But according to Groce, that can be attributed to Bertrand being a fifth-year senior.
“I always say that freshman want to play, sophomores want to start, junior want to score and seniors want to win,’’ Groce said. “We talk about it all of the time and every day, he realizes that he can’t get that day back.
“There are just so many days left that he has in that Illini jersey and it means something to him.’’
Bertrand, who led the Illinois in field goal percentage last year, has made 13-of-18 shots (72.2 percent) in the first two games this season. But a big reason for his success has been his ability to get the majority of shots at close range.
“The coaches have really pushed me to get into the lane, that is one of the things that I do the best,’’ Bertrand said. “The other thing that they have stressed to me is rebounding.’’
Bertrand was one of the few bright spots on the glass for Illinois during Sunday’s game. Jacksonville State (0-2) won the battle of the boards 44-37 and the Gamecocks had 25 offensive rebounds leading to 22 second-chance points.
“I thought that was unacceptable,’’ Groce said. “I don’t like giving up that many offensive rebounds. That is something we are going to look at on the film.’’
Illinois junior center Nnanna Egwu, who had seven rebounds on Sunday after pulling down 10 in the season opener, admitted the Fighting Illini needed to make some rebounding improvements.
“We just have to do a better job of hitting them and getting them away from the paint,’’ said Egwu, who tied a career-high with five blocked shots and he also contributed 10 points.
The Illini wound up with five players scoring in double figures. Bertrand had a game-high 20, followed by Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice with 13 each, while Egwu and freshman Jaylon Tate finished with 10.