Purdue @ Illinois

<p>FIGHTING ILLINI BASKETBALL <p>ESPN Plus Regional Television 3:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 2004 Champaign, Ill. Assembly Hall (16,500)

Purdue leads the all-time series 84-77 over Illinois, but the Illini enjoy a 51-29 advantage in games played in Champaign. The teams split the season series last year, with the Illini winning 75-62 Jan. 22 at the Assembly Hall and Purdue winning 70-61 Feb. 15 at Mackey Arena.

Home Cookin'

Illinois is 45-1 (.978) at the Assembly Hall over the last three-and-a-half years, with the only loss coming to Michigan State in 2002 ... Since then, the Illini have won 23 straight at the Hall, a winning streak that ranks fourth nationally behind Pittsburgh (35), Duke (34) and Creighton (24) ... Illinois is 57-2 (.966) at the Assembly Hall over the past four-and-a-half seasons, the best home record in the nation over that period ...The Illini have also won 31 in a row at the Assembly Hall against non-conference opponents.

Reunion for Illini Coaches

There will be plenty of familiar faces on the Purdue bench for Illini head coach Bruce Weber and assistant coach Jay Price. Weber began his coaching career as an assistant at Western Kentucky under then-coach Gene Keady during the 1979-80 season. Weber then followed Keady to Purdue where he spent the next 18 years as an assistant coach in West Lafayette before taking the head job at Southern Illinois in 1998. Prior to joining the Illinois staff as an assistant this season, Price worked 10 years (1994-2003) as an assistant coach at Purdue under Keady. Price served as the recruiting coordinator for the majority of Purdue's current roster.

Air Rog Takes Off

Junior Roger Powell leads the team in scoring and ranks second in rebounding, averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. He ranks second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, shooting 64.4 percent from the field (67-104), and is second on the team with 32 offensive rebounds.

Powell recorded the first double-double of his Illinois career against Mercer on Nov. 26, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 10 rebounds. He followed up that performance than with another double-double in his next outing vs. Temple. Powell scored 19 points and matched his career high with 10 boards. He then scored a season-high 20 points against North Carolina Dec. 2. He has scored in double figures eight times this season.

Last year in Big Ten play, Powell led the league in field-goal shooting at 64.1 percent and was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team after helping the Illini to the title.

"Chainsaw" Strengthens UI Frontcourt Nick Smith, a 7-foot-2-inch junior, has started four games this season and is averaging 8.5 points. He is also third on the team with 4.6 rebounds per game. He has scored in double figures in five games, with a career-high 22 points in in the win over Ohio State Wednesday. Smith had a perfect shooting day, hitting all six of his field goal attempts, including a 3-pointer, and 9-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. Smith also had a career high in rebounds against the Buckeyes with nine boards. Smith scored 14 points to help lead the Illini to a come-from-behind win over Illinois State on Jan 3. Smith was huge in the clutch, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the final eight minutes of the game and overtime. He shot a perfect 8-of-8 from the line, which included a pair of free throws with :19 left to send the game into overtime. Smith also came up big and the end of Illinois' win over Missouri Dec. 23. He recorded an assist on James Augustine's layup that gave the Illini a 69-67 lead with under one minute to play and then came up with a steal on Missouri's next possession. Smith finished the game with six points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Last year, he put up some impressive numbers off the bench in Big Ten play. In 16 conference games, Smith shot 67.3 percent (33-49) from the field, made 4-of-6 treys, and shot 90.5 percent (19-21) from the free-throw line. Smith averaged 5.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in the league while averaging 18.8 minutes per game. He led the Illini and ranked seventh in the Big Ten with 38 blocked shots. Smith was Illinois' top free throw shooter, making 38-of-44 from the line for 86.4 percent on the season.

The Graduate Nick Smith earned a bachelor's degree in finance this past December, graduating from Illinois' College of Business in three-and-a-half years. Smith is in the process of deciding upon a graduate program and will begin work on his master's degree when classes begin Jan. 20.

Randle an Early Contributor

Freshman Brian Randle was in the starting lineup in his first two games and has also started the last five. He is averaging 19.1 minutes per game on the season. In his first game, he responded with eight points and a team-high three steals and had six points and five boards in the second. Against North Carolina, Randle had seven points and five rebounds, and he scored five points with six rebounds vs. Memphis. Against UIC, Randle just missed a double-double with nine points and a career-high 11 rebounds. In Wednesday's game vs. Ohio State, Randle reached double figures for the first time with a career-high 10 points. On the season, he is averaging 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, while shooting over 57 percent from the field. Randle is also fourth on the team with 11 steals.

Story: Courtesy of the Illinois Sports Information Department

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