UI 78, Butler 61: 'We are not done'

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Illinois caught a huge wave of scoring in Hawaii and rode it all the way to the Maui Invitational title.

Now, the Illini are hoping to carry that success to bigger tournaments that start in March.

"We are excited — we are not done," Illinois coach John Groce said Wednesday night after Illinois beat Butler 78-61 to top an eight-team field that included No. 9 North Carolina and Marquette.

"It is an extremely great start for our basketball team, but we have to make sure we do not eat the poison of success," Groce said.

Brandon Paul scored 20 points to lead Illinois in the team's third straight double-digit win.

"We came out with the mind-set that we wanted to prove ourselves, and I think we did that," Paul said. "We're in no shape to just stop right here."

The Illini (6-0) held off several attempts by Butler to string points together in the second half. Paul was one of four players in double figures, along with Tracy Abrams with 17 points and Tyler Griffey and D.J. Richardson (game-high nine rebounds) with 14 each.

Illinois shot 48 percent as Butler (3-2) relied almost exclusively on point guard Rotnei Clarke to score. Clarke had 27 points and took nearly one-third his team's shots.

Butler coach Brad Stevens said he feels Illinois is better than people think, and Paul is a top-notch professional prospect.

"Anyone who thinks that's a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, I would argue with them," Stevens said.

After the buzzer, the Illini players went to center court to get gray championship T-shirts and kukui nut leis. Paul got a special lei as tournament MVP and held up a basketball-shaped trophy as a contingent of Illinois fans cheered.

Illinois won by outshooting Butler in the first half and countering each Bulldog run in the second.

After the Bulldogs pulled within five points with 12:26 left, the Illini went on a 10-point run highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers from Griffey. He hit one from the right side, and after Kellen Dunham missed a three on the other end, Griffey took a pass and fired successfully from near the top of the key.

While Clarke scored 16 points in the first half for Butler, his teammates made only four baskets.

In the middle of a nine-point run, Paul gave Illinois a 12-point lead with a straightaway three-pointer after Clarke missed on the other end. One basket later, the Illini led 37-22 with less than four minutes left in the half.

Illinois and Butler each reached the tournament's title game by winning games on consecutive days.

Butler opened the event with a buzzer-beating win against Marquette, 72-71, after Clarke launched a running 22-foot three-pointer from the right side as time expired. The Bulldogs then outplayed North Carolina in the second round, halting several comeback attempts from the Tar Heels en route to an 11-point win.

Illinois easily won its first two games, beating USC by 30 and Division II Chaminade by 24. It never trailed in the tournament.

Groce said he felt honored to top the field.

"Our guys are humbled," he said.

Illinois and Butler had not played each other since 1971.

- The AP

ILLINOIS 78, BUTLER 61

BUTLER (3-2)

Jones 3-6 1-3 7, Marshall 3-9 2-3 8, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Clarke 10-19 1-2 27, Dunham 1-11 2-2 4, Smeathers 1-2 0-0 3, Morgan 0-1 3-4 3, Barlow 0-0 1-2 1, Fromm 3-4 0-0 6, Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0, El. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0, Em. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0, Woods 0-2 0-1 0, Stigall 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 22-61 10-17 61.<

ILLINOIS (6-0)

Griffey 4-6 2-2 14, Egwu 2-3 2-2 6, Richardson 5-11 2-2 14, Paul 6-13 6-6 20, Abrams 5-9 6-6 17, McLaurin 1-4 2-3 4, Bertrand 0-1 0-0 0, LaTulip 0-0 0-0 0, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Henry 1-3 0-0 3, Langford 0-0 0-0 0, Djimde 0-0 0-0 0, Berardini 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 20-21 78.<

Halftime_Illinois 39-28. 3-Point Goals_Butler 7-28 (Clarke 6-13, Smeathers 1-2, Smith 0-1, Morgan 0-1, Stigall 0-2, Dunham 0-9), Illinois 10-25 (Griffey 4-5, Paul 2-7, Richardson 2-7, Abrams 1-2, Henry 1-3, Bertrand 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Butler 37 (Woods 8), Illinois 31 (Richardson 9). Assists_Butler 11 (Jones 3), Illinois 11 (Paul, Richardson 4). Total Fouls_Butler 17, Illinois 19. A_2,400.

 

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illiniearl wrote on November 22, 2012 at 12:11 am

To Coach Groce and the team - for rejuvenating this program and bringing home a signature holiday tournament championship trophy,  MAHALO!    Happy days are here again!

