UI 63, G-W 62: 'Seniors die hard'

UI 63, G-W 62: 'Seniors die hard'

CHAMPAIGN — As is his routine, Tyler Griffey was the first Illinois player on the Assembly Hall floor more than two hours before the start of Sunday’s game against Gardner-Webb, going through a shooting regimen.

The senior got up more than 100 shots from all over the court as manager Ryan Schmidt rebounded and fed him passes.

So, with Illinois trailing the visitors from the Big South 62-60 with less than 10 seconds to play, who better than Griffey to take the last shot?

The 6-foot-9 forward delivered with Illinois’ unblemished record on the line, draining an NBA-range three-pointer with 4.4 seconds remaining to throw 12,565 fans into a frenzy in delivering a 63-62 win.

“Griffey stepped up and did what upperclassmen do,” Gardner-Webb coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought he made some big plays in the second half.”

Griffey, one of four Illini to tie for team-high honors with 13 points, scored all of his in the second half for Illinois (7-0).

On the list of big shots he’s hit, Griffey said Sunday’s three is up there. The confidence can be traced to that pregame routine.

“Just grooving it, feeling my shot. I can almost tell, when I’m on I kind of just sit down and as guys filter in and let them warm up. It usually gets me prepared,” Griffey said. “Brandon (Paul) made a great read, great pass. I knew it was good as soon as I let it go.”

Sunday was about Griffey and the rest of his classmates. The younger guys — Tracy Abrams, Myke Henry, Nnanna Egwu, Devin Langford — didn’t play particularly well against Gardner-Webb (4-4). So Groce leaned on the old guys.

Fourth-year players Paul (six rebounds, four assists), D.J. Richardson and Joseph Bertrand (six rebounds, three assists) joined Griffey with 13 points. The heralded recruiting class from 2009 featuring those four players scored 34 of Illinois’ 39 points in the second half.

“Seniors die hard,” Groce said. “I thought they were playing well together, I liked their disposition.”

Groce is counting on everyone chipping in at Wednesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Georgia Tech.

“They’re great kids, so I’m confident we can learn from this one,” Groce said. “It’s the next game and if the way we played today in some areas of execution and some toughness areas, if our team doesn’t respond to that on Wednesday, I’ll be concerned.”

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annabellissimo wrote on November 26, 2012 at 12:11 am

It is thoroughly delightful to see Tyler Griffey finally get his opportunity to show his talent and heart after he spent the years under Weber's oppression being stifled and robbed.  In our family, we are so glad that Weber didn't have the opportunity to ruin Griffey's senior year as an athlete and we are so glad John Groce is our team's coach. Go Tyler! Go Illini!

houstonillini84 wrote on November 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

yeah it was pretty awesome the way we beat that powerhouse from the Big South on a last second shot at home. Clearly we are on the path to greatness. I am sure that if Bruce were coaching, everyone would be just as thrilled about this outstanding win.

Seriously, Groce may or may not turn out to be a good hire, but come on, this game doesnt prove anything about Groce, the seniors, or the future. Depending on a last second three point shot to beat G-W isnt anything to brag about, is it? Although after watching the football fiasco, I suppose anything is better than that.

IlliniMike05 wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

Where in their comment did they say anything was proven?

No one thinks you're smart because you're being smarmy and negative. No, it's not anything to brag about. But it's a win you take however you can get it. This is a team that's not accustomed to handling success, and we were playing a better team than you think; they held their own at UNC, they won at DePaul and were up 19 at Iowa.

So, yes, in a game where your underclassmen are struggling, it is encouraging to see your seniors make big plays and save your ass. It's not an encouraging win but not a discouraging one either. You take these kinds of wins any way you can get them coming down from the high of four wins in six days in Hawaii and winning a tourney like Maui. Of course I'd have like to have seen them come out and blow them off the court, like every night. That didn't happen. They found themselves in a dogfight and found a way to survive. You don't need to create a false dichotomy between "this is something to brag about!" and "this is the worst thing ever!"

Games like this provide teaching moments, especially for a new staff. And we didn't have to suffer a resume-damaging loss in the process. I'll take it. 

OKOMIS wrote on November 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

IlliniMike... Houston has a man crush on Weber... so no matter how good Groce does, he could never live up to the sideline screaming silver hair fox .... speaking of Weber lovers... i guess Izzo's guys barely pulling out a win against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cagins( 2-4 in the SunBelt mind you) must mean MSU will fold in Big conference games... or is it when Izzo's teams do it, it's his toughness... but when Groce does it, it's luck..

illinigator wrote on November 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I'm sure the Illinois players had a let down after the hugh wins in Hawaii.  5 games in a week, and traveling from Hawaii.  I was a Weber believer until I watched Kansas State play.  I finally seen what other people were talking about with that slow down last second shot clock shots.  Being an Illini fan I didn't notice it as much.

walker wrote on November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

you're right, it is nothing to "brag" about.  But last year we lose this game.  Ditto's for the OT game in Hawaii.  Improvement is a good thing.   BTW this G-W group may end up being an NCAA team. I think we all thought they were a cupcake, but they look real solid.

