Men's Basketball
NIT First Round Notes: Illinois at Boston University

The Illini are playing in the postseason for the 30th time since 1980.
The Illini are playing in the postseason for the 30th time since 1980.

 National Invitation Tournament First Round: Illinois (19-14) at Boston University (24-10)
 When Wednesday, March 19, 2014 | 6 p.m. CT
 Tournament Info Bracket | Game Program | NIT Website
 Location Boston, Mass. | Agganis Arena (7,200) | Seating Map
 Tickets Buy Online or call (800) 745-3000
 Television ESPN2 (Sean McDonough & Tim Welsh)
 Watch Online WatchESPN
 Illini Sports Network ISN Affiliates | Listen Online (Brian Barnhart & Jerry Hester)
 Live Coverage GameTracker
 Printable Notes Illinois | Boston | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Boston | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Talks BU | Tracy Abrams | Nnanna Egwu | Malcolm Hill
 Social Media @IlliniHoops   |  #Illini | @IlliniAthletics | Facebook | YouTube

 Illinois Probable Starters (from previous game)
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 13 Tracy Abrams 6-2 190 Jr. 11.0 3.5 3.2 Averaged 18.0 ppg in B1G Tourney
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 6.4 1.7 1.2 Member of B1G All-Frosh Team
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 15.5 6.0 1.5 Leads team & 9th in B1G in scoring
G 21 Malcolm Hill 6-6 210 Fr. 4.3 2.3 0.7 Shooting 78.2% from FT line (43-of-55)
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 7.0 6.1 0.4 Leads B1G in offensive rebs. (2.6 rpg)
 Off the Bench
Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG APG Note
G 1 Jaylon Tate 6-3 160 Fr. 1.9 0.9 1.9 2.1 assist/turnover ratio
G 2 Joseph Bertrand 6-6 200 r-Sr. 8.6 3.9 0.8 Shooting 47.8% from field (13th in B1G)
G 10 Mike LaTulip 6-1 170 So. 0.9 0.3 0.2 3-of-9 from behind the arc
C 22 Maverick Morgan 610 250 Fr. 1.6 1.3 0.1 Shooting 58.3 percent from field
F 31 Austin Colbert 6-9 210 Fr. 1.4 0.8 0.2 Shooting 50.0 percent from the field
F 33 Jon Ekey 6-7 225 Gr. 7.3 5.0 0.3 Game-winning 3 in final second at Iowa 3/8
G 3 Ahmad Starks * 5-9 170 Sr. 10.4* 2.0* 2.3* Transfer must sit out 2013-14 season
G 11 Aaron Cosby * 6-3 195 Jr. 12.6* 2.5* 3.0* Transfer must sit out 2013-14 season
F 35 Darius Paul * 6-8 220 So. 10.4* 5.7* 1.7* Transfer must sit out 2013-14 season
 *2012-13 stats at former school

March 18, 2014

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 127-83/.605 (6th year)
At Illinois: 42-27/.609 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 15-21/.417
NIT: First appearance as head coach
Assistant Coaches: Dustin Ford (2nd year), Paris Parham (2nd year), Jamall Walker (2nd year)
Special Assistant to the Head Coach: Ryan Pedon (1st year)

Series Notes vs. Boston U.
All-Time Series Record: First meeting
Groce vs. Boston U.: First meeting

Fighting Illini Continue Play in Postseason
On the heels of winning five of its last seven games, the Fighting Illini have received a berth in the NIT. Illinois earned a No. 2 seed, but is unable to host NIT games due to the renovation of State Farm Center. So the Orange and Blue head to Boston, Mass. to face No. 7 seed Boston U. on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Boston earned an automatic bid to the NIT as the Patriot League regular season champion.

Illinois is participating in postseason play for the 13th time in the last 15 seasons, 19th in the last 22, and 30th in the last 35 dating back to its first NIT appearance in 1980.

Illini NIT Notes
• Illinois is making its fifth all-time appearance in the NIT, and its 35th all-time postseason appearance.

• The Illini own a record of 7-4 all-time in the NIT.

• Wednesday marks the second time that Illinois will play a road game in the NIT. Illinois owns an all-time NIT record of 5-3 at home, 1-0 on the road, and 1-1 at Madison Square Garden.

