Rayvonte Rice left Drake after two seasons to help his hometown team.
Now, the junior guard is the leading scorer at Illinois, averaging 16.7 points and 5.6 rebounds for a team that will try ande and snap a six-game losing streak when it hosts Iowa Saturday.
“He needs some help,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I don’t know if there’s anything he can necessarily do at this point. We want him to be aggressive. But we need some other guys to be a little more consistent with their shotmaking and their scoring than what they’ve done at this juncture.”
Drake coach Mark Phelps signed Rice out of Centennial High School in Champaign. Rice played in 64 games for the Bulldogs, starting 62 times. He set a school freshman scoring record with 428 points (13.8-point average). As a sophomore, he was a second-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection with numbers that are strikingly similar to this year – 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds. He was Drake’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder as a sophomore.
But that’s when Rice decided to pull up stakes and return home. And the homecoming has been a good one in Groce’s eyes.
“Terrific,” Groce said. “He’s done a great job. He’s changed his game, his body, he’s done well academically. I like the growth he’s made as a person. So he’s done fantastic”
Saturday will be Rice’s third shot at the Hawkeyes. He scored 14 points as a freshman when Iowa came to the Knapp Center and won, 59-52.
The following season, the Hawkeyes protected home court with a 82-68 victory. Rice scored 23 points in that game.
Rice has led the Illini in scoring 13 times this season. He scored 20 in Illinois’ most recent game, a 56-46 loss at Indiana on Sunday.
==== BIG TEN BUZZ ====
— Nebraska’s 82-78 victory over Minnesota Sunday represented the most points the Cornhuskers have scored in a Big Ten game ever. Nebraska averaged 57.2 points in its first 26 league games under coach Tim Miles.
— Earlier this month, Ohio State and then Wisconsin were ranked No. 3 nationally. Since then, Ohio State has lost five of six games, Wisconsin four of five.
— Wisconsin won at Northwestern, 76-49, but lost to the Wildcats at home Wednesday for the first time since 1996, 65-56. It’s the first time Wisconsin has lost back-to-back home games since 1998.
— In two road wins, Northwestern held Indiana to 25 percent shooting from the field and Wisconsin to 26.3 percent.
— Penn State’s 71-70 overtime victory at Ohio State Wednesday snapped a string of 18 straight losses to the Buckeyes, and was the Nittany Lions’ first ever in Columbus.
==== BIG 12 BUZZ ====
— Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte has made 14 consecutive free throws. He’s also made 29 straight at Gallagher-Iba Arena this season, and 41 in a row at home going back to the 2012-13 season.
— With its victory against Baylor Saturday, Texas has defeated three consecutive Associated Press Top 25 teams for the first time in school history. At 16-4, the Longhorns have matched their victory total from a season ago.
— Oklahoma has three victories over teams ranked 12th or better over its last six games. The Sooners are 3-1 against Top 10 teams this season.
— Kansas is off to a 7-0 league start for the third season in a row and sixth time under coach Bill Self.
— Iowa State has recorded more assists than turnovers in 18 of 19 games this season. The Cyclones are the only Big 12 team to score at least 70 points in every game this season.
==== BEST BET ON TV ====
Who: Kansas at Texas
Time and TV: 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)
Why it matters: Jayhawks will take a 3-game lead over Longhorns in league standings with a victory.
==== WHERE THE REGISTER’S AT ====
@RickBrownDMR for Iowa at Illinois Saturday
@RandyPete for Oklahoma at Iowa State Saturday
@AndrewMLogue for Indiana State at UNI Saturday
==== THE MARCH TO MARCH ====
IOWA (RPI: 21)
Illinois has been a house of horrors for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has lost 11 straight games there, and 22 of 23.
IOWA STATE (RPI: 11)
Oklahoma has been a surprise team this Big 12 season. Iowa State owes the Sooners one for a loss in Norman earlier this season.
Iowa native Greg Lansing returns to his native state when Indiana State visits Northern Iowa Saturday.
==== SHOT AT THE BUZZER ====
Wichita State made the Final Four last season, and is back in the Top 10 against this season. But apparently, coach Gregg Marshall is not feeling the love. At least not the love he feels he deserves.
After his team won its 21st straight game this season Saturday at Drake, Marshall got out the needle.
“Did the mighty Spartans lose again?” Marshall said as he concluded his post-game news conference.
Michigan State lost to Michigan State that night in East Lansing, 80-75. The Spartans dropped from third to seventh in the Associated Press poll this week. The Shockers moved from fifth to four.
And Marshall looks childish for taking a shot at Michigan State.
Rick Brown has covered college basketball for three decades and is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @ByRickBrown
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball