Series Notes vs. Minnesota
All-Time Series Record: Illinois leads 117-64
Series Record in Big Ten Tournament: Illinois leads 4-0
This Season's Meetings: #8/10 MINN 84, #12/13 ILL 67 (1/9 in Champaign) & ILL 57, #18/18 MINN 53 (2/10 in Minneapolis)
Series Streak: Illinois W-1
Groce vs. Minnesota: 1-1
Illini Big Ten Tournament Notes
Illinois has the most all-time Big Ten Tournament (BTT) wins with 23.
The Illini own the second-best all-time BTT winning percentage at .639 (23-13).
Illinois has won two BTT championships (2003 and 2005), one of five conference schools to win multiple titles.
Illinois also has the second-most BTT championship game appearances, having advanced to the title game six times.
Illinois has advanced to the semifinals in all but three Tournaments (2006, 2011-12), with its 12 semifinal appearances the most of any school.
Illinois is 15-5 all-time in BTT games at the United Center.
The Illini have won eight of their last nine BTT games played at the United Center, winning the tournament title in two of its last three appearances in the Windy City.
Illinois has advanced to at least the semifinals in all seven previous BTT at the United Center.
Illinois is appearing in Thursday's opening round for the second straight year, but just the fifth time in the 16-year history of the BTT. Illinois is 3-1 in BTT opening round games.
Illinois has received the 8 seed for the first time and is making its second-straight appearance in the 8-9 opening round game.
Illinois is 15-5 in BTT games when seeded higher.
Illinois and Minnesota are meeting in the Big Ten Tournament for the fifth time, with the Illini winning all four previous match-ups. The teams last played in the BTT in 2008, a 54-50 victory by the 10th-seeded Illini over the sixth-seeded Gophers in the semifinals.
Illinois owns victories over the No. 1 and No. 3-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 will play its 11th RPI Top 25 opponent of the season on Thursday in Minnesota. The Illini's 10 games against the RPI Top 25 is tied with Michigan State and Wisconsin for the second-most nationally, behind Indiana (11). Illinois is currently 5-5 vs. the RPI Top 25.
Illinois' five wins against the RPI Top 25 is tied with Kansas for the third-highest total nationally, trailing only Indiana (8) and Duke (7).
Illinois' four-win improvement during the second half of the Big Ten schedule tied its best conference turnaround in school history, along with the 1988 UI squad (details on P. 6-7).
The Illini have played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, owning the eighth-ranked SOS. Illinois' non-conference SOS, meanwhile, is ranked 30th.
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. 5).
With 21 wins, Illinois secured its most regular-season victories since 2008-09 (23).
With a current record of 21-11, Illinois has currently exceeded last season's win total (17) by four games. The Illini's 8-10 mark in the Big Ten, meanwhile, was a two-game improvement over last year (8).
Illinois has secured its fourth 20-win season in the last five years, 12th in the last 14 years, and 30th all-time.
The Illini 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).
The Illini are 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 24 of 32 games. The Illini average 16.5 points off turnovers and own a margin of +4.3 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).
D.J. Richardson has scored in double figures in each of the last 13 games - a career-long streak - averaging 15.5 points over that stretch (202). Richardson has led the Illini in scoring in five of the last eight games.
D.J. Richardson has made a 3-pointer in all 32 games this season, and carries an active career-long streak of 38 straight games with at least one trey.
Brandon Paul leads the Illini in scoring on the season, averaging 16.2 points. It is the highest scoring average by an Illini player in the last 10 seasons, since Brian Cook averaged 20 points in 2003.
Brandon Paul (14.4 ppg, seventh) and D.J. Richardson (14.2 ppg, ninth) were both in the top 10 in scoring in Big Ten games. Illinois and Penn State were the only two teams with two top-10 scorers in league play.
Brandon Paul has scored in double figures in each of the last five games, averaging 15.8 points (79), after a 3-game stretch from Feb. 10-17 where he averaged just 7.0 points (21).
Tyler Griffey is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range (7-14) over the last four games.
Nnanna Egwu is shooting 56 percent from the field (14-25) over the last five games.
