Game 2 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. Jacksonville State
Nov. 9, 2013
Series Notes vs. Jacksonville State
Notes from Friday's Season-Opening Win Over Alabama State
2. Illinois won its 23rd straight non-conference game at State Farm Center, and extended its home court winning streak in regular-season non-conference games to 34 in a row.
3. Junior Rayvonte Rice tallied a team-high 22 points, equaling the most points in an Illini debut since Brandon Paul scored 22 points against SIU-Edwardsville to open the 2009-10 season. Rice also had nine rebounds and shot 9-of-10 from the free throw line in his first regular season game for the Orange and Blue.
4. When including his production from Drake, Rice topped the 1,000-career point mark against Alabama State. Rice scored 983 points at Drake, entering Friday night 17 shy of 1,000. He recorded the 17th of his 22 points on the first of two free throws with 14:20 remaining in the second half.
5. Junior Nnanna Egwu registered the second consecutive double-double of his career with 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Egwu recorded his first double-double in the final game last season with 12 points and 12 rebounds versus Miami in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
6. Seven of Egwu's 10 rebounds came on the offensive end. That equaled his career best, as he also had seven offensive boards against Miami in last year's NCAA Tournament.
7. Senior Joseph Bertrand also scored in double figures with 14 points along with eight boards. It marked his best offensive performance since tallying a season-high 17 points last year against Wisconsin (Feb. 3).
8. In all, the trio of Rice, Egwu and Bertrand combined for 46 points on 16-of-27 shooting with 27 rebounds.
9. The Illini dominated the boards, outrebounding Alabama State 52-28. It was Illinois' highest rebounding total since grabbing 54 vs. Loyola-Md. on Dec. 28, 2007. The UI's +24 rebound margin against the Hornets, meanwhile, was its largest advantage on the glass since +29 (48-19) against Presbyterian on Nov. 21, 2009.
10. Much of Illinois' aggressiveness on the boards occurred on the offensive glass. Illinois collected 20 of its own misses, turning those into 22 points. The Illini enjoyed a +20 advantage in second-chance points (22-2), its largest margin in that statistic since +23 (31-18) versus Duke in Maui on Nov. 20, 2007.
11. While the Illini shot just 4-of-20 from beyond the arc, the Orange and Blue shot 23-of-41 (56.1 percent) on two-pointers.
12. All 11 available players on the roster logged double-figure minutes and entered the scoring column. The seven players who made their UI debut combined for 41 of Illinois' 80 points: Rice (22), Malcolm Hill (7), Austin Colbert (4), Kendrick Nunn, Maverick Morgan, Jaylon Tate and Jon Ekey (2 each).
13. For the second straight year, the Orange Krush student section and Illini fans at State Farm Center paid tribute to Coach Groce's alma mater, Taylor University, in a unique way. The Krush replicated Taylor's famous tradition of "Silent Night," where the entire gym remains silent from tip-off until the Trojans score their 10th point. When that 10th point is scored, the crowd then erupts into a wild celebration. The Illini faithful executed their version, called "Orange Hush", staying quiet for the Illini's first eight points before erupting in cheers when senior Joseph Bertrand hit a baseline jumper at the 16:04 mark for Illinois' ninth and tenth points of the game.
New Look Illini
The Illini lost their top two scorers from last year's squad in Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, and are without five of the top eight scorers overall. In fact, Illinois returns just 36.1 percent of its points, 36.7 percent of its rebounds and 38.4 percent of its minutes played from the 2012-13 campaign.
But while there are many new faces in the locker room, Groce's second Illini squad also includes key veterans whose experience will lead the way into the 2013-14 season.
Abrams showed rapid improvement as a sophomore, increasing his scoring average by more than six points to rank third on the team in scoring with an average of 10.6 points per game. Abrams scored in double figures 22 times, led by a career-high 27-point outing against Auburn at the United Center to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors. In addition to his improved scoring, Abrams also led the Illini in assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.4 spg), ranking among Big Ten leaders in both categories.
Like Abrams, Egwu also made major strides during his sophomore season. Starting all but one game, Egwu averaged 6.5 points and led the Illini in rebounding with an average of 4.9 boards. He also ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 49 blocked shots. Egwu recorded his first career double-double in his last appearance, totaling 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds against Miami in the NCAA Tournament. Egwu spent the summer bulking up, adding nearly 20 pounds to his frame.
One of just two seniors on the squad suiting up this season - and the only one who has spent his entire career with the Illini - Bertrand brings athleticism and a wealth of experience to the roster. He ranked fourth on the team in scoring (7.3 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.1 rpg) while shooting better than 50 percent on the season.
Walk-on Mike LaTulip made impressive strides in the offseason both in the weight room and with conditioning. Known for his shooting, LaTulip also could be looked upon to provide depth at the point guard.
Ekey Adds Experience
Groce Lands Star Class in First Year
Nunn is a top-75 recruit who helped lead Chicago Simeon to four straight state titles. An exceptional athlete, he averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds as a senior, earning All-State honors. Nunn also has experience at the international level, winning gold medals with USA Basketball at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in 2011 and the FIBA U17 Wold Championship in 2012.
Hill also is a top-75 recruit who put up incredible numbers at Belleville East. He averaged 25.3 points as a senior and is East's all-time leading scorer with 2,067 career points. Hill was a consensus all-state selection and finished third in voting for Illinois Mr. Basketball. He has the ability to score in various ways from different spots on the court.
Tate teamed up with Nunn on Simeon's state championship teams each of the last two seasons. The floor leader led Simeon in assists with an average of 7.3 per game while also contributing 8.3 points per contest. Tate is a true point guard known for his competitiveness and ability to create for teammates.
While the three freshmen on the perimeter all hail from the state of Illinois, the staff went east to sign their frontcourt. Colbert is a top-100 recruit who averaged 12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks at Gill St. Bernard's in New Jersey. Standing 6-9 and with a long wing span, Colbert is an athletic, versatile forward.
Morgan averaged 24.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a senior at Springboro High School, just outside of Dayton, Ohio. He was named Ohio's Division I Player of the Year by the Ohio Basketball Coaches Association. The 6-10, 250-pound Morgan already has a solid frame and will provide a physical presence and depth in the post.
Trio of Transfers Await their Time
Starks played the last three seasons at Oregon State. He was a career double-figure scorer (10.2 ppg) and left as the Beavers all-time leader in 3-point field goals with 185. Illinois petitioned the NCAA to grant Starks immediate eligibility, but his hardship waiver was denied. Starks will have one season remaining next year.
Cosby was a two-year starter at Seton Hall, and like Starks, a career-double figure scorer. Cosby averaged 10.1 points for the Pirates and drained 132 three-pointers while shooting nearly 39 percent from behind the arc. Cosby will have two seasons of eligibility left beginning next year.
The younger brother of former UI star Brandon Paul, Darius Paul had an excellent first season at Western Michigan, earning Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. Paul will have three seasons to play with the Illini starting next year.