IlliniMike05 wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

Agreed. It's not a team I'd like to see us need a last-second shot to beat, but they've held their own against high-major opponents this year, they play slow, which is frustrating to a team that doesn't want to do that, and it was two head coaches who are as familiar with each other as you can be. But regardless of opponent it's highly encouraging to see us execute end-of-game situations. Forget the result. The execution to get Griffey that look, and D.J. the look he got against Hawaii, was terrific. You're not always going to make those, but you CAN always be prepared and execute a play in those situations.

Maybe we lose this game last year, maybe not. We found a way to get it done in games like St. Bonaventure and ISU last year, teams you'd think we should blow out that ended up being respectable. I don't think this game is indicative of....well, anything, really. Like I said, a team that's not accustomed to success just had a ton of it in Hawaii, and this is a time of year you see a lot of highly ranked teams struggle, following big Thanksgiving week games. MSU went to the wire with Louisiana-Lafayette yesterday. UCLA lost to freakin' Cal-Poly.

The only real way to react to this game is to be happy we survived the Maui hangover and found a way to win and hope they learn something from it. 

rmitchell wrote on November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

Where's good ole Moonpie?

I need guidance.

I can't make up my mind whether the Illini played well or poorly.


JDG613 wrote on November 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Sorry...to hear from Moonpie, you're going to have to look for Tate's articles, and then you can count on it...  Regardless of whether it's a good or bad article, Moon will be there, ripping the author, rather than the material.  Heck, my guess is that he can't even READ the material, because it has all these big words in it....so he just rips the writer because he doesn't like him.

Genius, I say.....Genius!!!

IlliniMike05 wrote on November 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Why do you guys not just ignore the idiot?

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on November 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

MIke please dont call him an idiot. Moonpie is the all knowing creator of creators and we shouldnt anger him. You're playing a dangerous game where moonpie might smite you for your comments that would suggest you dont agree with him. Our lord and savior moonpie does not like anything not thought of or written by him. It gets REAL scary when someone else is writing something he had already thought of and he starts wanking it while writing about shoes....  

Thanks be to Chubacca Moonpie.

Moonpie wrote on November 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I think in the Star Wars lexicon it may be Chewbacca instead of Chubacca--but you do write better than Bushleague Jackson.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm


Oh brilliant one, thank you for your all to kind compliment of my writting despite my flaws. What a fine compliment from the writer of all writers, the journalist of all journalism! I'll be sure to incorporate this wisdom into your gospel, oh savior of our sanity and the only person generous enough to continue to read articles from the newspaper he hates more than he hates tolerance and different points of views! I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say your willingness to suffer through this for us, to free us from the tyranny of freedom of the press, is more than any of us could ask of anyone and we're all so grateful for your sacrifice. We all eagerly await the day you show us reaveal your journalistic talents by posting a "real" newspaper article written by a true Pulitzer winner, yourself, in the comment section to show us what we've been so clearly lacking from the "sleepy gazoo". We look forward to the day we can all look down upon every other newspaper that fails to employ your brilliance the same way you look down upon the "sleepy gazoo", your church will finally be built and your following had. World domination is a few thousand words of sheer brilliance away... and so we wait.


I'll also let Merriam-Webster know that there is no Hyphen between bush and league.

Moonpie wrote on November 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

rmitchell--I'm right here, man! Let me help: they played poorly. Likely from reading their Sleepy Gazoo press clippings. It's good they found a way to win, but this game is good evidence that no one should be like the Sleepy Gazoo and coronate the team just yet.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm


Hear ye hear ye! The "sleepy gazoo" is not only the lone source of terrible writing in the universe is also causing the players to play poorly. As moonpie's investigation has clearly revealed this god forsaken newspaper has found a way to infiltrate the locker room and affect the way the Illinois basketball players play! The subliminal messages inserted into the articles, which only the players and moon pie are receiving are the cause of all of our woes! No one, none of us will coronate this team lest we also start telepathically causing players to play bad! How dare the "sleepy gazoo" have that big ceremony that one time this season with all that pomp and circumstance where the players and Groce were all crowned as moonpie played court jester! TAKE IT BACK "SLEEPY GAZOO" TAKE IT BACK AND STOP MAKING OUR PLAYERS PLAY BAD YOU UNHOLY TEXT!!!!


Thanks be to moonpie