon Paul needs one steal to join Mark Smith (1978-81) as only the second Illini player ever to reach career milestones of 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals (details on P. 4).

• With 21 wins, Illinois has secured its most regular-season victories since 2008-09 (23).

• With a current record of 21-10 and 8-9 in the Big Ten, Illinois has exceeded last season's win total (17) by four games and conference win total (6) by two games.

• Illinois has secured its fourth 20-win season in the last five years, 12th in the last 14 years, and 30th all-time.

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

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

• 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 24 of 31 games. The Illini average 16.6 points off turnovers and own a margin of +4.5 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 Feb. 26. 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 12 games - his career-long streak in Big Ten play - averaging 16.0 points over that stretch (192). Richardson has led the Illini in scoring in five of the last eight games.

D.J. Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 31 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 37 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 14.4 points.

D.J. Richardson (14.4 ppg, 7th) and Brandon Paul (14.1 ppg, 10th) are both in the top 10 in scoring in Big Ten play. Illinois is one of just three teams with two top-10 scorers, along with Michigan and Penn State.

Brandon Paul's scoring average of 16.2 points is the highest by an Illini player in the last 10 seasons, since Brian Cook averaged 20 points in 2003.

Brandon Paul has scored in double figures in each of the last four games, averaging 14.5 points (58), after a 3-game stretch from Feb. 10-17 where he averaged just 7.0 points (21).

Sam McLaurin is shooting 55.8 percent from the field (24-43) during his 13 games in the starting lineup.

Nnanna Egwu is shooting 56.5 percent from the field (13-23) over the last four games.

• Illinois' win over No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 7 was its third all-time over a top-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' Big Ten Tournament Scenarios
The Big Ten Tournament will be held next week at the United Center in Chicago. Illinois will play in Thursday's opening round and has a seed range of 6-9 entering this weekend, along with Iowa, Minnesota and Purdue. Here are the potential scenarios for the Illini:

• If Illinois loses to Ohio State:
  - Illinois is in the 8/9 game vs. the loser of Purdue-Minnesota

• If Illinois beats Ohio State AND ...
  - Iowa and Purdue win: Illinois is the 7 and will play 10 Nebraska
  - Iowa and Minnesota win: Illinois is the 8 and will play 9 Purdue
  - Nebraska and Purdue win: Illinois is the 6 and will play 11 Northwestern
  - Nebraska and Minnesota win:
     Illinois is the 6 and will play 11 Northwestern (if Indiana wins, OR if Michigan wins AND Michigan State loses)
     Illinois is the 7 and will play 10 Nebraska (if Michigan AND Michigan State win)

Since both the Iowa-Nebraska and Purdue-Minnesota games are on Saturday prior to Sunday's Illinois-Ohio State game, here is an alternate way to view the scenarios:

• If Iowa and Minnesota win:
  - Illinois is the 8 and will play 9 Purdue

• If Iowa and Purdue win:
  - Illinois is the 7 if it beats Ohio State and will play 10 Nebraska
  - Illinois is the 8 if it loses to Ohio State and will play 9 Minnesota

• If Nebraska and Minnesota win:
  - Illinois is the 6 and will play 11 Northwestern if it beats Ohio State AND ...
     Indiana wins, OR Michigan wins AND Michigan State loses
  - Illinois is the 7 and will play 10 Nebraska if it beats Ohio State AND ...
     Michigan AND Michigan State win
  - Illinois is the 8 if it loses to Ohio State and will play 9 Purdue

• If Nebraska and Purdue win:
  - Illinois is the 6 if it beats Ohio State and will play 11 Northwestern
  - Illinois is in the 8/9 game if it loses to Ohio State and will play Minnesota

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 10 players in UI history to score 1,500 points. Tuesday at Iowa, Paul collected his 500th rebound, becoming 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 (1,557 points, 504 rebounds)

Paul also surpassed 300 career assists at Iowa. And he is just on steal shy of 150. When adding 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 points, 722 rebounds, 350 assists, 161 steals)
Brandon Paul, 2010-13 (1,557 points, 504 rebounds, 302 assists, 149 steals)

Illini Turnaround Ranks Among Best
Illinois is 6-2 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 a record of 2-7. Illinois has totaled four more wins in the second portion of the Big Ten season compared to the first, tied for the best turnaround in school history (modern era). Only the 1988 Illinois team recorded a win-improvement during the second half of league play equal to that of John Groce's inaugural Illini squad.

