Tate: Resilience of these Illini is impressive

Tate: Resilience of these Illini is impressive

These Illini know their way from the outhouse all the way up to the penthouse. And Purdue is here to send them back. — Your author

Resilience is a special quality of youth ... the ability to return to an original status after some sort of deformation.

Illini basketball was in a “deformed state” on consecutive January dates with Wisconsin and Northwestern. Those were the lows in a 17-8 season. You can call it a slump but it was worse than that. They trailed the Badgers 14-0 and 34-9. The 68-54 loss to Northwestern was so embarrassing that distraught fans booed as they left early from the Assembly Hall.

For Brandon Paul, the Kohl Center goals had covers on them. Tyler Griffey lost his starting role. Tracy Abrams played a game without an assist.
Would they ... could they recover? The blogosphere offered little hope. Losses started piling up. Criticism was rampant. ESPN experts, mindful of last year’s collapse, were saying, “Look out below. Here comes Illinois!”

Paul heard it all. So did D.J. Richardson. The players were not walking around in a bubble. This was fast-developing deja vu, reviving nightmarish memories of last year’s 2-12 finish.

Imagine yourself in Griffey’s position, missing 22 straight three-pointers. Maligned and ridiculed (was 22 a record?), could you have mustered the courage to take another shot?

Then the calendar flipped and February soon found John Groce’s gang back in the penthouse, enjoying SportsCenter treatment with clutch wins against Indiana and Minnesota. Griffey rose overnight from bum to historic hero, lifted on shoulders after his layup ignited a riotous celebration.

Paul also lost his starting spot (for a day), and responded with 21 points against Indiana. In Minneapolis, Abrams missed his first start of the season and was riding an 0-for-10 shooting slump when he hit two late baskets to salvage it, 57-53. How quickly the tide turns.

Return to form
Lesson learned: If you can’t handle the low spots, you’ll never get to enjoy the high ones.

“These losses were hard,” Griffey acknowledged. “It’s tough on any team’s psyche. But credit our mental toughness. We came back from double-digit deficits. We just kept encouraging each other. All our huddles are positive.

“I won’t point to any particular game as the low point. I was struggling. Everyone knows it. I just had to work myself out of it. But nothing’s really changed. We’re the same kids, just joking around in the locker room and having fun. We have a one-game mind-set. Our only concern now is Purdue.”

Richardson was recognized Monday alongside Wisconsin’s Ben Brust as Big Ten Co-Player of the Week. It’s been a bumpy four-year journey for the Peorian.

“The award is a blessing,” he said, “but we’ve got a lot more to accomplish as a team.

“I was never down. I was missing shots, and I’ve been through that before. I just kept shooting and I came out with a 30-point game at Nebraska (he is 20 for 44 on treys in the last six games).

“I knew it would turn around sometime. I think we showed a lot of maturity in coming back to defeat a Top 25 team (Minnesota) after we beat Indiana.”

Heads still up
Groce is no small factor, firmly reminding in Tuesday’s press conference:

“In this room or one like it, I said we need to get it in our skulls that we’re going to continue to shoot the basketball. Our assistants do a great job with their position groups in staying connected and in the moment. You have to fight the temptation to let disappointment affect how you act.

“People assume because you lose that you’re not getting better,” Groce said. “But we look at it more objectively, and we’ve seen dramatic improvement over the last six games ... even when we weren’t winning. The teams that get better day by day in February and March, when it becomes a grind, are the ones that max out (in the NCAA tournament).”

Groce quoted his coach, Paul Patterson, who topped the 700-win mark at Taylor University last season: “Kids 18 to 22 can forgive and forget faster than you think.”

Groce continued:

“I told Griffey to keep shooting. He started hitting, and that isn’t his only improvement. I thought for awhile he was hurting us defensively, and we challenged him. His defense is grading out twice what it was early in the Big Ten schedule, and he had eight rebounds at Minnesota. I like his mind-set right now.”

Seniors Griffey, Richardson and Paul have never beaten Purdue. This will be one challenging step in their one-at-a-time effort to revive a season that just a week ago was in a mudslide. Because of their resiliency, they’re still on dry land.

EDITOR’S NOTE TO THOSE WHO LEFT EARLY THURSDAY: Those who won’t sit through a debacle will never see a miracle.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. Email him at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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Green Street wrote on February 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Thank you so much for that last comment.  Why people leave games before they are over is beyond me.  Fans THINK they know what is going to happen and they don't.  Sometimes very strange things happen and you are so right.  If you don't stay to the end you will never see the miraclle ending. 

Amen wrote on February 13, 2013 at 5:02 am

Fans who want to be entertained leave early.  Fans who are staunch supporters of the team hang in there till the end.  Over the years staunch supporters have lessened.  For many it is all about being entertained.


