But those are not the only reasons that the Illini have improved so much in the past three weeks.
Freshman Kendrick Nunn is averaging 12.2 points and 2.1 assists per game since being inserted as a starter, while Malcom Hill, who also entered the starting lineup in the road win at Penn State, has had three double-digit scoring games and junior center Nnanna Egwu has averaged 9.2 points during that last five games.
"Before, we maybe didn't have someone that consistently or multiple guys that could consistenly assist Ray Rice in scoring efforts,'' said Groce as Rice leads Illinois with 15.7 points per game. "Nnanna has started to find his niche a little bit and we are playing inside out more.
"And then we've had Hill and Nunn in double figures and you have a shooter like (Jon) Ekey coming off the bench.''
That was an important factor in the regular season finale against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The senior transfer from Illinois State had 12 points and he buried the game-winning 3-pointer in the final second. That was one of the factors in Groce moving Hill and Nunn into the lineup in favor of Ekey and senior Joseph Bertrand.
"I wanted to balance out the rotation,'' he said. "I don't know if there was another team in college basketball that had a bench comprised of five freshmen and a sophomore. I wanted more of a blend.''
Just like Illinois, a couple of freshmen have come on recently for Indiana (17-14).
Forward Troy Williams and guard Stanford Robinson are key contributors for the Hoosiers. Williams has scored 34 points in the past two games, while Robinson, who had 10 points in the win over Illinois on Jan. 26 in Bloomington, Ind., is averaging 9.8 points per game in the last four contests.
And then there is center Noah Vonleh, the freshman of the year in the Big Ten Conference, who is averaging 11.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.