FINAL: Illinois 63, Gardner-Webb 62
Tyler Griffey buried a long three-pointer with 4 seconds left and Illinois survived a scare Sunday by beating Gardner-Webb 63-62 at the Assembly Hall.
After winning the Maui Invitational, the Illini (7-0) came home and needed to rally against Gardner-Webb. Griffey's three followed a banked-in three-pointer from Tashan Newsome with 12 seconds left that gave the Runnin' Bulldogs (4-4) a 62-60 lead.
Griffey was one of four Illinois players to finish with 13 points Sunday with D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand. Bertrand added six rebounds.
The Illini overcame cold shooting. They hit just 33 percent of their first-half shots and led Gardner-Webb 24-23 at halftime.
Donta Harper led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Newsome finished with 11 points.
More details coming on HQ.
Harper 4-14 7-8 16, Hartley 3-6 0-0 9, Hill 0-0 1-2 1, Strange 2-6 0-0 4, Landis 4-10 0-0 10, Newsome 4-9 2-2 11, Branch 2-4 1-2 5, Ivey 0-0 0-0 0, Hensley 3-5 0-2 6. Totals 22-54 11-16 62.
Griffey 5-13 1-2 13, Egwu 2-3 0-0 4, Richardson 3-7 5-6 13, Paul 4-10 3-4 13, Abrams 0-2 0-0 0, McLaurin 0-0 3-4 3, Bertrand 5-9 2-2 13, Henry 2-4 0-0 4, Langford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 14-18 63.
Halftime_Illinois 24-23. 3-Point Goals_Gardner-Webb 7-22 (Hartley 3-5, Landis 2-7, Harper 1-2, Newsome 1-5, Strange 0-3), Illinois 7-19 (Richardson 2-4, Griffey 2-5, Paul 2-6, Bertrand 1-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Gardner-Webb 29 (Hartley 7), Illinois 29 (Bertrand, Paul 6). Assists_Gardner-Webb 13 (Harper, Strange 4), Illinois 9 (Paul 4). Total Fouls_Gardner-Webb 17, Illinois 14. A_12,565.
Gardner-Webb 45, Illinois 40 — 9:27 second half
Abrams started second half with a turnover on the first possession. Paris Parham put his arm around the sophomore on the bench, coaching him up. He's 0 for 2 with four tunovers and no assists.
After the turnover, Dustin ford sent Bertrand to the scorer’s table. Groce called him back. Then sent him in the next possession. Abrams has been on the bench for most of the half.
Gardner-Webb still getting all over the offensive boards.
D.J. Richardson has carried the load offensively and he’s getting after it on defense, too. He picked Tyler Strange’s pocket at the top of the key. Did the same thing at Hawaii for a big steal and bucket.
John Groce is trying his darndest to infuse some energy. It’s getting through to some of the guys.
Rayvonte Rice is on the team bench wearing a form-fitting purple polo. Not sure if he’s added a bunch of muscle, or if he needs to buy a size larger than what he’s currently buying. Rice didn’t make the trip to Maui.
Illinois has turned it over 16 times today. The season-high is 20 in the win against USC.
Crowd getting back into it. This one should come down to the wire at this rate.
Illinois 24, Gardner-Webb 23 — Halftime
Sam McLaurin and Joseph Bertrand have provided a spark off the bench. Joe has seven points and three rebounds.
D.J. Richardson leads with a game-high 10 points. Brandon Paul held to one point on 0 for 4 shooting.
Another concern today was shooting at the Assembly Hall, both because of the size of the building compared with Lahaina Civic Center and because of the rims. The rims at Maui were very forgiving, not so much here particularly with Brandon Paul who shoots the ball so high. Going to have to adjust back to the conditions here.
The Illini shot 8 for 24 (33 percent) in the first half and 3 for 10 from three. Turnovers were the big issue. Illinois gave it away 11 times in the first 20 minutes and forced nine G-W turnovers.
On Gardner-Webb’s second-to-last possession of the half, Groce told D.J. to “take one” as in foul. D.J. got a steal instead and led to breakaway for Brandon Paul. Paul slit the free throws. D.J. fouled in the closing seconds, a very good foul.
Donta Harper leads the Bulldogs with eight points. They shot 33 percent (10 for 33), too. G-W is 1 of 11 (9 percent) from beyond the arc.
