Men's Basketball
NIT Second Round Notes: Illinois at Clemson

Rayvonte Rice poured in 28 points in the first round NIT win at Boston U.
Rayvonte Rice poured in 28 points in the first round NIT win at Boston U.

 National Invitation Tournament Second Round: Illinois (20-14) at Clemson (21-12)
 When Sunday, March 23, 2014 | 11 a.m. ET/10 CT
 Tournament Info Bracket | Game Program | NIT Website
 Location Clemson, S.C. | Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000) | Seating Map
 Tickets Buy Online
 Television ESPN2 (Rich Hollenberg & LaPhonso Ellis)
 Watch Online WatchESPN
 Illini Sports Network ISN Affiliates | Listen Online (Brian Barnhart & Jerry Hester)
 Live Coverage GameTracker
 Printable Notes Illinois | Clemson | Big Ten
 Season Stats Illinois | Clemson | Big Ten
 Preview Interviews Groce Interview | Joseph Bertrand | Jon Ekey | Rayvonte Rice
 First Round Recap Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Notes | Photos
 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. 10.8 3.5 3.2 2.5 assist/to ratio in 2014 postseason
G 25 Kendrick Nunn 6-3 180 Fr. 6.3 1.7 1.1 Member of B1G All-Frosh Team
G 24 Rayvonte Rice 6-4 235 r-Jr. 15.9 6.1 1.6 28 points (11-14 FG) in win at BU
G 21 Malcolm Hill 6-6 210 Fr. 4.4 2.5 0.7 10 p, 8 r in first round win at BU
F/C 32 Nnanna Egwu 6-11 250 Jr. 6.9 6.0 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. 1.5 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. 7.2 4.9 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 21, 2014

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: John Groce
Career Record: 128-83/.607 (6th year)
At Illinois: 43-27/.614 (2nd year)
Big Ten: 15-21/.417
NIT: 1-0 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. Clemson
All-Time Series Record: Illinois leads 3-1
Record at Clemson: Illinois leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Illinois 76, #18 Clemson 74 (Dec. 2, 2009 at Clemson)
Groce vs. Clemson: First meeting

Fighting Illini Continue NIT Run
On the heels of winning six of its last eight games, the Fighting Illini have advanced to the second round of the NIT. The No. 2 seed, Illinois is unable to host due to the renovation of State Farm Center. So the Orange and Blue head to Clemson, S.C. to face No. 3 seed Clemson on Sunday at 10 a.m. CT on ESPN. The winner of the Illinois-Clemson game advances to the quarterfinals on Tuesday (March 25), facing the winner of Belmont-Robert Morris.

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.

Notes from the NIT First-Round Victory at Boston U. (March 19) // Highlights | Recap | Box Score | Notes | Photos
1. With the 66-62 win, Illinois improved to 7-2 this season and 14-4 under Coach John Groce in games decided by five points or less.

2. Illinois came back from a 17-point deficit to win (30-13 at 5:23 mark of first half), marking the biggest Illini comeback under Groce and the largest since overcoming a 23-point deficit at Clemson on Dec. 2, 2009.

3. Illinois now has five victories this season where it overcame double-digit deficits (10-at UNLV, 11-IPFW, 13-vs. UIC, 11-at Minnesota, 17-at Boston U.), and nine overall under Groce. Six of those nine have come on the road.

4. Illinois has now won four consecutive road games dating back to a 62-49 win at Minnesota on Feb. 19. It marks the longest road winning streak for the Illini since a 14-game streak spanning the 2003-04 (last six road games) and 2004-05 (first eight road games) seasons.

5. Illinois has now limited its opponent to 65 points or less in 19 of its 20 wins this season, and 26 of its last 27 wins dating back to Feb. 10 of last year. The 83-80 win over Indiana on Dec. 31 is the only Illini victory over that span where the opponent topped 65 points.

6. Illinois shot 50 percent from the field (23-of-46), its highest percentage since shooting 52 percent against Dartmouth on Dec. 10. Boston shot 42.6 percent, as the Illini improved to 8-1 this season when shooting better than 45 percent from the field and 14-1 on the season when out-shooting their opponent.

7. The Illini closed the game on a 12-1 run over the final four minutes. After trailing 61-54 with 4:11 left, Tracy Abrams started it with a 3-pointer at the 3:50 mark. Rayvonte Rice later came up with the play of the game, going coast-to-coast after a steal for a layup and-one to cut the deficit to one. After four more points from Rice (two free throws and a layup), Nnanna Egwu sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 10.5 seconds left. The Illinois defense held the Terriers to 0-of-4 shooting and forced two turnovers in the final four minutes.

8. Rayvonte Rice dominated the game, scoring 28 points (one shy of matching his career-high) and pulling down eight rebounds. His 28 points equaled the record by an Illini player in the NIT, first set by Perry Range vs. Long Island in 1982. Rice hit 11-of-14 from the field (.786). The 11 made field goals surpassed his previous career-high of 10 against UIC (Dec. 28), and were the most by Illini since Brandon Paul made 11 baskets against Ohio State on Jan. 10, 2012.