Paul, Richardson Receive All-Conference Recognition
The Big Ten All-Conference teams were announced on Monday, with Illini senior guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson garnering honors. Paul was voted a third-team All-Big Ten selection by the league's coaches and media, while Richardson also was a third-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and an honorable mention choice by the media.
Paul leads the Illini and ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring on the season, averaging 16.3 points. He had a 35-point game in Illinois' Dec. 8 win at current No. 1 Gonzaga to earn National Player of the Week honors, and was named MVP of the Maui Invitational after leading the Illini to the title. Paul has 10, 20-point games on the year and has scored in double figures in all but three games. He averaged 14.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game during Big Ten play. Paul receives all-conference accolades for the second straight season after also being named third-team All-Big Ten as a junior by the coaches.
Richardson led the Illini in scoring for most of the Big Ten season before being passed by Paul in the final game. He averaged 14.2 points per game in conference action to rank ninth in the league. Overall, Richardson is averaging 12.8 points and has hit a team-high 75 three-pointers, ranking fourth in the league with an average of 2.3 treys per game. Richardson has scored in double figures in each of the last 13 games - a career-long streak - and earlier this season was named to the Maui Invitational All-Tournament team after helping Illinois to the title.
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 just the fifth Illini player ever in the 1,500-point/500-rebound club:
Paul has also surpassed 300 career assists, 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:
The United Center: Illinois' Home Away from Home
While games played at the United Center count as neutral site in the record book, for Illinois the UC is a home away from home. Thursdays's contest against Minnesota marks the 45th game the Illini have played at the UC, dating back to the 1994-95 season. Illinois owns an all-time record of 33-11 (.750) at the United Center.
Current Illini at the United Center Tracy Abrams (2 G): 13.5 ppg (27), 4.5 rpg (9) - UC Highlights: Career highs of 27 points and eight rebounds with five assists and four steals vs. Auburn (12/29/12). D.J. Richardson (4 G): 11.5 ppg (46), 4.3 rpg (17) - UC Highlights: Eight points and five rebounds vs. Auburn (12/29/12) ... Game-high 19 points with season-high eight rebounds vs. UNLV (12/17/11) ... 13 points and three assists vs. UIC (12/18/10) ... Six points and four rebounds vs. Gonzaga (1/2/10). Brandon Paul (4 G): 10.5 ppg (42), 2.8 rpg (11) - UC Highlights: 13 points vs. Auburn (12/29/12) ... Seven points and career-high five steals vs. UNLV (12/17/11) ... Five points vs. UIC (12/18/10) ... 17 points and three steals vs. Gonzaga (1/2/10). Tyler Griffey (4 G): 3.8 ppg (15), 2.0 rpg (8) - UC Highlights: Eight points and four rebounds vs. Auburn (12/29/12) ... Six points and four rebounds vs. UNLV (12/17/11). Sam McLaurin (1 G): 6 pts, 3 reb Joseph Bertrand (2 G): 7 pts, 5 reb Nnanna Egwu (2 G): 6 pts, 3 reb Myke Henry (2 G): 3 pts, 3 reb Devin Langford (1 G): 3 pts, 0 reb Mike Shaw (1 G): 1 pts, 2 reb Mike LaTulip (1 G): 0 pts, 0 reb
#8/10 Minnesota 84, #12/13 Illinois 67 // Jan. 9 at Champaign
No. 8 Minnesota became the first road team to earn a victory in the Assembly Hall this season, defeating the No. 12 Illini, 84-67. The Illini trailed by 12 points early in the second half before going on a 10-0 run to bring the home crowd to its feet and close to within 44-42. But the Gophers capitalized on UI turnovers on the next two possessions, rattling off seven unanswered points in just 26 seconds to open up a nine-point advantage. The Illini then closed to within four at 51-47, but Minnesota added another quick 7-0 run to take an 11-point lead with eight minutes remaining. The Illini got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
Illinois shot just 35.4 percent (23-65) and a season-low 12.5 percent from 3-point range, connecting on just 3-of-24 from behind the arc. The Gophers, meanwhile, hit at a 52.9 percent clip (27-51), including 60 percent form 3-point land (9-15). Brandon Paul led the Illini with 21 points, while D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams added 14 point each.
