Chicago Colleges: Brandon Paul

Former Illini Paul set for 2nd Bulls workout

June, 23, 2013
6/23/13
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Former Illinois guard Brandon Paul has been invited to a second workout with the Chicago Bulls on Monday prior to the NBA draft, according to Paul’s mother.

Paul, a 6-foot-4, 201-pound shooting guard, has previously worked out for the Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks leading up to the draft on Thursday. He most recently worked out with the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford has Paul ranked No. 70 on his top-100 draft list and expects Paul to either be drafted in the second round or go undrafted.

The Bulls select in the first round at No. 20 overall and in the second round at No. 49 overall.

According to a league source, Paul has the potential to be drafted in the second round because of his shooting ability.

“The draft is right around the NBA Finals, and if you’re a wing player and not a shooter in the last couple of years, it’s been hard to get on the floor in the NBA Finals unless you’re someone like Tony Allen or a defensive freak,” the source said.

“Listen, everyone missed on [San Antonio Spurs guard] Gary Neal. When [general managers] miss on guys in the NBA, they’re oversensitive when another player like that comes around. They don’t want to miss a second time. [Paul] was a top-five, top-seven [player] in the Big Ten and can shoot it. They want to make sure he’s not overlooked.”

Paul averaged 16.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals and shot 40.1 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from 3-point range during his senior season at Illinois last year. He scored 35 points on 10-of-16 shooting in a win over Gonzaga as a senior and had 43 points on 11-of-15 shooting against Ohio State as a junior.

Paul grew up in the Chicago suburb of Gurnee, Ill., and was selected as Illinois’ Mr. Basketball out of Warren High School in 2009.

Illinois reloads on the Paul family

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
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One of Illinois coach John Groce's biggest, or at least most interesting, challenges next season will be how he goes about replacing Brandon Paul. The senior guard had an up and down career, to be sure, and while his senior season was no different (Paul started as hot as any player in the country but finished the year having made just 32.5 percent of his 240 3s), he will be difficult to replace in a variety of ways, namely in the sheer number of possessions and shots he took for his team while on the floor. Paul wasn't always on, but when he was, he was as good as anyone in the country at creating his own shot.

Luckily enough, Groce found a long-term replacement in Paul's own family. On Saturday, Darius Paul, Brandon's younger brother, announced he would transfer from Western Michigan to play for the Illini:

On Sunday, ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers reported that the decision came about because of a "coaching staff change" at Western Michigan and "the desire to play at a higher level, according to his mother." But the bond Groce formed early in his tenure with his embattled senior -- which was evident as early as media day, and paid clear dividends throughout the season -- surely played a large role in the younger brother's decision to choose Illinois over a raft of quality offers, including those from Florida, Iowa State, Marquette, Miami (Fla.), Missouri, Nebraska and Nevada. On Saturday, Darius Paul watched his older brother accept Illinois' Most Outstanding Player award at the team's athletics banquet, which just so happened to coincide with his official visit to the school. Good timing.

Anyway, the younger Paul won't really replace the elder. For one, he's a big man, not a guard; for another, he'll have to sit out a year before resuming his final three years of eligibility. But he is a really promising player. Darius Paul averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds and won the MAC Freshman of the Year award in 2012-13, with a particularly impressive offensive rebounding rate (12.8 percent) and some solid interior scoring (and 51 percent from 2) in just his first year. Darius Paul may not have garnered the same recruiting hype as his brother coming out of high school, and he may not be the same kind of player. But it's not a stretch to think he can make a similar-sized impact as Brandon -- and maybe, one day, leave Illinois the better player. Either way, nice get by Groce.

Darius Paul leaving Western Michigan

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
1:39
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Freshman forward Darius Paul, the younger brother of Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul, is leaving Western Michigan after one season and is looking to transfer to a high-major program, Paul's mother said on Wednesday.