Coaching Ties
John Groce will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline on Sunday in Ohio State's Thad Matta. Prior to his four years as head coach at Ohio, Groce spent eight years as an assistant to Matta at three different schools, including four seasons on Matta's OSU staff from 2005-08. During Groce's time in Columbus, the Buckeyes amassed a record of 105-35, made two NCAA Tournament appearances - including the NCAA championship game in 2007 - and won back-to-back outright Big Ten Championships in 2006 and 2007. Groce also served three years on Matta's staff at Xavier from 2002-04 and one season at Butler in 2001.

Brandon Miller, Groce's special assistant to the head coach, also has ties to the OSU staff. He spent seven years with Matta, including six at Ohio State, most recently as an assistant for three seasons from 2009-11.

The Last Meeting
Ohio State55
January 5, 2013
Assembly Hall
No. 11 Illini Upend No. 8 Buckeyes, 74-55
Brandon Paul scored 19 points as No. 11 Illinois dominated No. 8 Ohio State 74-55 Saturday at Assembly Hall. Highlights | Box Score | Printable Box Score | Notes | Photo Gallery | Postgame Press Conference |

Notes from the Last Ohio State Game

• #11/14 Illinois 74, #8/8 Ohio State 55 // Jan. 5 at Champaign
• The 19-point win over then-No. 8 Ohio State marked Illinois' largest margin of victory over a top-10 opponent in close to 50 years, dating back to Dec. 4, 1964, when the Illini defeated No. 2 UCLA, 110-83.
• The last time Illinois defeated a top-10 Big Ten opponent by a larger margin was on Feb. 20, 1954, when Illinois defeated No. 10 Iowa, 74-51.
• The Illini claimed their second double-digit victory over a top-10 team on the season, after taking down then-No. 10 Gonzaga, 85-74, on Dec. 8.
• Ohio State entered the game averaging just 10.3 turnovers. However, the Buckeyes turned the ball over 16 times against the Illini, including 11 in the first half alone. Illinois scored 17 points off of turnovers.
• The Illini defense held the Buckeyes to 55 points, its lowest output since scoring 51 in a loss last season at Michigan (Feb. 18, 2012).
Nnanna Egwu had a career-high 16 points, shooting a career-best 7-for-10 from the field and adding a team-high eight rebounds.
• Illinois led from start to finish for the seventh time this season.

Looking Back at the Last Road Game vs. Ohio State

• #8/9 Ohio State 83, Illinois 67 // Feb. 21, 2012 at Columbus
The offensive firepower of Ohio State was on display early and often as the Illini fell to the Buckeyes in Columbus, 83-67. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-8 lead nearly 10 minutes into the game, making 11 of its first 12 shots. Illinois regrouped and outscored the hosts 18-14 the rest of the half to trail 42-26 at intermission, but the Illini could get no closer in the second half.

Meyers Leonard led the Illini with 21 points - just one shy of his career high. Leonard shot 7-of-12 from the field and made 7-of-9 at the line. D.J. Richardson also scored in double figures with 12 points and grabbed a game-high six boards.

Five Key Facts On ...

Brandon Paul
1. Big Ten's No. 4 leading scorer with an average of 16.2 points.
2. Owns highest scoring average by an Illini in 10 years, since Brian Cook in 2003 (20.0 ppg).
3. Has scored at least 13 points in 26 of 31 games this season, with nine 20-plus point performances.
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 the same season since Shaun Pruitt in 2008.

D.J. Richardson
1. Leads the team in scoring during Big Ten play at 14.4 ppg (seventh in Big Ten).
2. Has scored in double figures in each of the last 12 games, averaging 16.0 points over that stretch (192).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 37 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 2.4 makes per game and is third in school history in career 3-point field goals with 269.
5. Has started 127 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 6.3 points (4.3 last year).
3. Leads the team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in assists (3.4 apg).
4. Shooting 47.3 percent on 2-pointers this season (88-186).
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 7.7 points.
2. Ranks seventh in the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 50.8 percent (94-185).
3. Third on team in rebounding (4.4 rpg), led by career-high 12 boards vs. Purdue (Feb. 13).
4. Scored in double figures nine times off the bench, led by season-high 17 points vs. Wisconsin (Feb. 3).
5. Has made 17 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 7.2 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 8.5 points (68) over the last eight 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 but one game and is averaging 24.6 minutes after averaging 9.8 minutes last season.
2. Averaging 6.6 points and leads team with average of 4.6 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. Shooting 56.5 percent from the field over the last four games (13-23).
5. Grabbed career-best 10 boards at Nebraska (Jan. 22) and vs. Michigan (Jan. 27).

Sam McLaurin
1. Fifth-year transfer is playing 21.2 minutes per game.
2. Averaging 5.2 points (67) and 3.4 rebounds (44) and shooting 55.8 percent (24-43) as a starter the last 13 games.
3. Leads team and ranks eighth 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-Ohio State Game Notes (PDF)