The smaller Bulldogs out-rebounded the Illini 17-15. Nearly half of those (eight) were on the offensive end.
Brandon Paul has two of Illinois’ three assists. Myke Henry has the other.
Loren Tate nearly took out the table behind us on one play. He was upset. He takes this stuff personal.
There are dogs running around the court catching Frisbees in their mouths. Entertaining stuff. The crowd here loves it.
Gardner-Webb 8, Illinois 6 — 10:09 first half
As the Illini coaching staff feared, the team has come out a bit flat to start here. John Groce called a 30-second timeout two minutes in and ripped into the starters. He told the bench guys to stay back and away from the huddle. Not sure what the message was exactly, but it was delivered with authority.
Gardner-Webb’s pressure really giving the Illini fits right now.
Another fear entering this game was G-W’s prowess on the offensive boards. The Bulldogs had four offensive boards in the first seven minutes.
Illinois committed eight turnovers in the first eight minutes. Mathematician Loren Tate informs me that they’re on pace to commit 40.
Dustin Ford called for Nnanna Egwu and Tyler Griffey to enter the game. His message: “Play hard!”
Joseph Bertrand has been about the only bright spot for the Illini. His energy was much needed. He had a nice tip in dunkoff a miss and had a fast-break bucket.
The crowd trying to wake the team up a bit.
How’s the broadcast? Are they doing it from the studio? There’s no one in the seats across the way.
Gardner-Webb at Illinois — Tipoff
The Illinois starters today are Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Tyler Griffey and Nnanna Egwu. Griffey says his family is still in Maui, not sure if they’re ever coming back.
Gardner-Webb counters with Donta Harper, Tyler Strange, Max Landis, Kevin Hartley and Jerome Hill.
On the injury front, director of basketball operations Mark Morris is back to wearing two regular shoes after suffering that nasty high-ankle sprain three weeks ago. He’s still got a slight limp, but he’s fine.
Oh, the players are all OK, too, just a little tired.
Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson were trying desperately to make a halfcourt shot. D.J. finally made it, but not until he had someone standing in his face to defend him.
I’m told to expect at least 13,000 here today, maybe more. Seats are still filling up as the lineups are introduced.
Trying to get word on how the Black Friday sale went. Kent Brown says last year’s was a success. I’d imagine in the wake of Maui, that it went fairly well again this year.
Be back midway through the half with an update.
Gardner-Webb at Illinois — 15 minutes before tipoff
Jerry Hester just arrived to join Brian Barnhart on the Illini Sports Network broadcast. Great to see Hester, who’s had a rough week and a half or so after the passing of his father, Jerry Hester Sr.
He’s handled it all very well. Hester started a Twitter account (@jhes_legacy). Follow him.
By the way, I’ll give some updates on my Twitter account during the game (@MarcusJ_NG).
Kenny McReynolds will be your play-by-play man today on BTN. McReynolds was an assistant coach at DePaul back in the ‘80s. You might have seen McReynolds on the “30 for 30” special about Ben Wilson last month. He was recruiting Wilson at the time.
McReynolds will be joined by former Illini Sean Harrington today for the broadcast. McReynolds is wearing makeup (I saw him apply it). Harrington insists he doesn’t wear makeup. I’ll let you know if I see him putting any on.
There is a couple sitting in the front row across from the Illini bench wearing Hawaiian shirts. They’ve still got Maui fever.
Former Illinois assistant Mark Coomes is here. He loves Duke and Louisville, says they cane reach the Final Four. He also loves what he’s seen out of the Illini so far. Says the team is playing with a great deal of confidence. It comes from within, Coomes said, but the coaching staff has helped immensely.
How are the Bears looking?
Gardner-Webb at Illinois — 30 minutes before tipoff
Illinois coach John Groce made an appearance on the floor a while ago. Groce and G-W head coach Chris Holtmann were teammates and graduated in the same class at Taylor University.
Holtmann is in his third year at G-W. Prior to that, he was an assistant with Groce at Ohio. The Illini staff spent a few minutes catching up with their old friends here on the floor.
The Runnin' Bulldogs and the Illini will run similar stuff today. It'll be a lot like when Illinois and Purdue played under Bruce Weber and Matt Painter. Not the style of play, but that both teams will mirror one another.