Darius, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward, was the MAC Freshman of the Year and averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds last season. He had four double-doubles, including ones against Michigan and North Carolina State.

(Read full post)


 
AUSTIN, Texas -- Somewhere lost in all the pomp, circumstance, inspirational montages and endless car commercials of the NCAA tournament is the little secret someone forgot to mention to Colorado and Illinois -- in order to win, you must put the ball in the basket with at least a modicum of regularity.

That's not to say the seventh-seeded Illini and No. 10 seed Buffaloes missed all their shots. But each did miss enough -- 11 straight for CU to end the first half; 14 in a row, including 11 3-pointers, for the Illini at the start of the second half -- to build unnecessary and frustrating drama into a game that could have been void of both. (Apparently it is in the contract of both teams that, since this is March, they must provide some madness. And boy, were the coaches plenty red in the face.)

But, finally, the drama came to a close, along with Colorado's season, as Illinois' 16-point lead -- built during CU's horrid shooting stretch -- was enough to withstand a 23-2 Buffaloes run -- made possible by the Illini's putrid shooting stretch -- to eke out a 57-49 win in the second round on Friday.

"It's easy to come back. It is hard to come back and win,'' CU coach Tad Boyle said. "Our scoring droughts are tough to deal with. We played well enough to win today. We just didn't play well enough down the stretch to win.''

It's hard to say Illinois (23-12) played well enough to win, either. The Illini shot 13 percent in the second half. But they pulled it out at the end.

[+] EnlargeTracy Abrams
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTracy Abrams scored 13 for Illinois on 4-of-10 shooting, and added 6 assists and 4 rebounds.
"It was only fitting that the game was maybe as strange a game -- as far as the ebb and flow of it -- that I have been associated with this group,'' said Illinois coach John Groce. "We have done it the hard way with this group a lot.''

"We just find ways,'' said Illinois guard Tracy Abrams.

Now it is time for Illinois to try to find a way to win against Miami, which appears to be about as intimidating as Tony Montana. The Illini get the No. 2 seeded Hurricanes here in Austin on Sunday. So they get to deal with size -- three players of 6-foot-10 or better in the rotation; speed -- Shane Larkin moves like mercury on marble; and an experienced coach -- Jim Larranaga has been there, done that, with much less talent, just a few years ago at George Mason. It appears to be a daunting task for an Illinois program that slogged through the first nine games of its Big Ten schedule at 2-7. Miami started ACC play 13-0, by the way. Oh, and the Hurricanes had a 27-point win over then-No. 1 Duke.

"I know that they have got great size and they are going to play very hard,'' Groce said.

Illinois had its win over a No. 1, too, beating Indiana 74-72 on Feb. 7. So the Fighting Illini are capable. But they also need to be held culpable for their errors. It was those errors -- all 14 of them in a row -- plus a couple of turnovers, that might leave some wondering just how big a mismatch Sunday will be. (Did anyone mention Miami won 78-49 and had nine guys score in the first half against Pacific on Friday? Well, it did.)

OK, there are a few glimmers of hope. Illini guard Brandon Paul didn't improve his shooting percentage -- he is a 40 percent guy -- but did make 9 of 10 free throws, five of which helped seal the game. In fact, for as bad as the Illini were from the field (30.8 percent), they were solid from the line (70.8 percent).

"D.J. [Richardson] was in my ear, telling me to just keeping fighting,'' Paul said.

Then there was the defense and the rebounding. Illinois has now held two tournament teams under 50 points in its past three games -- Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament and Colorado (21-12) on Friday. The Illini, despite giving up 14 rebounds to Josh Scott, were able to win the battle of the boards 37-36. And that was crucial in a game where misses were rampant -- and will be crucial again against the taller, thicker Hurricanes.

Illinois proved it could close. After failing so miserably from the field and falling behind, the Illini finished on an 18-5 run. One might say that they looked into the abyss and didn't blink. Miami looms large; if they can look at the Ibis and do the same, they just might be OK.