9. Malcolm Hill also had a big game, scoring 10 points (one shy of his career-high) and pulling down a career-high eight rebounds in 20 minutes.

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 8-4 all-time in the NIT.

• Sunday marks the third time that Illinois will play a road game in the NIT. Illinois owns an all-time NIT record of 5-3 at home, 2-0 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.

• Prior to Wednesday's contest at Boston, the Illinois roster consisted of three players who had experienced the NIT, but none 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, Rayvonte Rice at Boston U. (2014) & 28, Perry Range vs. Long Island (1982)
Field Goals: 13, Perry Range vs. Long Island (1982)
FG Pct (min 6): .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): .400 (4-10) D.J. Richardson at Stony Brook (2010)
Free Throws: 11, Kiwane Garris vs. Alabama (1996)
FT Pct (min 8): 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.: .471 (8-17) at Boston U. (2014)
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. 19-21 here.

Another 20-Win Season for the Illini
Illinois' victory at Boston U. was its 20th of the season. Illinois has now recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons in the first two years under Coach John Groce, as well as its fifth 20-win season in the last six years, 13th in the last 15 years, and 31st all-time.

Standing Out in the Postseason
Rayvonte Rice is averaging 17.3 points (52) and shooting 55.6 percent from the field (20-36).

Tracy Abrams is averaging 13.7 points (41) and 5.7 rebounds (17) and has a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio (10/4).

Malcolm Hill is averaging 8.7 points (26) and shooting 61.5 percent the field (8-13) and perfect 5-of-5 on threes.

Jon Ekey is shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range (5-11).

Nnanna Egwu is averaging 3.3 offensive rebounds (10).

• The Illini are shooting 45 percent from the field (67-149), 38.8 percent from 3-point range (19-49) and 81.6 percent on free throws (40-49). Those are significant improvements over Illinois' season averages of 41.2 percent from the field, 32.3 percent from three and 73.2 percent from the line.

• Illinois owns a rebounding margin of +5.3.

Illini Items
• The Illini are allowing an average of 62.5 points per game on the season (second in Big Ten, 24th in NCAA).

• Illinois ranks 18th nationally in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency (94.2).

• In its last eight wins, Illini opponents have averaged just 54.1 points (433).

• Illinois has made at least six 3-pointers in each of its last eight victories, averaging 7.5 made threes per game in those eight wins (60).

• In its last six wins, the Illini have made 43.4 percent from 3-point land (46-106).

• Illinois has a combined record of 10-8 this season in road (6-6) and neutral (4-2) games. This is the second straight year the Illini have been above .500 in that category after going 11-9 in road/neutral games last season.

• Illinois' winning percentage of .556 in road/neutral games is its best in five years, since posting a .588 win percentage in road/neutral games in 2009 (10-7).

• Illinois carries a four-game road winning streak and has won five of its last six on the road. The Illini have now won six road games on the season, most for the program since winning seven road games in 2010.

• The Illini are 7-2 on the season in games decided by five points or less, and 14-4 overall under Coach John Groce. The 64-63 defeat to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament marked the UI's lone loss by one or two points in Groce's UI tenure (now 8-1).

• Illinois is 9-2 this season and 23-4 overall under Groce when reaching the 70-point marker.

• Illinois has either led or been tied with seven minutes or less in seven of its losses.

• Illinois won four of its last five regular-season games. It marked the first time in eight years that the Illini ended Big Ten play by winning four of its last five (2006).

• Three of those four wins came on the road, as Illinois won its last three road games of the Big Ten season for the first time in 10 years, since the 2004 UI squad won its final six away from home.

• With victories at No. 18 Michigan State (March 1) and No. 24 Iowa (March 8), the Illini recorded consecutive road wins over ranked opponents for the first time in nine years, since the No. 1 Illini won at No. 18 Wisconsin (Jan. 25, 2005) and No. 12 Michigan State (Feb. 1, 2005).

• Illinois won four road games and three home games during Big Ten play. This is the first time since 1999 that the Illini recorded more road wins than home wins in conference action.

• Prior to the Michigan game on March 4, Illinois' defense held four straight opponents to less than 50 points. It marked the first time since the 1947 Big Ten season that the Illini held four consecutive league foes below 50 points (Jan. 6-25, 1947).

• Over that four-game stretch (Feb. 15-March 1), Illini opponents averaged just 48.0 points.

Illini Player Trends
Rayvonte Rice has scored in double figures in seven straight games, and 12 of the last 14. The 28-point outing at Boston marked his highest scoring total in 20 games (29 vs. Indiana on Dec. 31) and his first 20-point game since tallying 23 at Nebraska on Feb. 12.

