The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

January 2, 2013

Second season begins for Illinois

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Illinois coach John Groce was pleased his team’s performance in season No. 1.

The Fighting Illini completed the non-conference portion of their year with 13 victories in 14 games and the team is rated No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll.

But, the first-year coach knows that none of that will matter starting tonight as Illinois opens Big Ten Conference play with a 8:30 p.m. (Eastern), and 7:30 p.m. (Central) contest in West Lafayette, Ind. against the Purdue Boilermakers.

“We learned a lot about our team,’’ Groce said. “We finished up season 1, now we are headed into season 2.

“We are further along in some areas, in other areas we have to get better.’’

In an effort to get his team ready for the 18-game league slate, Groce gave Illinois (13-1) a day off on Sunday coming off a 81-79 win over Auburn on Saturday in Chicago.

“I wanted to get our minds and bodies ready for conference season,’’ he said. “We had a great practice on Monday. Guys were really locked in. I think they are really excited about season No. 2 starting (tonight).’’

But as the previous two games, against Missouri and Auburn, have pointed out, the biggest area of concern for Illinois is rebounding.

The Illini have been outrebounded 97-66 in games against the Missouri Tigers and the Auburn Tigers.

“It has to be a mindset where it’s important to our guys,’’ Groce said. “We have to do it a bit differently than some teams, because some nights we might not have the girth of some other teams.

“We have to go get it as a group of five — we have to get the ball.’’

That’s been a role for Illinois guards as Brandon Paul (5.1), D.J. Richardson (4.4) and Joseph Bertrand (4.3) lead the team in rebounding.

And while rebounding is a concern for the Illini, it is an area of strength of the Boilermakers (6-6).

Purdue is outrebounding its opponents by 8.6 per game, and the Boilermakers rank second in the Big Ten with 14.4 offensive rebounds per game.

“First thing is their ability to rebound the basketball,’’ said Groce, when breaking down Purdue. “This is the third team in a row that we’ve played that statistically, nationally, is among the best at rebounding the ball.

“We have to find a better answer there, do it collectively as a group at a higher level.’’

Purdue 7-foot freshman center A.J. Hammons is averaging 5.8 rebounds per game to go along with 10.0 points per game.

And going along with the Boilermakers’ ability to rebound is their toughness.

“Whenever you play them, you have to be tough, physically, and you’ve got to be tough mentally,’’ Groce said.

The guy that best exemplifies Purdue’s toughness, according to Groce, is senior guard D.J. Byrd from Crawfordsville, Ind.

“D.J. Byrd is the X factor,’’ Groce said. “He is the guy that brings that Purdue toughness to the table. He is the head of the snake, if you will.

“I really respect and appreciate watching him play on film. He plays the game the right way.’’

The leading scorer for the Boilermakers is junior guard Terone Johnson, who scored 21 points and dished out nine assists in Purdue’s two wins a year ago over Illinois.

“Terone Johnson is a guy that can drive and shoot the ball,’’ Groce said. “He does both those things well. He is capable of big nights.’’

After starting the year with an incredible shooting percentage behind the 3-point arc, Illinois, which is third in the NCAA with 9.4 3-pointers per game, has made just 24-of-93 (25.8 percent) in its last four games.

But during that same stretch, the Illini are 68-of-99 (68.7 percent) at the free-throw line.

“I do think the benefit of that, is that we’ve driven the ball,’’ Groce said. “We had Brandon and Tracy (Abrams) get high number of free throw attempts in several games here lately. That helps our offense.’’

Abrams, the Big Ten Player of the Week, is coming off a career-best 27 points and eight rebounds in Illinois’ win over Auburn.

The Illini have won four straight Big Ten openers and they are 66-41 all-time in first games of league play.

While the Boilermakers are 4-3 in conference openers under coach Matt Painter, winning the last three.

Tonight’s game can be seen on the Big Ten Network and it can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490 and WDNL-FM 102.1.