Paul gives Illini a fighting chance

March, 17, 2013
3/17/13
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CHICAGO -- Illinois coach John Groce doesn't preach patience, so it makes sense Brandon Paul wanted his "one shining moment" a week early.

In the first game of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center, Illinois and Minnesota were tied with overtime looming. Paul got the ball in an isolation against Gophers guard Austin Hollins at the top of the key, crossed him over going left and shot a fadeaway 15-footer for the win. The Illinois bench went nuts. The Illinois fans erupted. Gus Johnson went Gus.

March had officially begun.

Read the entire column.

Paul finds winning touch at crucial moment

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
4:17
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[+] EnlargeBrandon Paul
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBrandon Paul was the only Illini player to have his offensive game clicking Thursday.
CHICAGO -- Jeff Pagliocca turned to his right midway through the second half of Thursday's Big Ten tournament game between Illinois and Minnesota and made a comment to Brandon Paul's father, Cliff Sr., while they were seated five rows behind the Illini's bench at the United Center.

"We'll see if the kid wants to be a winner today," said Pagliocca, who trains Paul in the offseason.

Paul had been aggressive and knocked down shots throughout the first half to build the Illini a nine-point lead, but Minnesota pushed back to begin the second half, and Paul's presence shrunk resulting in the Illini relinquishing their advantage. He had gone eight-plus minutes without a basket since scoring at 17:20 of the second half.

With 8:56 left in the game, Paul reappeared. He hit a jumper. Three Illini possessions later, he drove to the basket strong, scored while being fouled and sank the free throw. He drained a 3-pointer on the following possession.

And with the game on the line, Paul answered Pagliocca's question. Paul would later say he was being selfish for the sake of the team.

With 14.6 seconds remaining and the game tied at 49-49, Paul could see his coaches debating whether to call a timeout after the Illini forced Minnesota into a turnover. Paul motioned emphatically for an isolation play and was granted it.

Paul dribbled up court with Minnesota's Austin Hollins defending him. Paul dribbled between his legs a few times at the top of the key and with about five seconds he made his move. He hesitated and crossed hard to his left hand at the 3-point line, creating a few feet between him and Hollins, dribbled once more going forward, stopped, leaped, faded toward his own bench and released a high-arching shot from his right hand.

The ball fell through the net a moment before the buzzer sounded, and the Illini won 51-49 to advance to tournament quarterfinals to face Indiana.

"At the end of the day, I didn't want to lose the game, and I don't want to put anybody else in the situation unless I had to, to try to make the last shot," Paul said. "I don't want anyone to feel down on themselves. I rather that onus be on me."

Paul called the shot the biggest of his career, but it also may have been the biggest game of his career. He's put up bigger numbers and had more all-around performances in his four years at Illinois, but he's rarely shined when it's come to postseason basketball.

Paul had scored in double figures just once in his first nine previous postseason games. He was held to under 10 points in two NCAA tournament games, three NIT games and three of his four first Big Ten games. His highest scoring output was 10 points in loss to Michigan as a sophomore. Last season, he was of 2-of-11 with four points in Illinois' first-round Big Ten tournament exit against Iowa.

Paul delivered Thursday with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. He also had five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

What made Paul's performance even more clutch was the fact no one else seemed able to get it going offensively for the Illini. The rest of the team shot 8-of-40 from the field and 2-of-17 from 3, and Paul was the only player with more than six points.

"Today, we didn't have a lot going on offense, which is what I thought was more impressive about his offense," Illinois coach John Groce said. "He was able to make plays and be efficient as he was. Because offensively a lot of the things we were running in the second half, I thought Minnesota defended them really well."

Illinois senior guard D.J. Richardson, who made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 49 with 44 seconds left, knew Paul wasn't going to let his team down.

"I had seen that look in his eye," Richardson said. "He was the only guy in double figures, the only guy making shots for us today. He played big for us. We need for him to do that rest of the season for us to be successful."