 

illini5fan wrote on February 13, 2013 at 6:02 am

I have never ever understood those who leave games early---as a long time season ticket holder and true fan, i have seen "people" (not fans) leaving games when we were 2pts ahead or 2 pts behind as well as when we are winning by 15 or losing by 15. We never leave early--have always thought the team deserves to have fans in their seats until final buzzer goes off whether it's a W or and L. And yes, it isn't always easy but agree with the comment about either being a fan or being there to be entertained. Let's hope that everyone who has tickets to the game tonite shows up and cheers loudly for these guys to get a win against Purdue!! I'm sure there will be empty seats in A section as there always is, which is totally unacceptable. GIVE your tickets away if u don't care enough to attend all the games----it's not difficult. Go Illini!

rmitchell wrote on February 13, 2013 at 7:02 am

Guilty as charged. Left at half of the NWestern game....glad I did.

Wanted to leave the IU game after 3qtrs, but my IU seatmates wouldn't let me!

 

Moonpie wrote on February 13, 2013 at 7:02 am

Fans can leave whenever they want -- after all, it's not a tea party rally.


Oracle Tate's column, like most of them, is merely summary peppered with dated references and ponderous writing circa 1951.

B-ILLINI wrote on February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

Pie, you can leave whenever you like. I encourage it.

 

Bwp 5P wrote on February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

You really are pathetic Mooncake. Can't you give it a rest? Let me guess; you wanted to be a Sports Columnist but Loren spotted the fact that you are a pathetic, sad, little piss ant and wouldn't hire you!

CecilColeman wrote on February 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I have no doubt that moonpie is sitting in a dorm in Iowa City (or Evanston) dreaming up little ditties to insult Illini fans. Why HQ keeps posting his barf is beyond me.

basketball junkie1123 wrote on February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

Well people sat through last year.  Their hopes for this year was unreal.  The team won some big games at the first of the year. They lost to Purdue and then beat Ohio.  Then look bad for how many games,  It hurts so bad the fans can not take it. 


I agree with the coach they look better each game. What they do the rest of the year, who can say. Just don't quit on your selves, your team or your coach. Just because us fans have.  Prove us wrong.


Like a footbal coach of the high school I went often said "You got to what to" His team was getting beat every week. final score average something like 45 to 0.  Nerxt year they beat everyone except one . Same plays played the next year.

geriatricillini wrote on February 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm

na

sunnyd503 wrote on February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

I think the older you get is inversely proportional to the earlier you want to leave to "beat the traffic"

illini89 wrote on February 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Moonpie, just go away! Nobody wants to hear from you and your same pathetic responses. 

allillini wrote on February 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Illini 89

 

I have a question, but it is not about this post. I was not sure where else to ask it. Hope you or another follower can help? Is the Bielfelt  ( not sure about the spelling ) kid from Michigans team the same player that wanted to come to Illinois as a preferred walk on last year? I remember there was quite a bit of talk about him then, but he either chose another option or we did not think he was good enough or something. I almost hope it is a different player if he was good enough to play for this years Michigan team and we passed on him? I appreciate the help, and I apologize for putting it in this thread.  Go Illini. The past two games and these kids not giving up has been impressive.

CecilColeman wrote on February 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm

That's him!  He wasn't good enough for Bruce Weber but he is good enough for major minutes at Michigan as a redshirt freshman.  Bruce recruited Shaw, Lankford and Dmijde that year; those three average about 90 seconds a game.  Bruce is now at Kansas State, by the way, and the building just east of the Assembly Hall is named after the Michigan player from Peoria's grandfather (or father or family) who funded it.

illinidoc wrote on February 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I'm not understanding the dichotomy here between being a fan and being there just for the entertainment.  I would tend to agree that leaving a game early is bad form at the grade school and high school level.  But the real picture in college sports is very muddled; the major sports are as much about making money as anything else.  If a person wants to elevate their interest in professional or quasi-professional (Div. 1 college) sports in their own minds to something beyond entertainment, that's their prerogative.  But it doesn't constitute a higher moral ground or a basis for belittling other attitudes.  (This from an alum in Seattle who has watched very game possible for 40 years and had the supreme pleasure of watching the Illini beat the Zags a couple of years back at the Seattle Center---ticket price $70.)

CecilColeman wrote on February 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I had two nitwits in back of me at the Indiana game who left with about 3 minutes to go. Neither knew if the basketball was pumped with air or stuffed with cabbage.

 

JimOATSfan wrote on February 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Home » Sports » Illini Sports » Men's BasketballBielfeldt talks IlliniWed, 03/30/2011 - 7:25am | IlliniHQ 

Ask Paul Klee about it here

Peoria Notre Dame star Max Bielfeldt chatted with HQ recruiting blogger Cody Westerlund about his decision to commit to Michigan.

Asked if the Illini staff could have done something more to sway him to Illinois, Bielfeldt said there wasn't anything. In fact, he called Illinois a "good fit" as well.

jnaour wrote on February 18, 2013 at 6:02 am

Stop responding to moonpie.  Probably is not well psychologically.  As for daisy J?  Well, you lost me when you brought up examples of your high school coach.