UI 66, Eastern Kentucky 53: Egwu 'all over the place'

CHAMPAIGN — When it was brought to his attention that Nnanna Egwu didn’t pick up his first foul Sunday until there were 14 seconds remaining in No. 10 Illinois’ 66-53 win against Eastern Kentucky, the normally stone-faced Tracy Abrams couldn’t help but chuckle.

“I live with him,” he said.

Egwu’s teammates give him a hard time about it.

It’s one of those things that’s been a given with this Illinois team. They’re going to take and make a lot of threes, and Egwu will foul.

But on Sunday the shots weren’t falling. Illinois, which was averaging better than 10 made three-pointers per game, made only six. And Egwu, who had fouled out three times this season and was averaging 3.4 fouls per game, nearly put up a zero in that category.

Even more impressive is he did so while tying a career high with four blocked shots.

“I thought that Egwu was all over the place defensively,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “His stat line doesn’t do him justice. He switched ball screens, he guarded perimeters and posts and covered up drives, blocked four shots; he was all over the place.

“He was really locked in, as were all of our guys for most of the night on the defensive end.”

The Illini (12-0) needed that kind of effort from Egwu and the entire team as they were cold from the outside (6 for 23), and Eastern Kentucky (9-1) was causing all kinds of havoc of its own on the defensive end. The Colonels coaxed the Illini into a season-high-tying 20 turnovers and scored 17 of their points as a result.

“I’ll give them some credit; they’re second in the nation in forcing them. That’s not bad; that’s pretty good,” Groce said.

The Illini got another all-around effort from Brandon Paul (17 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks), Abrams (five rebounds, three steals) scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Joseph Bertrand added 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

But the 6-foot-11 Egwu’s maturation and the team’s overall toughness for the 40 minutes Sunday are what had Groce fired up ahead of Saturday’s rivalry tilt with No. 11 Missouri in St. Louis.

“He’s just getting better,” the coach said of Egwu, who was 3-for-4 shooting for seven points. “He shot it well tonight. I thought he did a good job at both ends of the floor. I thought it was the most complete game he’s played to this juncture.”


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James Kaufman wrote on December 17, 2012 at 11:12 am
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Bertrand, Best 6th Man in the nation, Believe It ! New Polls out @ noon, Illini should be climbing Jacobs Ladder! FightOnIllini !

James Kaufman wrote on December 17, 2012 at 11:12 am
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forgot, BP, Brandon Paul, All American & definate NBA prospect! FightOnIllini !

James Kaufman wrote on December 17, 2012 at 11:12 am
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 Steve Bardo, claimed last night while announcing the game, that if Egwu(eggy) keeps improving, like he has, over his next 2 yrs, We will be seeing HIM in the NBA also! Keep improving Eggy & you will Thank coach Groce for that, as Weber wasted so much talent IMHO!

James Kaufman wrote on December 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm
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Illinois still   10    in API

                     5    in CBS RPI

                      ?   in coaches UPI(not out yet)

FightOnIllini !





James Kaufman wrote on December 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm
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UPI coaches poll, Illini ranked 10, NO CLIMB anywhere? just a top 10 reshuffling.

ChsnSC wrote on December 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm

JB might be best as a 6th man but he needs to play 25-30 min. a game unless he is having a near death experience.  His stats per min/played are impressive.  

Anyone watch KSU vs Gonzaga over the week?....Same old Weber style....crying and stomping & yelling .....His Technical with 4 min left and down by 15 was a little late to inspire his team.....

Thank you Coach Groce & staff for your efforts thus far.  The UI style & results thus far will definately bode well for recruiting....not to mention a more entertaining style of basketball to watch.