• While John Groce is making his first appearance in the NIT as a head coach, Groce was part of five NIT teams as an assistant. Ohio State won the 2008 NIT championship while Groce was in his final season as associate head coach on Thad Matta's Buckeyes staff. Groce also served as an assistant on Herb Sendek's North Carolina State staff when the Wolfpack made four straight NIT appearances from 1997-2000, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2000.

• There are three players on the current roster who have experienced the NIT, but none have taken the court while representing the Illini. Joseph Bertrand was sitting out the season as a true freshman redshirt when Illinois made its last NIT appearance in 2010. Jon Ekey started two games in the 2012 NIT during his sophomore season at Illinois State. Ekey had 15 points, one rebound and five assists in a first-round win at Ole Miss, followed by nine points, 10 rebounds and two steals in a second-round loss at Stanford. Aaron Cosby also played in two games in the 2012 NIT during his freshman season at Seton Hall. Cosby is sitting out as a transfer and is ineligible to travel with the Illini this season.

Illini Individual Single-Game Highs in the NIT
Points: 28, Perry Range vs. Long Island (1982)
Field Goals: 13, Perry Range vs. Long Island (1982)
FG Pct (min 6 made): .857 (6-7) Mark Smith vs. Murray St. (1980)
3-Pt. Field Goals: 4, D.J. Richardson at Stony Brook (2010)
3-Pt FG Pct (min 3 made): .400 (4-10) D.J. Richardson at Stony Brook (2010)
Free Throws: 11, Kiwane Garris vs. Alabama (1996)
FT Pct (min 8 made): 1.000 (8-8) Mark Smith vs. UNLV (1980)
Rebounds: 16, Mike Davis vs. Kent State (2010)
Assists: 11, Demetri McCamey at Stony Brook (2010)
Blocked Shots: 4, Mike Tisdale vs. Kent State (2010)
Steals: 5, Perry Range vs. Murray State (1980)

Illini Team Single-Game Highs in the NIT
Points: 126 vs. Long Island (1982)
Field Goals: 53 vs. Long Island (1982)
Field Goal Pct.: .576 (53-92) vs. Long Island (1982)
3-Point Field Goals: 10 at Stony Brook (2010)
3-Pt. Field Goal Pct.: .455 (10-22) at Stony Brook (2010)
Free Throws: 23 vs. Illinois State (1980)
Free Throw Pct.: .840 (21-25) vs. Loyola-Chicago (1980)
Rebounds: 60 vs. Long Island (1982)
Assists: 35 vs. Long Island (1982)
Blocked Shots: 7 vs. Long Island (1982)
Steals: 9 vs. Long Island (1982)

• Illinois' all-time NIT box scores can be found on p. 18-20 here.

Illini Aim for 20th Win of Season
Illinois will take the court Wednesday night in search of its 20th victory of the 2013-14 season. Illinois is aiming for its second straight 20-win season under Coach John Groce, its fifth 20-win season in the last six years, 13th in the last 15 years, and 31st all-time.

Big Ten Tournament Recap
Illinois played what John Groce considered its most complete basketball of the season on both ends of the floor during the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

>> First Round: Illinois 64, Indiana 54 - Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Notes | Quotes | Photos
The Illini defeated Indiana in Thursday's first round by the score of 64-54. Illinois jumped all over the Hoosiers, scoring the first nine points. After Indiana regrouped and later took its largest lead of the game at 38-33, the Illini rattled off 11 unanswered to take a 44-38 lead with 10 minutes remaining. The Hoosiers then got within one at 53-52 before Illinois closed out the victory by scoring 11 of the game's final 13 points.

Tracy Abrams led the way in the victory over Indiana with a season-high 25 points, just two shy of his career-high. Abrams hit 8-of-16 from the field, 2-of-5 from three and 7-of-9 from the line while also adding a game-high seven rebounds. Nnanna Egwu was a force defensively, equaling his career-high and setting a UI Big Ten Tournament record with five blocks. He also pulled down seven rebounds. Rayvonte Rice had 13 points and Kendrick Nunn added 10.