P.S. I live in Washington state - can you get me a ticket to the Zag game?

illinigator wrote on November 22, 2012 at 2:11 am

where are you moonpie?  Can't wait to see what negetive review you will give about the coach, team and the sports writers.  Congratulations to the team and the coaching staff for bringing back exciting basketball to Illinois again.

geriatricillini wrote on November 22, 2012 at 12:11 am

Now I can't sleep...good win over a good team...I feel better about the future big games on the schedule..that turkey will taste good today...

Dan Bloeme wrote on November 22, 2012 at 1:11 am
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Congratulations Illini on winning the Maui Invitational Championship. You have made Illini Nation very proud and extremely happy these past 6 days and four games. Keep this going now. There is no limit how far you can take this.

Can't say enough about the John Groce hire - the perfect coach for this job bar none. Abreath of fresh air to finally see our upperclassmen talents maximized.

dave1956 wrote on November 22, 2012 at 2:11 am

Wow. The basketball team has already got 4 more wins than the football team. Go Illini.

happygilmore wrote on November 22, 2012 at 3:11 am

I know its early but its amazing how much better Illinois looks this year compared to recent seasons.  There is a long way to go and they'll suffer some tough losses in a really good conference but they seem to have gone from nervous and timid, to loose and confident.

jgrout wrote on November 22, 2012 at 3:11 am

Where are the haters?  Gone off to stew in their own bile, waiting for the next football season?

OKOMIS wrote on November 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

Where are the Mike Thomas haters??

geriatricillini wrote on November 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

Just go to the ESPN comments about this game...the haters are there...if ya really want to read it...I read one or two and chucked it...it's more realistic here, guys...

will134 wrote on November 22, 2012 at 4:11 am

why was their no in game coverage for the title game at least? all we got is the AP story..we used to do it for football then it slacked off the last few games, i guess i was thinking it was because of an apathetic fanbase, which surely isnt the case in basketball..

SwifferFan wrote on November 22, 2012 at 5:11 am

" We have to make sure we do not eat the poison of success."  I love a person who's got their head screwed on straight.  Thank you, Mr. Groce, for bringing joy back to the Illini nation.  On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm grateful for you and how you've helped the young players to find themselves and the potential that was within them. 

lmaran wrote on November 22, 2012 at 6:11 am

Congratulations to the team and coaches, this was a development the Nation has been waiting for, for awhile. My sense of satisfaction was total. I will see how I do on turkey. There'll be bubbly!

GO ILLINI!

NaplesIllini

oandb wrote on November 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

Congrats to the program for a great trip. It is so refreshing watching the talent these kids have used in a correct manner. I am especially happy for Tyler Griffey aand DJ. Both were coached so poorly it is truly amazing. The fact that the whole team has improved so dramatically in such a short time frame makes me wonder what would have happened if we had competent coaching over the past few seasons.

Great comments from Stevens as well. If we just had one more big. 

http://www.indystar.com/article/20121121/SPORTS0605/121121039

Can Groce coach football?

 

dave1956 wrote on November 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

Sounds like Mike Thomas made two good hires. The men and women basketball teams. Bolliant seems like he will turn the Illini womens program around rather quickly.
The coach he hired for the football team is another matter. Next year we will be lucky to draw 30,000 fans a game. We shall see.

oandb wrote on November 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

agreed. football is a disaster. They should have hired Chuck Martin from ND but blew off his interview.

illinifaningeorgia wrote on November 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Unfortunately the one he blew was the most important one, by far.  If he was going to miss one, why couldn't it have been Women's Basketball.

On a 1-10 scale, here is how I would rate the importance of each sport (for revenue generation, alumni giving, prestige, etc.):  Football - 10, Men's Basketball - 8, Women's Basketball - 3.  No scientific or empirical evidence for these numbers, just my opinion.  So Thomas is 11/21 or about 50% effective  in his hiring thus far..

Moonpie wrote on November 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

Right here, illinigator--but I don't just blindly criticize the teams, and if you actually read my posts you'd see I limit criticism to those who richly deserve it --Saint Tate and the Sleepy Gazoo's "reporting."


A great win last night and I watched it. This looks like a team with potential, though the conference games will reveal whether that's true. Too soon to pay attention to polls.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on November 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm

 

Hahaha Illinigator, Thank you for calling him out. Not only does he blindly criticize teams but also he spreads criticism on to everyone... except himself because he is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and so he shares his reporting skills with us on here. (Just thank him for this.)

 

penniless wrote on November 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

Oh me of little Faith.Got a scare in second half.Instead of saying,no problem,I said, oh no not again. I believe its going to be awhile.Maybe if it had been NC or Buzz and Company instead of Butler.Butler is the middle of the pack and came in through the back door.Its coming but I hope we show up, just the same anyway.Picked ninth in conference however sure looked like fourth to me.