Illinois 57, #18/18 Minnesota 53 // Feb. 10 at Minneapolis
Illinois fought back from a 12-point deficit to defeat No. 18 Minnesota in Minneapolis on Feb. 10. After falling behind 13-2 at the start and trailing 26-14, the Illini outscored the Gophers 17-4 over the final 3:45 of the first half to take a 31-30 lead into halftime. The second half was played within a margin of five points, the Illini moving ahead for the final time on a basket by Tracy Abrams with 5:52 left. The Gophers were still within one when Abrams made the game's final basket, a step-back 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put the Illini ahead by four with 15 seconds left and secure the road win.
Tyler Griffey led the Illini with 16 points, his highest total in Big Ten play. D.J. Richardson added 13 points and Brandon Paul had 10. Abrams, meanwhile, had six assists without a turnover in addition to his five points in crunch time.
Current Illini vs. Minnesota: Brandon Paul (6 G): 16.3 ppg (98), 6.7 rpg (40) - Highlights: 10 points and four rebounds earlier this season in Minneapolis ... Team-high 21 points with three steals earlier this season in Champaign ... Game-high 28 points with nine rebounds last year in Minneapolis ... Team-high 21 points with seven rebounds and season-high six assists last year in Champaign ... 12 points and seven rebounds in 2011 in Minneapolis ... Season-high nine rebounds in 2010 in Champaign. D.J. Richardson (6 G): 11.7 ppg (70), 3.2 rpg (19) - Highlights: 13 points earlier this season in Minneapolis ... 14 points and three steals earlier this season in Champaign ... Nine points last year in Minneapolis ... 13 points with five rebounds last year in Champaign ... 11 points in 2010 in Minneapolis ... 10 points in 2010 in Champaign. Joseph Bertrand (4 G): 6.8 ppg (27), 1.5 rpg (6) - Highlights: Six points and four rebounds earlier this season in Champaign ... 13 points last year in Champaign. Tracy Abrams (4 G): 6.0 ppg (24), 3.8 rpg (15) - Highlights: Five points, team-high six rebounds and game-high six assists without a turnover earlier this season in Minneapolis ... 14 points and four rebounds earlier this season in Champaign. Nnanna Egwu (4 G): 4.5 ppg (18), 5.3 rpg (21) - Highlights: Eight points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots earlier this season in Champaign. Tyler Griffey (6 G): 3.5 ppg (21), 1.5 rpg (9) - Highlights: Season-high 16 points with four rebounds earlier this season in Minneapolis. Sam McLaurin (2 G): 7 pts, 3 reb Myke Henry (3 G): 3 pts, 4 reb Mike Shaw (2 G): 0 pts, 1 reb Devin Langford (2 G): 0 pts, 0 reb Mike LaTulip (1 G): 0 pts, 0 reb
Illini Turnaround Ranks Among Best
Illinois went 6-3 during the second half of conference play. This was a drastic turnaround from the half-way point of the league race, when the Illini owned a record of 2-7. Illinois 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.
Five Key Facts On ...
1. Big Ten's No. 4 leading scorer with an average of 16.3 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 27 of 32 games this season, with 10, 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. Three 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.
1. Averaged 14.2 points during conference play (ninth in Big Ten).
2. Has scored in double figures in each of the last 13 games - a career-long streak - averaging 15.5 points over that stretch (202).
3. Carries a career-long active streak of 38 straight games making at least one 3-pointer, the longest by a player from a BCS conference.
4. Fourth 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 270.
5. Has started 128 career games, fourth on the UI's all-time starts list.
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 10th in the Big Ten in assists (3.4 apg).
4. Ninth in the Big Ten in steals (1.4 spg)
5. Illinois is 8-2 this season in games where he records at least five assists.
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.
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 8.2 points (74) over the last nine games.
4. Scored a season-high 16 points at Minnesota (Feb. 10).
5. Grabbed season-high eight rebounds vs. Indiana (Feb. 7).
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).
1. Fifth-year transfer is playing 20.9 minutes per game.
2. Averaging 4.8 points (67) and shooting 54.5 percent (24-44) as a starter the last 14 games.
3. Leads team and ranks 11th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds, averaging 2.2 per game.
4. Scored season-high eight points vs. Purdue (Feb. 13).
5. Fourth on the team with 20 blocked shots.