Illinois coach John Groce open to changes after dismal showing
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org January 12, 2013 4:15PM
Wisconsin's Ryan Evans, left, fouls Illinois' Joseph Bertrand during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
Updated: February 14, 2013 6:56AM
MADISON, Wis. — Tyler Griffey sported a bandage over his left eye for a nasty cut that required stitches after he bumped heads with Traevon Jackson early in the game.
Tracy Abrams took a break early in the second half after running into a screen from Mike Bruesewitz.
Those injuries weren’t serious, but after the 74-51 tsunami No. 12 Illinois endured Saturday at Wisconsin, we’ll see if the psychological wounds are.
After the Illini’s worst loss on his watch, first-year coach John Groce indicated that he’ll look hard at rewarding players who hustle with more minutes — and sit those who don’t.
‘‘Everything’s open at this point,’’ Groce said. ‘‘The thing that was most disappointing to me was, at the end of the day, [the Badgers’] competitive spirit was better than ours. That’s unacceptable. That’s not what we’re about.’’
The Illini (14-4, 1-3 Big Ten) know the best thing they can do is forget about this miserable trip and go back to work. Most of all, they can’t slip into the tentative mind-set that greased their 2-12 skid at the end of last season.
Senior captain D.J. Richardson, who scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, said he’s confident the Illini won’t fall into another rut.
‘‘I’ve been here in these situations before,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘I’m a senior. I can’t let the season go wrong. We have to bounce back. It starts with the seniors and leaders, not just talking but by example. I have to yell, and then I have to go out on the court and do it.’’
Richardson singled out Mike Shaw, a 6-8 sophomore from De La Salle, as someone who took his yelling to heart. Shaw had two points and three rebounds in 19 hustling minutes, and Groce noticed.
‘‘One guy that played his butt off was Mike Shaw,’’ Groce said. ‘‘Mike Shaw played like his head was held under water. That’s what I’m looking for.’’
An increased role for Shaw likely would come at the expense of Griffey, who is valued for his shooting but scored only two points on 1-for-6 shooting.
Griffey wasn’t alone. Targeted by Wisconsin’s defense, Illini star Brandon Paul (eight points on 1-for-11 shooting) had fewer than three baskets for the first time this season.
Illinois’ 51 points were 10 fewer than its previous scoring low in a 68-61 loss at Purdue. The Illini, who had only two assists, also had a season low for points in a half. They trailed 39-19 after a miserable first half.
Wisconsin (12-4, 3-0) led 14-0 at the start, 27-7 eight minutes before halftime and 54-26 with 14:25 to play.
‘‘That’s the best we’ve played all year,’’ Badgers coach Bo Ryan told Groce when they saw each other outside the interview room.
The Illini not only lost, they made the Badgers, who shot 38 percent in their first two Big Ten games, look like a scoring machine.
Wisconsin shot 49 percent and hit 10 three-pointers, three more than in its first two league games combined.
This was only the second time Groce believed his team had been outhustled, and that’s two too many for him.
‘‘You can say, ‘That’s 16-for-18,’ ’’ Groce said. ‘‘I don’t think that way. We should have that all the time. Execution stuff, we can work on. But it’s unacceptable not to be physically and mentally tough. It’s unacceptable not to play with passion and energy.’’