* Among the 10 highest-rated conferences in the RPI, Illinois' 10-game winning streak ranks as the longest current streak.
* Illinois' 10-game conference winning streak is its longest since 1955 and 1956 when the Illini won 13 straight spanning the final three Big Ten games in 1955 and the first 10 Big Ten games in 1956.
* Illinois won its last six Big Ten road games, its longest road winning streak since 1955 and 1956 when the Illini also won six straight spanning the final two Big Ten road games in 1955 and the first four Big Ten road games in 1956.
* Illinois went undefeated in the month of February, winning all seven of its games. This marked Illinois' first perfect February in 50 years, since the 1954 Illini also went 7-0 in the month of February.
* Bruce Weber is just the sixth coach in the Big Ten since 1951 (when Michigan State joined the league) to defeat every other conference team in his first season. The other five coaches to accomplish this feat were Indiana's Bob Knight in 1972, Iowa's Tom Davis in 1987, Penn State's Jerry Dunn in 1996, Illinois' Bill Self in 2001 and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan in 2002.
* Illinois is the only Big Ten team this season to defeat all four conference opponents it played just once. This is the third time in seven seasons (since inception of Big Ten Tournament) that the Illini have swept the four "single" games. The previous two times came in 1998 and 2001, when the Illini went on to win shares of the Big Ten title. Weber is the 11th coach in Big Ten history to win at least a share of the conference title in his first season. He is the third Illini rookie coach to win the league, following Doug Mills in 1937 and Bill Self in 2001.
Four Illini Earn All-Big Ten Honors
Four Fighting Illini earned All-Big Ten honors this season by both the coaches and media. Sophomore guard Deron Williams earned First-Team status, sophomore guard Dee Brown was named to the Second-Team, and, sophomore center James Augustine and junior forward Roger Powell both earned Honorable-Mention honors.
Big Ten Tournament Notes...
* Illinois enters the Big Ten Tournament as a No. 1 seed for the second time in tournament history. The Illini also earned the top seed in 2001 after tying Michigan State for the regular-season title.
* Illinois has the most all-time Big Ten Tournament wins (11) and the best all-time Big Ten Tournament winning percentage (.688, 11-5).
* Illinois is the only school to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals in each of the six previous tournaments.
* Iowa and Michigan are the only two schools Illinois has not faced in the Big Ten Tournament. As the No. 4 and 5 seeds, both are potential matchups for the Illini should Illinois advance to the semifinals.
Williams Joins Elite Company
With an average of 6.12 assists per game, Illini sophomore Deron Williams led the Big Ten in assists in conference play for the second straight year after finishing first as a freshman with 4.8 assists per game. A First-Team All-Big Ten selection, Williams is the first player to top the conference in back-to-back seasons since Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves was the league-leader in three straight campaigns from 1998-2000. Williams also became just the third Big Ten player ever to lead the league in assists in each of his first two seasons, joining Michigan State's Magic Johnson (1978-79) and Illinois' Bruce Douglas (1983-84).
Last Time Out
Illinois wrapped up its first outright Big Ten Championship since 1952 and won its 10th-straight game with a thrilling 64-63 victory at Ohio State Sunday in the regular-season finale. The Illini built a 17-point lead in the second half only to see the Buckeyes catch fire and move to within one point on Tony Stockman's 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds remaining. Following a missed free throw, OSU's Brandon Fuss-Cheatham worked the ball upcourt but lost control of the ball as time expired. Dee Brown led the Illini with 18 points, while Deron Williams had 14 points and six assists and Luther Head added 13 points.
Williams Finds His Name Among League's Best as First-Team All-Big Ten
Deron Williams was rewarded for his outstanding season by being named to the All-Big Ten First-Team. Williams returned from a double jaw fracture in December after missing three games to lead the Illini in scoring and lead the Big Ten in assists for the second-consecutive season.
In Illinois' win over Wisconsin Feb. 18, Williams led all scorers with a career-high 31 points to help pull the Illini closer to the top of the Big Ten standings. He shot 9-of-18 from the field against the Badgers, which included a career-high five 3-pointers and career-best 8-for-8 shooting from the foul line.
In the March 3 victory at Purdue, Williams recorded his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 assists. Williams has claimed the Big Ten assists crown for the second straight year, becoming just the third player in league history to lead the conference in assists in each of his first two seasons, following Michigan State's Magic Johnson and Illinois career-leader Bruce Douglas.
In a win over Iowa Jan. 17, Williams scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out four assists. He followed that performance with 12 points and eight assists in a win over Penn State Jan. 21. In Illinois' win over Michigan (Jan. 31), Williams scored 15 and led the team with five rebounds and five assists. He then erupted for 12 second-half points and had a game-high six assists in a win at Indiana (Feb. 3).
Williams recorded his second career double-double at Minnesota Feb. 8, scoring a team-high 19 points and dishing out a career-high 11 assists. He followed that with 15 points and six assists in the win over Michigan State Feb. 10. Williams has scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games with 12 points vs. Penn State (Feb. 21), 13 points vs. Iowa (Feb. 25) and 13 points vs. Northwestern (Feb. 28). Williams added seven assists and six boards against the Hawkeyes and had a game-high eight assists and six rebounds vs. the Wildcats.