For at least Thursday, Paul proved he wanted to be a winner.

Rapid Reaction: Illinois 51, Minnesota 49

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
1:17
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CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at Illinois' 51-49 win over Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday at United Center.

How it happened: Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul hit a fadeaway, mid-range jumper at the buzzer to give the Illini the win. Illinois led by 12 points in the first half, but surrendered the lead when Minnesota opened the second half on a 20-9 run and went ahead 36-34. The Illini trailed the rest of the game until D.J. Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to tie the game at 49. Illinois forced a turnover with 14.6 seconds left to gain possession for Paul's game-winner. Austin Hollins led Minnesota with 16 points.

What it means: Illinois and Minnesota both still may make the NCAA tournament, but the Illini have to feel much better about their chances after Thursday's win. The Illini hadn't won a Big Ten tournament game since 2010.

Player of the game: Paul scored a game-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He was the only Illini player with more than six points. He also had five rebounds and two assists.

What's next: The Illini will play Indiana, who had a first-round bye, in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. CT Friday.

Groce happy for Illini seniors after upset

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
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Illinois coach John Groce said Friday he was happiest for his seniors after all they've been through following the Illini's upset of No. 1 Indiana on Thursday.

"I'm happy for the seniors not only what they battled here in the last week or month, but they've been through a lot of things during their careers," Groce said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "The way those guys stepped up yesterday, the way they came together. I mentioned to my assistant with about three minutes to go, ‘My gosh, we played our tails off.'"

Illinois seniors Tyler Griffey, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson have endured plenty of ups and downs throughout their careers. In the past two seasons, they've gone 23-3 in non-conference and been ranked as high as No. 10 in the country only to struggle in the Big Ten with a 9-19 mark. With Thursday's win, they improved to 3-7 in the Big Ten this season.

(Read full post)

Steadier Paul, Illini drop Ohio State

January, 5, 2013
1/05/13
6:38
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The last time Brandon Paul played Ohio State at home, he didn't have just a career game -- he had anybody's career game.

That night, Jan. 10, 2012, Paul scored 43 points on 15 shots, including 8 of 10 from beyond the arc. More than a few of those shots were patently ridiculous -- a contested fallaway 3 from the corner, a bank shot from 20 feet, step-backs from every angle -- and they let you know pretty early on that Paul was just having one of those nights. Stand back and enjoy.

Despite all that efficient brilliance, Illinois still only barely toppled the Buckeyes, 79-74. In the end, the game was a weirdly telling sign of things to come: Paul went back to his usual inefficient self and Illinois lost 12 out of its last 14 games, turning a 15-3 start into a 17-15 finish that got its coach, Bruce Weber, summarily canned.

This time around, the home victory over Ohio State couldn't have been more different. Illinois didn't have to summon its very best; Paul didn't have to go off. He just needed to do what he's been doing all season. He just needed to be consistent.

[+] EnlargeIllinois guard Brandon Paul
AP Photo/Darrell HoemannBrandon Paul credits the freedom new Illinois coach John Groce has given him for his steadier play.
"I really do just think it's about consistency," Paul told ESPN.com via phone following Saturday's 74-55 cruise over No. 8-ranked Ohio State. "I'm a lot more consistent this year than I've been in the past."

It's simple but true. Last season, Paul's crazy 43-point breakout was an aberration in an otherwise choppy season. On Saturday, his 19 points on 12 shots (with 7 rebounds and 3 assists) was still one of the best performances on the floor (Illinois center Nnanna Egwu had 16 points on 10 shots, with 8 rebounds), and it was more in line with what we've come to expect from Paul this season. Last season, the guard still used 28 percent of his team's possessions -- the same as in 2012-13 -- but his offensive rating was a mere 95.2. Before Saturday's game, his 2012-13 mark was 111.4.

Paul's senior year has thus far been the best of his career, and it isn't even close. He's not only more "consistent," he's better, and so is his team.

