Klee: A special night for Brandon Paul

CHAMPAIGN — A big part of Brandon Paul's game-day routine — perhaps his favorite part — is the nap.

He snoozes for a good hour, sometimes more, before heading to the Assembly Hall or wherever the game is played that night. Bruce Weber woke him up with a text message Tuesday.

"He said, 'Be special,' " Paul said.

You could argue he never woke up from that nap. Seemingly in a scoring trance, Paul's performance in Illinois' 79-74 triumph against No. 5 Ohio State was one dreams are made of.

Paul had 43 points. Yes, 43, the third-most in a single game in program history. Not only that, but he did it in front of a celebrated crowd of some of the greatest players to wear the Illinois uniform.

With legendary coach Lou Henson honored and joined by a legion of his former players, Paul made 11 of 15 shots, many with a high degree of difficulty. Only Dave Downey (53 in '63) and Andy Kaufmann (46 in '90 have scored more points in a single game.

"It was the best (performance) I've ever seen here," Flyin' Illini guard Stephen Bardo said afterward.

This gem will be saved in the Illini archives for a while. Cameras for the BTN documentary "The Journey" captured it for safekeeping, while ESPN caught it for the college basketball world to see.

The signature bucket came with 42 seconds left in regulation and roughly two seconds on the shot clock. Illinois led 71-70 and that's too close against Ohio State. So Paul all but ended it with a "crazy" three-pointer directly in front of the Illini bench, as Weber put it.

"That thing (basket) was as big as an ocean tonight," Matta said.

"Brandon makes that last free throw and it would've been fitting to have 80 points on his (Henson's 80th) birthday," Weber pointed out.

The day before the game, Weber had said the Illini needed "a Tebow experience" to lift the Illini (15-3, 4-1) over the Buckeyes (15-3, 3-2), who entered Tuesday as nearly a double-digit favorite. Paul's scoring outburst certainly would qualify.

And this came after Paul had told teammate Joseph Bertrand he was going to "give up shooting threes" just days before. Instead, he tied a school record with eight.

"It was a Tebow moment for Brandon," Weber said. "There's no doubt about that."

"It's a confidence thing," said his proud mom, Lynda Paul.

His mom said Brandon had 37 points at Gurnee Warren in high school. His previous career high at Illinois was 23.

"What a game, huh?" added his dad, Cliff Paul.

Meyers Leonard had 14 points, five rebounds and an element of nasty for Illinois. D.J. Richardson and Joseph Bertrand added 10 apiece.

And Paul? What a time for a basketball hero to arrive. These Illini were shaky at best leading up to Tuesday's showdown. The combined record of their Big Ten victims: 1-10, and the Illini still needed last-minute surges to win all three.

Shows what that means; Illinois under Weber improved to 3-2 in home games against top-five opponents and snapped a five-game losing streak to Ohio State.

The coaches prepared a precise game plan that needed only one thing: Someone to be "special," as Weber often says.

"I've already said this a few times, but Brandon Paul played like a pro tonight," Leonard said.

Weber had been referring to Bertrand as "Superman" as the sophomore burst onto the scene of late. Leonard, who went toe to toe with mighty Jared Sullinger, offered a nickname for Paul: "Spiderman."

As Paul scored the final 15 points for Illinois — against the nation's top defensive team, in terms of efficiency — there seemed to be a superhero element involved.

"I was laughing a couple times (as crazy shots found the net)," he acknowledged. "But my teammates believed in me and my coaches believed in me."

Comments

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JCIllini1988 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 12:01 am

Thank you, Brandon! You played your ass off tonight and made Illini nation proud! Congrats!

oandb wrote on January 11, 2012 at 3:01 am

Congrats to Brandon and to a much lesser degree Meyers. Time to do what you two do best. Well done!!!

illiniearl wrote on January 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

I cried like a baby after watching that game!   Thank you Brandon Paul and the rest of the Illini for an awesome invigorating win - haven't seen anything like that at the Hall since the 1979 game against Michigan State.

polebowler wrote on January 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

The article fails to mention Paul's shot-blocking efforts, four very emphatic swipes from out of nowhere.  He was possessed!

read the DI wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

A brilliant performance by BP3! Unfortunately, it masks Weber's no-show coaching.