The sophomore missed three games (Memphis, Missouri and Illinois-Chicago) due to a fractured jaw that occurred Dec. 11 against Maryland-Eastern Shore after running into a screen early in the second half. Williams had surgery on Dec. 12 to repair the double fracture and made a successful return to the court Jan. 3 vs. Illinois State. With his jaw still wired shut and making it difficult to breath, Illinois coaches hoped to get Williams a maximum of 18-20 minutes of playing time. But he defied those odds, coming off the bench to play 34 minutes. Williams fueled the Illini comeback against ISU, leading the team with 20 points, including four 3-pointers. He also had four rebounds and three assists in his first game-action in nearly one month.
Williams has been turning heads with his sensational play during his sophomore season. He leads the team and ranks ninth in the Big Ten in scoring (13.9 ppg) and has scored in double figures in 19 of 24 games. His scoring average so far is more than double his freshman average of 6.3 points. He scored a then-career-high 22 points vs. North Carolina (Dec. 2) and topped that with his 31-point in the win over Wisconsin (Feb. 18). Williams is shooting over 41 percent from the field (117-283) and leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage at 38.8 percent (52-134). While his scoring has improved dramatically, Williams remains an unselfish player with the ball in his hands, leading the Big Ten with 6.12 assists per game. He is also shooting 83.9 percent from the free-throw line, making 47-of-56. Williams had a streak of 26 consecutive free throws come to and end vs. Penn State on Feb. 21.
What Can Brown Do For You?
With apologies to UPS, sophomore guard Dee Brown, nicknamed the "One-Man Fast Break," has delivered a solid second season for the Illini, earning All-Big Ten Second-Team honors. Brown is second on the team and 15th in the Big Ten in scoring at 13.1 points, while leading the team in steals (38) and ranking second in the league in assists (4.6 avg.). He's also third on the team in rebounding at 3.9 per game.
Brown was named to the preseason All-Big Ten squad by both the media and coaches and was the preseason Player of the Year by the media. Wisconsin's Devin Harris was the preseason player of the year as voted by the coaches. Brown was also named to the 12-man Playboy Magazine All-America squad and was one of 50 players on the Wooden Award All-America preseason watch list. Brown is the fourth-consecutive Illini to earn league preseason player of the year honors following Cory Bradford in 2001, Frank Williams in 2002 and Brian Cook in 2003.
Brown has been on a scoring tear the past five games, averaging 19.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists, while shooting 52 percent (17-33) from 3-point range. Brown erupted for a season-high 24 points vs. Penn State on Feb. 21, just one point shy of his career high. He made 8-13 from the field, including 6-10 from 3-point range. Brown's six treys were a career high and tied the most 3-pointers by a Big Ten player this season.
Brown showcased his all-around game in a win at Iowa Feb. 25. He scored 18 points and dished out a season-high 10 assists to record his first career double-double, while also pulling down seven boards.
He then scored a game-high 20 points vs. Northwestern Feb. 28. He made 7-of-10 shots, including 5-for-7 from 3-point land.
Brown had 15 points and tied his career high with seven rebounds in the March 3 win at Purdue, and followed with a team-high 18 points and six boards in the victory over Ohio State March 7. Brown stands among the Big Ten's Top 10 players in four categories, ranking second with 4.6 assists per game, third with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.21, seventh with 2.1 three-pointers per game and 10th with 1.4 steals per game. He has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 17 outings entering postseason play.
Brown has had a season-high four steals vs. UIC (Dec. 30), Ohio State (Jan. 7) and Wisconsin (Feb. 18). He has made at least four treys in six games this year, highlighted by his career-high six threes vs. Penn State (Feb. 21).
Last year, he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and third-team honors from the coaches, and earned a spot on the first-ever Big Ten All-Freshman team. Brown was second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.0 points. He led the Big Ten in assists (all games) with 4.97 per game and also led the league with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.56. One of the quickest guards in America, Brown's 1.78 steals per game led the team and ranked third in the Big Ten.
In Big Ten Conference games only, Brown totaled 76 assists with only 25 turnovers, leading the conference with an assist/turnover ratio of 3.04 in league play.
Head Heating Up
Junior Luther Head has been a consistent scorer this season, ranking fourth on the team with 10.7 points per game. He has scored at least nine points in 17 of 23 games, with 12 games in double figures. The Illini are 17-1 in games Head has started. He scored 16 points in his first start of the year vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting vs. UIC, and scored 15 points against Illinois State. Head made four-of-five shots, including three 3-pointers, and scored 13 points in the win over Iowa Jan. 17. He grabbed a career-high nine rebounds to go along with eight points in the win over Penn State Jan. 21.
Head led all scorers with 18 points in an Illini victory over Michigan Jan. 31, hitting five-of-eight three point attempts. He also led all scorers with 17 points, making five three-pointers, in the win over Michigan State Feb. 10. Head scored 14 points while nailing four treys at Penn State (Feb. 21) and had 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and a career-high 10 rebounds at Iowa on Feb. 25, recording his first career double-double.
March 3 at Purdue, Head tied his career high with 19 points, none bigger than his game-winning putback with nine-tenths of a second left in overtime that gave Illinois a share of the Big Ten championship. He also added a career-high eight assists against the Boilermakers.
Story courtesy of the U of I SID