CHAMPAIGN – Illinois men’s basketball coach John Groce had no intentions of taking senior Joseph Bertrand out of the game during Sunday’s contest against Jacksonville State.
The 6-foot-6 guard from Sterling did a little bit of everything for the Fighting Illini from scoring to rebounding to play defense.
Bertrand had a game-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds as Illinois improved to 2-0 on the season with an 86-62 victory over the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State before 13,506 at the State Farm Center.
“I thought that Joe was really locked in the whole game,’’ Groce said. “Obviously, he had a great performance.
“I basically told him that I was not taking him out until you tell me you’re tired. He was the one guy that was really locked in. I thought you could tell he was really dialed in the whole time. He was really competitive on the glass, competitive defense. I thought he made a lot of plays for us.’’
Bertrand made his first six shots from the field and the double-double was the first of his career, but he doesn’t see anything different this season.
“It’s the same system and we are doing the same things,’’ said Bertrand, who was part of a recruiting class that included former Illini standouts Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey. “I don’t think that it’s been too different. We have some new guys that can score as well.
“Yeah it’s a whole new team, but I think we’re gelling together pretty good so far.’’
Groce echoed Bertrand’s comments, saying that the coaching staff is asking the senior to do the same things he did a year ago.
“He is just doing them better,’’ Groce said. “He understands our defense better. But for us, I thought he was really good last year. I think he has gotten better, and he is stronger.’’