“I think we played our best game of the year,’’ Groce said.
Leading the Illini in scoring was graduate senior Jon Ekey with 19 points, and he was 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
“It was just one of those days,” Ekey said. “I felt good, felt comfortable out there, and they kept feeding me the ball.”
And the fact that Ekey, a transfer from Illinois State, was playing his seventh game at home also helped, but the key might have been his coach’s beliefs.
“We want to be fearless,’’ Groce said. “If you watch our golf program, Mike Small does an unbelievable job with those kids’ body language, and the fact that every time they took a shot, they are fearless.
“Mike is a unbelievable coach and person. I’ve tried to learn from successful coaches like Mike. We talked to our guys about being fearless. When fear comes, we attack it.’’
Sunday’s game was played just hours after an outbreak of tornadoes had ripped through central Illinois.
“It really puts things into perspective doesn’t it?’’ said Ford.
One of the hardest hit areas was East Peoria and Washington, just minutes away from the Bradley University campus.
“This is a game,’’ Ford said. “But, what those folks are going through, that’s real.’’
:Our prayers are with those who lost their homes or were injured today,’’ said Groce, pointing the communities of Gifford and Hoopeston in addition to East Peoria and Washington.
With the victory, Illinois is 4-0 to start the season for the third consecutive year, and the Fighting Illini are now 12-0 in November games under Groce.
This was also the 16th meeting between Illinois and Bradley, with the Illini leading the all-time series 13-3 but the Braves won the last contest 72-68 during the 2009 season in Las Vegas.
Both teams are back in action on Friday, as Illinois will host Chicago State in a 8 p.m. contest at the State Farm Center, while Bradley travels to Tempe, Ariz., to face the Arizona State Sun Devils