How? Paul gives a lot of the credit to coach John Groce, who did a major set renovation on Illinois' offense in his first offseason with the team. Doing away with much of Weber's three-out, two-in motion, Groce instead spaced the floor. He frequently plays a four-guard lineup, runs much more high screen-and-roll, and allows 6-foot-9 forward Tyler Griffey to spot up from 3, where he's shooting 45 percent on the season.

All of this has helped Paul feel like he has more space to operate on offense -- he can take a screen or two, read the defense, attack the rim or dish to one of several perimeter options. But Groce has also done something much more basic: He has made his star guard feel trusted.

"He's given me, and continues to give me, more freedom," Paul said. "He knows if I make a strong decision with the ball he doesn't really have to worry about bad shot selection. We've all done a better job this year with bad shot selection, myself especially.

"He's given me the option to control the team, to control the game," Paul said. "He says to go at my pace, and make sure everyone else is on the same page. That definitely helps."

To be sure, Paul got plenty of other help in Saturday's victory. His teammates put in a balanced scoring effort -- Egwu picked up an off Griffey down low, while Tracy Abrams went 5-of-7 from the field and Joseph Bertrand added 12 points off the bench. It also helped that Ohio State went just 4-of-19 from 3. Deshaun Thomas needed 21 shots to get his 24 points, and the rest of his teammates combined for just 31 points on 28.2 percent shooting, easily the ugliest performance of the season from a typically good offensive team, albeit one that has yet to notch a marquee victory, and will have its doubters in droves. And 11th-ranked Illinois cleaned up all those misses on the glass, something the Illini struggled to do in Wednesday's Big Ten-opening loss at Purdue.

Illinois' victory also highlighted the sheer strength of the Big Ten, and just how difficult it will be to steal wins on the road in league play.

"You can't take one game off," Paul said. "You have to compete no matter where you're at. It's going to be like every year in the Big Ten -- there are going to be a lot of ups and downs."

Rarely was that more true than for the 2011-12 Illini, who went from an upset of a Final Four team and a classic 43-point performance to 17-15 with a fired coach. This season, the Illini have set about making those downs less down, even if the ups are never quite as high. In a word: consistency.

"We had balanced scoring, guys in double digits, guys were getting a lot of gang rebounds," Paul said. "I love these types of games."

Rapid Reaction: Illinois 74, Ohio State 55

January, 5, 2013
1/05/13
3:38
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A quick look at No. 11 Illinois' 74-55 win over No. 8 Ohio State at Assembly Hall on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

Overview: Illinois has proved twice now this season that it can bounce back from a loss. That wasn’t a trait of last season’s team, which had two three-game losing streaks and a six-game skid.

The Illini needed Saturday’s win after falling at Purdue in their Big Ten opener earlier in the week. An 0-2 start with upcoming games against Minnesota and at Wisconsin wouldn’t have been ideal for Illinois.

Illinois also showed it doesn’t have to rely on the 3-pointer to beat top teams, as it did against Butler and Gonzaga. The Illini were 8-of-27 from 3-point range Saturday, but they did the bulk of their damage inside. Illinois had five players score nine or more points. Brandon Paul led the way with 19 points.

On the other end, Ohio State couldn’t get much to fall. The Buckeyes were 20-of-60 from the field and 4-of-19 from 3-point range. Deshaun Thomas scored 24 of the team’s 55 points.

Turning point: Illinois came out motivated after losing to Purdue. The Illini used a 12-2 run early in the first half to go up 25-11. Ohio State was able to cut the lead to eight at one point, but the Illini wouldn’t give in any more than that. Illinois led by 20-plus points throughout most of the second half.

Key player: Illinois sophomore center Nnanna Egwu appears to improve by the game. He scored a career-high 16 points on Saturday, and added eight rebounds, one block and one steal.

Key stat: Ohio State was averaging 10 turnovers heading into Saturday’s game. The Illini forced the Buckeyes into 10 turnovers in the first half alone. Ohio State finished with 16 turnovers.