Joseph Bertrand has averaged 9.0 points (18) on 53.8 percent shooting (7-13) over the last two games.

Jon Ekey is averaging 7.3 points (29) and shooting 53.3 percent from 3-point range (8-15) over the last four games.

Kendrick Nunn is averaging 10.8 points (119) over his last 11 games in the starting lineup. He has scored in double figures seven times as a starter, including six of the last eight games. • Malcolm Hill has made nine of has last 13 three-point attempts (69.2 percent) over the last seven games.

Nnanna Egwu is the Big Ten's No. 2 shot blocker (53rd in NCAA), averaging 2.1 bpg. His season total of 73 blocks currently ranks second on the Illini all-time single-season list. Egwu now ranks fifth on the UI career blocks list with 141.

• Egwu leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounding (2.6 rpg). He has totaled 15 over the last four games.

Tracy Abrams has averaged 5.5 rebounds over the last four games (22).

A Look Back at the Last Meeting: Illini 76, #18 Clemson 74 (Dec. 2, 2009 at Littlejohn Coliseum) // Recap | Box Score

The Last Meeting
December 2, 2009
Clemson, S.C.
Illinois Upsets No. 18 Clemson 76-74
Mike Tisdale hit the go-ahead jumper with 41 seconds left then blocked David Potter's driving shot on No. 18 Clemson's next possession as Illinois rallied from 23 points down for a 76-74 victory Wednesday night.

Illinois' comeback was one for the ages in a 76-74 victory at Clemson in the 2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Illini were down 20 points at halftime and trailed by as many as 23 early in the second half. But the Illini pulled together and went on to perform the biggest come-from-behind win in school history.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the comeback was how quickly it happened. The Illini still trailed 60-41 with 14:35 left. But over the next 5:48, the Orange and Blue went on a 22-to-1 run to take a 63-61 lead with 8:47 remaining.

There were two ties and four lead changes down the stretch. Mike Tisdale hit a driving layup to put the Illini up 75-74 with 41 seconds left. Tisdale then blocked a shot on the defensive end and Brandon Paul hit one free throw with :8.4 remaining to make it a 2-point lead. Demontez Stitt missed a runner on Clemson's final possession.

Mike Davis led the Illini with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds. Brandon Paul scored 20 and D.J. Richardson added 14.

The previous largest margin for an Illini comeback was 21 points against Seton Hall on Dec. 9, 2000.

Five Facts on the Following Illini

Rayvonte Rice
1. Big Ten's eighth-leading scorer with average of 15.9 points.
2. Also leads Illini in rebounds (6.1 rpg, 10th in Big Ten) and steals (1.6 spg, sixth in Big Ten).
3. Has been the UI's top scorer in 20 games.
4. Scored in double figures in last seven games and all but four on the year, with 10, 20-plus point performances.
5. Big Ten's No. 5 active career scoring leader with 1,523 points (includes two seasons at Drake).

Tracy Abrams
1. Second on team in scoring with career-best 10.8-point average.
2. Team leader in assists, averaging 3.2 per game (12th in Big Ten).
3. Scored in double figures 20 times, led by season-high 25 points vs. Indiana (March 13).
4. Shooting 76.9 percent from the free throw line on the season (113-147).
5. Illini's active career scoring leader with 884 points.

Nnanna Egwu
1. UI's fifth-leading scorer with 6.9-point average and second on team in rebounds at 6.0 rpg (11th in Big Ten).
2. Big Ten's No. 2 shot blocker is averaging 2.1 blocks, up from average of 1.4 blocks last season.
3. Total of 73 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 70 of Illinois' last 73 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 10.8 points over last 11 games as a starter (119).
3. Scored career-high 19 points in first career start at Penn State (Feb. 9) and again at Minnesota (Feb. 19).
4. Shooting 51.1 percent from the field (48-94) and 48.8 percent from 3-point range (21-43) over last 13 games.
5. Continues tradition of Simeon products wearing No. 25 jersey at Illinois in honor of Ben Wilson (details p. 17).

Malcolm Hill
1. Averaging 6.8 points over last 11 games as a starter (75).
2. Averaging 8.7 points (26) and 4.7 rpg (14) in three postseason games.
3. Scored career-high 11 points in first career start at Penn State (Feb. 9).
4. 13 games of seven-plus points, including 10 against Big Ten opponents.
5. Shooting 78 percent from the free throw line on the year (46-59).

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 (11th in the Big Ten).
4. Has made 38.5 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 7.2 points.
2. Knocked down 56 threes for the Illini after making a total of 31 treys last season at ISU.
3. Average of 1.6 threes per game ranks ninth in Big Ten.
4. Illini's third-leading rebounder with average of 4.9 boards.
5. Big Ten's No. 6 active career rebounding leader with 599 boards (includes three seasons at ISU).

Complete Illinois-Clemson Game Notes (PDF)