>> Quarterfinals: No. 8 Michigan 64, Illinois 63 - Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Quotes | Photos
Illinois battled top-seeded Michigan from start to finish before falling just short by the score of 64-63 in Friday's quarterfinal. The Wolverines were on fire for the first 29 minutes, similar to the offensive performance they had against the Illini 10 days prior in Champaign. But Illinois would not go away this time, and responded by getting to the basket at will and going to a zone defense to throw Michigan out of rhythm. Trailing 55-44 with 11:26 remaining, the Illini scored 10 unanswered to make it a one point game at the 8-minute mark. Illinois took its first lead since two minutes into the game on a Rayvonte Rice bucket, putting the Illini ahead 59-58 with under five minutes remaining. Illinois still maintained a two-point advantage with two minutes to go. The Wolverines cut the deficit in half on a Nik Stauskas free throw, then scored the final points on a Jordan Morgan layup with seven seconds left to put Michigan up by one. On the final possession, Tracy Abrams drove past his defender and into the lane for an open 8-foot floater that bounced off the front of the rim, ending the Illini's upset bid.

The Illini outscored Michigan 32-to-14 in the paint and held the Wolverines to 36.4 percent shooting in the second half. Illinois also owned a 33-to-26 rebounding advantage and grabbed 10 offensive boards, converting those into 17 second-chance points. And for the first time all season, the Illini lost despite outshooting their opponent. Rice and Abrams scored 11 points apiece, while Nunn added 10.

Five Facts on the Following Illini

Rayvonte Rice
1. Big Ten's ninth-leading scorer with average of 15.5 points.
2. Also leads Illini in steals (1.6 spg, seventh in Big Ten) and second on team in rebounds (6.0 rpg, 10th in Big Ten).
3. Has been the UI's top scorer in 19 games.
4. Scored in double figures in 29 of 33 games with nine 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 5 active career scoring leader with 1,495 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on team in scoring with career-best 11.0-point average (10.6 ppg last season).
2. Team leader in assists, averaging 3.2 per game (13th in Big Ten).
3. Scored in double figures 20 times, led by season-high 25 points vs. Indiana (March 13).
4. Shooting 76.6 percent from the free throw line on the season (111-145).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 879 points.

Nnanna Egwu
1. UI's fifth-leading scorer with 7.0-point average and team leader in rebounds at 6.1 rpg (10th in Big Ten).
2. Big Ten's No. 2 shot blocker is averaging 2.2 blocks, up from average of 1.4 blocks last season.
3. Total of 72 blocks currently ranks second on the UI all-time single-season list.
4. Leads Big Ten in offensive rebounds with average of 2.6 per game.
5. Started 69 of Illinois' last 72 games dating back to the end of his freshman campaign.

Kendrick Nunn
1. Third on team in scoring in Big Ten play, averaging 8.6 points.
2. Averaging 11.7 points over last 10 games as a starter (117).
3. Scored career-high 19 points in first career start at Penn State (Feb. 9) and again at Minnesota (Feb. 19).
4. Shooting 51.6 percent from the field (47-91) and 50 percent from 3-point range (21-42) over last 12 games.
5. Continues tradition of Simeon products wearing No. 25 jersey at Illinois in honor of Ben Wilson (details p. 16).

Malcolm Hill
1. Averaging 6.5 points over last 10 games as a starter (65).
2. Scored a career-high 11 points in first career start at Penn State (Feb. 9).
3. 12 games of seven-plus points, including 10 against Big Ten opponents.
4. Shot 5-7 from field and 4-4 from 3-point range during Big Ten Tournament.
5. Shooting 78.2 percent from the free throw line on the year (43-55).

Joseph Bertrand
1. Team's third-leading scorer is averaging a career-best 8.6 points.
2. Fourth on team in rebounding, averaging 3.9 boards.
3. Shooting 47.8 percent from the field (13th in the Big Ten).
4. Has made 36.7 percent from 3-point range this year after entering season as career 31.3 percent 3-point shooter.
5. Illinois' lone scholarship senior to play entire career with the Orange and Blue.

Jon Ekey
1. Graduate transfer from Illinois State ranks fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.3 points.
2. Knocked down 54 threes for the Illini after making a total of 31 treys last season at ISU.
3. Average of 1.6 threes per game ranks 10th in Big Ten.
4. Illini's third-leading rebounder with average of 5.2 boards (19th in Big Ten).
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 596 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Complete Illinois-Boston University NIT First Round Game Notes (PDF)