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

That was one of the best coaching performances from Bruce. Remember that our starting PG was hurt and Tracy is a non-factor on offense. Seemed like coach had a good play drawn up for every timeout and out of bounds play. Give up the Weber-hate already and enjoy the ride, it looks to be a good one!

Salt Life wrote on January 11, 2012 at 10:01 am
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Illini were magnificent last night. Just goes to show that when they are properly motivated, their level of talent doesn't take a back seat to Ohio State or anyone. The Illini to a man gave maximum effort and were playing very cohesively, aggressively and complementary. While Brandon (top performance of Illini player ever), Meyers, Joe and DJ all gave great performances, you can't forget the mostly steady performance of Tracy. I believe Tracy makes the Illini a better defensive team and more uptempo offensive team than does Sam. I still would like to see Sam get healthy to have another weapon on the bench who can come in and give the team an offensive spark and Tracy rest when needed. Illini played some great defense last night to a man (Brandon & Meyers especially) but also showed they have several potent offensive weapons. Brandon, DJ, Meyers and Joe can all score between 15-20 points on a regular basis, making it harder for teams to double up on Meyers. I believe Tracy, Myke, Nnanna and Mike S can provide 15-20 pts together consistently with Sam providing around 10 when healthy. No reason Illini can't score in the 80's when they are clicking, while still playing great defense.

Go Illini! Maintain that kind of focus, determination and effort shown last night against OSU the rest of the season, game in and game out and Illini will have a very special season, doing well in Big Ten and NCAA. Have to maintain that eye of the tiger they showed last night.

read the DI wrote on January 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Great coaching. Give it to Paul and let him make 11 3's. So why not do that every game? Oh yeah, that's not coaching, that's good luck.

 

 

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm

funny, because when we miss 3's we hear constantly how its bad coaching and a bad offense. When another team like Purdue makes a high % of 3's, well again thats because of bad defense and bad coaching. But when *we* make 3's, its simple good luck. Gotcha.


Must be lousy to be a Weber-hater after a big win.  

read the DI wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

You don't get sarcasm, do you.

Matt wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

BP3 was unbelievable but Weber coached a great game as well. It's nice to see guys like you put in your place. Your opinion is one thing, but your constant childish negativity is another. I noticed your usual nonsense hasn't been spewed all over each comment section after a great win. Hopefully you have learned a valuable lesson about how your actions/words can come back to make you look foolish.


Support the team.


Go Illini!

Matt wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

BP3 was unbelievable but Weber coached a great game as well. It's nice to see guys like you put in your place. Your opinion is one thing, but your constant childish negativity is another. I noticed your usual nonsense hasn't been spewed all over each comment section after a great win. Hopefully you have learned a valuable lesson about how your actions/words can come back to make you look foolish.


Support the team.


Go Illini!

Matt wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

BP3 was unbelievable but Weber coached a great game as well. It's nice to see guys like you put in your place. Your opinion is one thing, but your constant childish negativity is another. I noticed your usual nonsense hasn't been spewed all over each comment section after a great win. Hopefully you have learned a valuable lesson about how your actions/words can come back to make you look foolish.


Support the team.


Go Illini!

DCisco wrote on January 11, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I'm curious to know what qualifies as good coaching. If any of the Weber-haters could enlighten me, I would appreciate it.

Illiniwek11 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I find it funny that when we struggle to score points or get blown out against Purdue/UNLV, you Weber-lovers will go to no ends to say that its the players fault.  But after a win like this, it is almost entirely due to great coaching.

Cant have it both ways.