Next game: Illinois will host its second consecutive top-10 team when No. 9 Minnesota comes to town Wednesday. Ohio State heads to Purdue on Tuesday.

Illini emphasizing rebounding vs. Ohio State

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
6:37
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[+] EnlargeBrandon Paul
Bradley Leeb/US PresswireBrandon Paul leads the Illini with 18.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Coach John Groce said Friday the Fighting Illini have to make rebounding more of an emphasis after their last three opponents beat them on the boards, leading to their only two losses this season.

Missouri first brought to light the Illini’s problem by outrebounding them 58-35, including 22-14 on the offensive glass, in an Illinois loss on Dec. 22. The Tigers had 15 second-chance points in the 82-73 win.

Against Auburn on Dec. 29, the Illini were outrebounded 39-31 overall and 14-9 offensively in an 81-79 win. Auburn had 24 second-chance points.

In Wednesday’s game against Purdue, Illinois was outrebounded 45-35 overall and 17-13 offensively in another loss. The Boilermakers had 15 second-chance points in the 68-61 win.

“I think just continue to make it more of an emphasis and getting everybody involved,” Groce said on Friday. “I think we’re a team that has to gang-rebound it. We are. All five guys have to be involved in it.

“I think at times we’ve done a decent job of doing that, and other times as I’ve watched I don’t think we’ve done a very good job at doing that. We got to be more consistent in that area.”

(Read full post)

Three things we've learned about Illinois

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
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Here are three things we’ve learned about Illinois during its non-conference schedule:

1. Illinois is an NCAA tournament team: The Illini and first-year coach John Groce have been one of the nation’s biggest surprises during the non-conference season and have proven they’re a NCAA tournament team. They’ve had their share of doubters from the season’s start after last season’s struggles, a change in coaches and the early departure of Meyers Leonard, but there shouldn’t be too many skeptics remaining. Illinois went 13-1 in its non-conference slate with quality wins over Butler and Gonzaga. Its only loss was a narrow one to Missouri in St. Louis. The Illini are currently at No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 8 in ESPN’s InsideRPI rankings. Illinois isn’t expected to run the table in the Big Ten or probably win the conference title, but it has shown it has the capability to be in the conference’s top half. If Illinois can finish .500 or better in a tough Big Ten, the Illini should be a lock for the tournament. The consistency of sophomore point guard Tracy Abrams, who scored 27 points against Auburn, and senior shooting guard D.J. Richardson, who is 4-of-22 from 3-point range in the last four games, could be the key to the conference season.

(Read full post)

Groce sees positives in Illini's first loss

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
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ST. LOUIS -- What every Illinois critic wanted to know about the Illini was what would happen to them if they had a bad shooting day against a good team.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Richardson
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonIllinois finished just 8-of-32 from 3-point range in a loss to Missouri.
The Illini had lived by the 3-pointer against good teams (Butler, Gonzaga) and slipped past a couple average teams thanks to their superior athleticism and skill. The result was 12 consecutive wins to start the season.

On Saturday, the critics got their wish. The Illini’s hot 3-point shooting eluded them against one of the nation’s best teams, No. 12 Missouri.

While No. 10 Illinois dropped its first game of the season, 82-73, largely due to its outside struggles, coach John Groce found plenty of positives to take from Saturday’s game. As horrific as Illinois was from 3-point range -- 8-of-32 –- his team still hung right with Missouri, and that meant a lot to him.

“I want to give our guys a lot of credit,” Groce said. “I told them in the locker room I was really proud of them and their effort. I thought we played extremely hard.

“We don’t allow one game to define us. I know it’s an important game. It’s a rivalry game. We certainly have respect for that. But we’re going to play around 35-plus games. Our deal is what our body of work is between Oct. 12 and April 1. We want to continue to get better. My guys showed me something tonight. They showed some fight and played with great passion, and I’m real proud of them for that.”