DaisyJ wrote on November 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

Glad we are winning, but my my, what has the game become, a set shot contest. How many 3 shots would we take if they were only worth 2 points. What kind of action, moves would we see if the three line never existed. Is this the game we want to watch. Really, come on, basketball with 6;10  (griffey) running around never posting up, no inside moves. What has the game become

Illinix4 wrote on November 23, 2012 at 10:11 am

By that mentality, then, they should only shoot short jumpers or dribble, drive and penetrate. I believe the team has the personnel to shoot threes (3s).  I do understand the concern...live-by-the-three, die-by-the three.  Nothing against Griffey nor Egwu or McLaurin, to a lesser extent, but this team does not have a great post presence and we need/should play to the teams strengths.  Unfortunately/Fortunately, its the strength is the three, though, I also believe that Abrams and Betrand should drive to the hole consistently to compensate for the 3s.  Just sayin...IMHO.

Illinix4 wrote on November 23, 2012 at 10:11 am

I also want to mention that it is nice to see the team playing defense again, like in years past, playing loose and free, and having fun.  They're playing with some swagger!  I am proud of their accomplishments thus far and only hope that we have continued success.  Their is much potential in this team from the starters to the bench (1-9).  I agree with one of the earlier posters that this is not a Big Ten bottom dweller...possibly fourth at best, but I would like to see how they can handle and pressure MSU, IU, OSU.  IU really hasn't impressed me yet as they havent played anyone yet.  Though you could say the same for Illinois.  Illini - Dark horse for conference title?  Too early to tell.

pitch9 wrote on November 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

A great start to the season!  I am extremely impressed with one of Taylor U's finest, John Groce.  I saw something special when his first comments on the radio after a tremendous victory against Hawaii were expressions of concern for Jerry Hester, who had just lost his dad.

I truly think he is a quality coach and an even better person.  It's also nice to see Coach Weber has K-State in the finals of the pre-season NIT against Michigan.  I think he has been good for their program as well and they are fun to watch.  It appears things are working out well for everyone involved in the transition.  Our Illini are playing free and loose and working their tails off.  I like Coach's comments about the poison of success.  I hope they understand that and keep improving.  Happy Thanksgiving!

read the DI wrote on November 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

Great game, and great trip.

What I liked is how anytime other teams made runs, Illinois never backed down. Under Weber, how many times did we cough up leads and go completely cold in the second half, giving away winnable games? That hasn't happened thus far here.

Also, I liked how the team is spreading the floor and getting open shots. Again, that didn't happen under the Weber weave. With this offensive set, we will win games even when we don't shoot 65%.

It is early, certainly too early for predictions. But win or lose, this brand of basketball is so, so much better to watch!

 

1 illinifan wrote on November 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Very well done guys! Groce has done an excellent job of recognizing their potential and letting it flow. Watched all the games, very well done indeed. Congradulations guys on helping to bring respect back to the program. Just awesome!

jruss62 wrote on November 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

Coach Groces and staff has said and did all the right things so far. Just hope the players are taking this one game at a time.(dont get to high after wins or to low after losses)


I may not agree with everything Moonpie writes or says but he always here to keep things interesting.


GO ILLINI

illinifan 45 years wrote on November 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Love the spacing on the offensive end and the positioning on defense between the  ball and basket.

Our inside game needs developing but this coaching staff has shown the ability to do 3 things (teach,game plan and recruit) so complete confidence Dustin Ford can help Nanna and Sam.

I also like the way Groce talks post game with opposing  coaches as compared with Bruce who couldn't wait to give a handshake and never communicate except with Painter and Izzo.

I loved this hire last spring and hope we can resign Coach Groce at some point to a lengthy extension. Afterall, in a couple of years, some high profile programs may open (North Carolina, Syracuse). This staff is putting us on the national scene just as Bill Self did and I don't want this to be a stepping stone program.

illinifan 45 years wrote on November 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Love the spacing on the offensive end and the positioning on defense between the  ball and basket.

Our inside game needs developing but this coaching staff has shown the ability to do 3 things (teach,game plan and recruit) so complete confidence Dustin Ford can help Nanna and Sam.

I also like the way Groce talks post game with opposing  coaches as compared with Bruce who couldn't wait to give a handshake and never communicate except with Painter and Izzo.

I loved this hire last spring and hope we can resign Coach Groce at some point to a lengthy extension. Afterall, in a couple of years, some high profile programs may open (North Carolina, Syracuse). This staff is putting us on the national scene just as Bill Self did and I don't want this to be a stepping stone program.

billyh23 wrote on November 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm

missed the first half !!

watching kansa state put me to sleep. Same old Bruce

yelling and complaining, instead of letting his NEW kids play