Here's what Groce said earlier this week about Holtmann.
"I know them fairly well because Chris Holtmann, my former assistant coach is the head coach there and has done atremendous job. Great coach, great family. Chris and I played together in college. They won at DePaul, had Iowadown at Iowa City. They just won two games as part of the mainland part of the Cancun Challenge against Howard and Austin Peay. I’m sure they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now."
One thing to keep an eye on today will be the production from the bench. The Illini have some tired players after playing four games in six days in Hawaii. If fatigue starts to show early, there will need to be some production from the guys off the bench. Joseph Bertrand, Myke Henry and Devin Langford were big-time in the Chaminade game. Sam McLaurin has been helpful, too.
Tyler Griffey came over and gave me grief for picking USC to beat the Illini in the Maui Invitational opener. I was wrong, Illinois won by 30. Here's how I sized up today's game.
Be back soon, I've got to go get my Kevin Berardini poster that's being handed out today at the Assembly Hall.
Gardner-Webb at Illinois — 60 minutes before tipoff
Just caught up with assistant coach Jamall Walker, at least I think he was awake. Jamall's wife Rebekah gave birth to a son on Nov. 14 when the team had already left for Hawaii. Jamall stayed back in Champaign to be with his family for Braylon's arrival. He's hardly had any sleep since then.
Jamall's mother-in-law made the trip to Champaign from Ohio so that Jamall could join the Illini in Maui for the three games during the Maui Invitational.
Walker tried to watch the Hawaii game on the Internet from the hospital and he had the same trouble with the feed that all of you back here had. He said for the last play of the game, he saw Tracy Abrams get to halfcourt and his feed died. He jumped on Twitter and found out Illinois had won based on all the tweets that flooded his timeline.
Just got off the pregame show with Loren Tate and Steve Kelly. Special assistant to the head coach Brandon Miller joined us for a few moments. Here's a little bit of what Miller had to say.
He thinks Gardner-Webb is a scary team. They won a game at DePaul and get up by 20 on Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye. The Runnin' Bulldogs are an undersized team, but it's very good on offensive glass. If you watched the Hawaii game, that's what they did to Illini, Hawaii beat the Illini on the offensive glass.
Miller got to act as the third assistant coach when Jamall Walker was back in Champaign during the Hawaii game. The rest of the season, he's heavily involved in advanced scouting and he does a detailed scouting report for whichever assistant coach has the scout for a particular game. Dustin Ford has today's scout. Walker will have the scout for the Georgia Tech game. Miller is also involved with clinics and on-campus recruiting.
The Illini won't have any prospects in attendance today.
During the season, heavily involved in scouting. Does advanced scouting and preps the assistant on their opponent. Camps, clinics and on-campus recruiting.
Still on the radio. I'll check back in with you in a few.
Gardner-Webb at Illinois — 90 minutes before tipoff
Marcus Jackson joining you from the Assembly Hall for Illinois’ first game since winning the Maui Invitational.
It really was an impressive showing by the Illini over on the islands. There was probably some concern after the performance at Hawaii, but John Groce’s squad erased any doubt by dominating the Maui Invitational in which they never trailed. Expect you’ll see a team just as focused for today’s game they should win going away. Credit the coaching staff for that. These guys won’t let their team get too full of itself. Something Groce said at Big Ten Media Day was that he tells his teams that no matter how good their record or how well they’re playing, they are not rock stars. And, no matter how bad they might be playing at any given point, they are not scum.
Asu usual, Tyler Griffey was the first Illini on the floor taking early jump shots. I got here right at 1 p.m. and Tyler was already well into his routine. After the trip to Hawaii, Tyler has now made a basket in 37 different states during his lifetime. The NCAA should keep stats on that. Unless the Illini go somewhere weird for the NCAAs — if they make it — that figure won’t increase for Griffey. He just informed me that He’s missing the Dakotas, Alaska and a few of those tiny states in the northeast.
Brandon Paul joined him soon after. The Maui Invitational MVP has some tape protecting the last two fingers on his non-shooting hand. It’s nothing to worry about.
Ace sports information director Derrick Burson is here. His sunburn appears to be much less severe than it was at Maui. On TV, his face looked like an Ohio State jersey.