Bombs away! Illini sink 13 3s in
season-opening 75-55 win over Colgate
By Jeff Mayfield
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[November 12, 2012]
CHAMPAIGN-URBANA -- When Illinois faced
Lewis in an exhibition game on Oct. 25, they exploded with 56
percent shooting from the field, including a plethora of 3s. You
thought to yourself, if the good guys in Orange can do that when the
real games start, maybe we would have something. Friday's opening
night contest with the Colgate Raiders gave Illinois a chance to
test that theory.
Judging by their performance, which included the sinking of 10 --
count them, 10 -- first-half 3s, the Illini cruised to a 75-55
victory. Leading the way for Illinois was Brandon Paul, who tallied
20 points, five assists, eight rebounds, only two turnovers and one
awesome offensive put-back. Tracy Abrams flew out of the gate with
some really inspired play and left the court having scored 13 points
along with five assists and only three turnovers.
Illinois as a team committed only four first-half turnovers and had
only 12 for the game, a total the coach said he could live with.
Tyler Griffey was the third member of the squad in double
figures, with 10 points. It was a great team win as the Illini also
got solid production from D.J. Richardson (9 and 7), Nnanna Egwu (7
and 6), Joseph Bertrand (7 and 6), Sam McLaurin (4 and 7) and Myke
Henry (5 and 7).
Under first-year head coach John Groce, the Illini seem to be
pushing the action. They appear to be playing at a faster pace and
seem to be setting the tone and the tempo. Coach Groce is also using
a hockey-like substitution pattern where he subs out a whole line
(three players) at a time. The result has been fresh, legs-fresh
players and beating teams like Colgate to the spots on the floor
that Illinois wants to own.
The question will be, can it work against Big 10 teams,
especially as loaded as the league is this season? Once marginal
calls come into play and the weird things that seem to happen on the
road kick in, it will be interesting to see if what the Illini are
doing will work.
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The Illini are also hustling to get tips and battling on the
boards. They will need to finish better around the basket, but I
think they can clean that up. It is just great to see so much grit,
determination and fight. They are diving for loose balls and just
playing with reckless abandon. That style of play will endear them
to the fan base. Also, good things happen when you play like that.
In all reality, with the havoc the team went through the last
couple of seasons, coupled with the tremendous loss of Myers
Leonard, this team will be playing with house money all year. They
should no longer be playing with the weight of the world on their
shoulders. They should be as loose as possible. They should be able
to take some risks and then scramble back. Illinois is way overdue
for some good breaks, too.
This weekend was an example of that as Illinois' hustling play
led to some tip-outs that resulted in some fast breaks and in
general just beating Colgate down the floor. That all happened while
Colgate was making the appropriate subs, but it just didn't seem to
However, Illinois' long-range shooting prowess didn't carry over
to other spots on the floor, and they made only 4 of 10 free throws.
They'll need to get to the line a heck of a lot more than that to be
successful, in our judgment. They did command an amazing 46-31
margin on the glass, and a continuation of that will go a long way
to offsetting other shortcomings.
Illinois returns to the hardwood tonight at 7 as they host St.
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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