Game 9 Notes & Links: Illinois vs. Auburn
Dec. 7, 2013
Series Notes vs. Auburn
Illinois is in the midst of a stretch of five out of six games away from home to wrap up the non-conference. The UI's lone contest at State Farm Center prior to the start of Big Ten play is next Tuesday vs. Dartmouth.
Sunday's game at Philips Arena - home of the Atlanta Hawks - is the first of five neutral-site games for the Illini at professional venues. The Illini face Oregon on Dec. 14 at Moda Center, home to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Braggin' Rights game vs. Missouri will once again be held at Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues. Illinois makes its annual appearance in Chicago on Dec. 28 vs. UIC at the United Center, home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. The Big Ten Tournament, meanwhile, will be held March 13-16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.
Junior transfer Rayvonte Rice is the first Illini newcomer to score in double figures in each of his first eight games since Kiwane Garris did so in his first 10 games as a freshman in 1993-94. Rice is one of only two Big Ten players to score at least 12 points in every game this year, along with Penn State's D.J. Newbill.
Rice has led the Illini in scoring in each of the last three games, averaging 22.0 points.
Rice is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four games (10-25), after shooting 17.6 percent behind the arc over the first four games (3-17).
Rice has collected 10 steals over the last four games after combining for one steal through the first four games.
Jon Ekey grabbed a game-high nine boards Tuesday at Georgia Tech, his most rebounds in the last five games and his second-highest total this season.
Joseph Bertrand is shooting 63.6 percent from 3-point range this season (7-11) after entering his senior season as a career 31.1 percent shooter from behind the arc (20-64).
Nnanna Egwu has recorded at least two blocked shots in all but one game this year.
The starting five has clearly carried the scoring load, combining for 80.7 percent of Illinois' points on the season (460 of 570).
Freshman Jaylon Tate leads the Big Ten with an assist/turnover ratio of 5.2 (31 assists, 6 turnovers). Over the last three games, Tate has totaled 13 assists with only two turnovers, a 6.5 ratio.
Illinois ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 58.2 points per game. The Illini are 14th in the nation, meanwhile, in field goal percentage defense at 37 percent.
This is the first time in eight seasons that Illinois has held each of its first eight opponents to less than 70 points, since the 2005-06 UI squad did so in the first 16 games.
Illinois has rebounded 40.8 percent of its misses, ranking 14th in the nation in offensive rebound percentage.
Illinois has converted 20 points off its opponent's turnovers in each of the last two game after scoring an average of 11.2 points off of turnovers through the first six games.
Back-to-back two-point wins at UNLV and over IPFW followed by a three-point loss at Georgia Tech marked the first time Illinois has been involved in three straight games decided by three points or less since the 1991-92 season when the Illini lost by one at Minnesota (53-54, Jan. 25), by two to Ohio State (72-74, Jan. 30) and by three at Northwestern (43-46, Feb. 1).
In addition to television coverage, the Illinois-Auburn game also will be streamed online at ESPN3.com.
Looking Back at Last Year's Illinois-Auburn Game
12th-ranked Illinois snapped a three-game losing streak at Chicago's United Center, defeating Auburn by the score of 81-79 on Dec. 29 to conclude non-conference play with a record of 13-1.
Illinois entered the game averaging an NCAA-best 9.8 three-pointers per game, but made just four treys against the Tigers. Instead, the Illini were aggressive driving to the basket and drawing fouls. That resulted in 27 points at the foul line on 40 attempts, the most free throw attempts by the UI since 2008.
Illinois forced 20 Auburn turnovers and turned that into a 19-6 advantage in points-off-turnovers. That helped the Illini overcome a 39-31 rebounding deficit and 24-7 deficit in second chance points.
Tracy Abrams led the way with career highs of 27 points and eight rebounds to go along with game highs of five assists and four steals. Brandon Paul also scored in double figures, finishing with 13 points.
Two days after his performance against the Tigers, Abrams was named Big Ten Player of the Week.
Last Time Out: Georgia Tech 67, Illini 64 (Dec. 3)
For most of the night, the Illini looked to be on their way to extending both streaks. Illinois enjoyed a 26-17 lead before the Yellow Jackets finished the half on a 19-7 run over the last 5:08 to take a 36-33 advantage into the break. Illinois regained control and jumped out ahead by double figures, leading by as many as 12 points at 60-48. But Georgia Tech ended on another tear, outscoring the Illini 19-4 over the final 6:22 to claim the victory.
The Jackets scored 12 unanswered to tie the game at 60 with 1:48 left. Illinois broke its scoring drought on an and-1 baseline jumper by Nnanna Egwu and followed with a free throw by Tracy Abrams to make it 64-60. Georgia Tech closed to within one on a Robert Carter 3-pointer, and following a UI turnover, Daniel Miller scored what proved to be the game-winning basket after Joseph Bertrand missed a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining.
Rayvonte Rice led the Illini in scoring for the third consecutive game, pouring in a game-high 24 points
Rice Earns Big Ten Player of the Week Honors
Rice registered a season-high 25 points in Illinois' come-from-behind win at UNLV. He scored the game-winner with 28 seconds left, breaking a 59-all tie with a driving lay-up over two UNLV defenders. He did it all against the Rebels, collecting a team-best 10 rebounds to record his first double-double with the Illini to go along with a season-high four steals.
Rice was the game's high scorer for the second straight contest, tallying 17 points in Illinois' comeback win over IPFW. He also had six rebounds and two steals, including one in the closing seconds with the Illini leading by two to preserve the victory.
Getting it Done on D
Owning the Glass
Much of that work has been done on the offensive glass. Illinois is averaging an impressive 14.9 offensive boards - ranking second in the conference - and converting an average of 13.5 points per game on second-chance opportunities. The UI's offensive rebound rate of 40.8 percent ranks 14th nationally. The Illini have four players collecting more than two offensive rebounds per game, led by Jon Ekey (2.9 oreb/g) and followed by Joseph Bertrand (2.5 oreb/g), Nnanna Egwu (2.4 oreb/g) and Rayvonte Rice (2.3 oreb/g).
The Illini led Valparaiso by two - 49-47, with five minutes left before going on a 13-1 run as part of a 15-5 spree to close the game. Illinois led Chicago State by four, - 55-51 with eight to go, before igniting a 22-2 run to end the game that included no CSU field goals. Illinois trailed UNLV by six - 51-57 with six minutes remaining, but closed the game on a 10-2 run and held the Rebels scoreless on their home floor over the final 4:16. And while not as dramatic a run, the Illini also pulled away from IPFW late. Illinois trailed 53-52 with under three to play before rattling off five unanswered points to seal the win. IPFW scored a basket with 1.6 left for its only points in the last 2:58.
Top of the League
Junior Rayvonte Rice ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 18.0 points. He has scored at least 12 points in all eight games, topping 20 on three occasions.
Junior Nnanna Egwu is the conference's No. 3 shot blocker, averaging 2.6 per game. Egwu was fourth in that category a year ago (1.4 bpg) and has picked up the pace this season, totaling 20 blocks through eight games.