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

no one said it was 'almost entirely due to great coaching'. Thats a ridiculous strawman. BP had an awesome game, and the team as a whole shot very well. In addition to that, I thought Bruce coached a good game; we had good plays called on the inbounds plays, and overall we kept the right guys in the court. Given that our starting PG is hurt I thought that if OSU had gone deeper into their bench they might have tired us out, but by sticking mainly with their starters they allowed us to do the same, which IMO benefitted us more than them. Anyway, coaching is usually only a relatively small part of the outcome; it usually comes down to execution and making shots, and this game was no different. But given that Bruce gets criticized for anything and everything, it seemed fair to point out that he more than held his own last night.

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

best game I have ever seen from an Illini player. Incredible. No matter what happens to BP the rest of his life, he will always have that game to look back on and think 'I was the BEST!'. Grats BP!!! Go Illini!!!

OKOMIS wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am

 


Whatever is clicking in these guys head’s to make them play aggressive, confident and with some swagger sure is overdue. After years brooding temperamental gifted athletes (Randle, McCamey, Davis, Tisdale) who hang their head ,I love the scrappy attitude. I’ve heard Weber talking about body language for years and thought it was BS.. I hope whatever woke up Bertrand, Paul and the rest keeps up.. I loved seeing Paul get right in Buford’s face.

CLBlood wrote on January 11, 2012 at 10:01 am

"One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.
 


"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy."

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I think they have had a good attitude all season long. Playing tough down the stretches of close games since they went to Cancun and they havent stopped since. Most of that is just change in personnel. This team cant shoot jump shots nearly as well as last year's team but they are tougher and more resilient when things go wrong. They dont give up.


About Bertrand, I am not sure his attitude changed as much as his performance. Things just started clicking for him. (also he got past the injury issues he had both previous years). Just like they clicked for Arch his junior year, Cook his senior year, Chet and Trent their last year, etc. Sometimes it just takes a while. Remember that Bertrand missed a whole season because of injury and last year when he started playing well in practice he got hurt again.

read the DI wrote on January 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

There's no comparison with Cook. He led the team in rebounding 4 straight years, shot 55% in his soph year and averaged double-digits starting that season too.

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm

But Cook didnt consistently perform until his senior year, when he was named BTPOY. There was doubt going into that season if he could do it. He was always a talented player but he wasnt a consistent force until his senior year.

read the DI wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

You must be Mr. Memory Man, seeing as how you remember game by game details from over 10 years ago.

houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Let me guess, you're one of the bandwagon fans that jumped on board in 04-05 LOL. One hardly has to remember game by game details to remember that Cook was pretty inconsistent until his senior year. He would score 20 one night and disappear the next. His senior year though he really put it together and was able to lead a young team to a good season. I think most fans who followed the Illini when Cook was here would remember that much.

read the DI wrote on January 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Huh. So Brian Cook wasn't consistent, huh? Well, please to explain the Second-Team All-Big Ten selection by both the league coaches and media) his junior year. You remember, when he led the Big Ten in free throw shooting (92%), set an Illinois single-season record for free-throw shooting, was  second on the team in scoring and first in in scoring in Big Ten play? When he was 4th in the Big ten in rebounding and scored in double figures 28 times in 35 games.

And please to explain the 55% shooting percentage his sophomore year, when he was Second-Team All-Big Ten (media) and Third-Team All-Big Ten (coaches), led the Big Ten in  free-throw percentage, tied for the team lead in rebounding and scored in double figures 21 times?

 

Better getcha memory checked, son.

michiganderillini wrote on January 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Awesome game guys, I was in high school at the time but I remeber Dave Downey scoring 53 points against Indiana.  I seem to remember that Jimmy Rahl (sp) scored 50 in that same game.  Wow. And there wasn't a 3 point shot in those days and I think dunking was a technical foul.

If you watch a replay watch how soon the Ohio State guards start moving and how quickly.  Compare that to the standing still and dribbling by the Illinois players.   If the kids can cure that I don't think there would be so many shot clock-forced off balance shots taken. 

BP played with super passion last night and I think that can spark the rest of the team as well. Thanks Illini kids for making a game so much fun to watch.

 

AdamM wrote on January 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm

What a great game and even better win.  Brandon Paul had a career game and great coaching from Bruce Weber.......anyone heard from DaisyJ? Bahaha