That’s the thing. The Illini never clung to the dream of an undefeated season. They were glad to be among that small elite class for as long as they were. So when they did finally fall on Saturday, the Illini’s focus wasn’t on the disappointment of not being unbeaten anymore, but rather the lessons they could learn from a loss.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Missouri 82, Illinois 73

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
7:42
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ST. LOUIS -- A quick look at No. 12 Missouri’s 82-73 win against No. 10 Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights game Saturday at the Scottrade Center.

Overview: Missouri has had Illinois’ numbers in recent years, and the Tigers continued that trend Saturday as they defeated the Illini for the fourth consecutive season in one of their more intense and physical rivalry games.

The Illini had been living by the 3-pointer through their first 12 wins, and they died by it against the Tigers. They connected on only 8 of their 32 3-point attempts. Illinois was shooting .386 from 3-point range heading into the game.

While Illinois struggled from deep, Missouri played to its two strengths -- point guard Phil Pressey and its size. Tigers big men Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi combined for 36 points and 24 rebounds. Pressey had trouble shooting, but he still dictated the pace and had a game-high 11 assists.

Turning point: Missouri wasn’t able to pull away from Illinois until the final minutes. The Tigers closed the game on a 10-3 run. Pressey and Jabari Brown combined for eight points in the run.

Key player: Pressey proved the theory that a player can influence a game without shooting well. He was 3-of-19 from the field and finished with 12 points. But he still was a difference-maker as he pushed the tempo and found open teammates.

Key stat: The Tigers outrebounded Illinois 58-35, including 22-14 on the offensive glass.

Miscellaneous: This was the third consecutive season both teams came into the game ranked. They were a combined 63-5 in the past three seasons leading up to the Braggin’ Rights games. ... Illinois junior guard Joseph Bertrand was 9-of-9 from the field in last season’s game and hit his first shot Saturday. He missed his next three. ... Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul scored a team-high 23 points and had five assists.

Up next: Illinois closes out its nonconference schedule by hosting Auburn at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 29. The Illini have lost their past two games in Chicago, falling to UNLV by 16 points last season and being upset by UIC the season before. ... Missouri has two more nonconference games remaining before beginning SEC play. The Tigers travel to UCLA on Dec. 28 and host Bucknell on Jan. 5.

Bertrand creating #JoeTales on, off court

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
4:23
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Joseph BertrandJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesIllinois' Joseph Bertrand is averaging 8.6 points in 21 minutes a game.
Brandon Paul has achieved plenty in his Illinois career, and he's likely to accomplish even more.

But when Paul's four years are up and he measures all he did at Illinois, one of his favorite memories will come from something he did off the court, not on it. For Paul is the creator of #JoeTales.

JoeTales are real-life stories about Illinois redshirt junior guard Joseph Bertrand. Paul found some of his experiences with his close friend too funny to keep to himself, so he began putting them on Twitter and included them with the now well-known hashtag.

"Just everyone tells stories about how he acts funny,"said Paul, whose Twitter bio includes being the creator of #JoeTales. "I came up with the name and made the hashtag. A funny one would be when we were walking on the sidewalk, and we were trying to avoid a sprinkler. I avoided it, but it got on his leg. He got mad, took it and threw it and it landed upside down. He felt like he got revenge."

There's the #JoeTales' story of how Bertrand was playing basketball with a group of children at the Illini's practice facility and swatted a kid who thought he had a wide-open layup. There was the time when someone asked Bertrand why he wasn't on Twitter, and he said he got nervous when people followed him.

Bertrand has laughed along with Paul and everyone else who now tweets #JoeTales. Bertrand has even created his own Twitter account after years of reluctance and named it @iJoeTales.

Bertrand's favorite story of himself came when a vending machine failed to produce his item, so he took action.

"It didn't give me a pop," Bertrand said. "I felt I had been cheated, so I had to unplug it. It's stuff like that."

(Read full post)

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