Text Only
Sports
  • SPT - CN0820 - BisHenn photo 1 Going the extra mile BISMARCK — Bismarck-Henning coach Mark Dodd has really enjoyed the last few years.Not just because of the two straight Vermilion Valley Conference titles and a almost three-year unbeaten run in regular season action, but because of working with playe

    August 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • LOCAL ROUNDUP: Trojans defeat Chargers in volleyball opener CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. — It took all five sets but the Covington Lady Trojans opened the year with a hard-fought 24-26, 25-22, 25-21, 19-25, 16-14 victory over the North Montgomery Chargers in prep volleyball action on Tuesday night.Brooke Ahrens led t

    August 20, 2014

  • SPT - CN0819 - Seeger photo 1 Patriots make changes WEST LEBANON, Ind. – Success for the Seeger Patriot football team this season will depend on two things.They will rely on technique and teamwork to reach their goals.“We’ve got a little bit of size, a little bit of speed and a few guys with a lot of

    August 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • B-H's Warren claims Urbana Kick-Off Classic URBANA — Bismarck-Henning’s David Warren kicked off his senior season in style, winning the Urbana Kick-Off Classic at the Urbana Country Club.Warren shot a 4-over 76 to earn a one-stroke victory over Champaign Centennial’s Isaac Overman (77), while

    August 19, 2014

  • SPT - CN0817 - North Vermillion photo 1 Trying to fill big holes CAYUGA, Ind. — Brayden Woodard and his senior teammates on the 2013 North Vermillion football team left their mark on the Wabash River Conference.The Falcons won back-to-back undefeated league titles and they enter this season with a 15-game winning

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • SPT - CN0816 - Fountain Central photo 2 New names, same goals VEEDERSBURG, Ind. — While the names might change, the goals and expectations for the Fountain Central football team remain the same.The Mustangs, who went 11-2 last year with a sectional championship, are looking to replace 60 percent of their offens

    August 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • SPT- CN0815 - Covington football photo 1 Trojans' experience could be key COVINGTON, Ind. – The Covington football team enters this season on a positive note. The Trojans lost only five seniors to graduation, so team hopes to build on its many returning players.“We’re a year old and stronger,” said Covington head coach Tra

    August 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Voles set to host Jamboree DANVILLE — For the eighth year, the Vermilion Voles Vintage Base Ball club will invite other clubs in the Midwest to Kennekuk County Park on Saturday for the “Uncle Joe” Cannon Base Ball Jamboree.The event will feature four teams with the Voles, the

    August 15, 2014

  • No Headline Provided HELP WANTEDThe Danville Commercial-News is seeking sports-minded individuals to cover local sporting events this school year. An individual should have their own transportation, and be able to work nights and weekends.Anyone interested in the opportu

    August 13, 2014

  • SPT - CN0812 - High School football photo 1 Young Vikings get started DANVILLE — For the second year in a row, high school football teams in Illinois have had to make a change in their preseason practice schedules.A year ago, the IHSA developed a new policy when it came to acclimatization period of early-season practic

    August 12, 2014 2 Photos

E-edition
NJCAA Tourney Photos 2014


Check out the action at the NJCAA Division II National Men's Basketball Tournament March 18-22 at DACC. Buy photos from the Commercial-News here: http://smu.gs/1iCWKnP

Must Read
AP Video
US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Seth Meyers Rolls Out Emmy Red Carpet Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape
NDN Video
US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Reggie Jackson's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Are Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon Breaking Up? Motorcyclist Sticks Landing This 'Breaking Bad' Reunion is the Most Hilarious Thing You'll See All Day! President Obama talks about who James Foley was Nicki Minaj Unleashes Her 'Anaconda' On the World Watch Helicopter Perform Aerial Ballet Can Buckeyes fill Miller's void? Victoria's Secret Models Prove They're in Fighting Shape How Brian Hoyer Stacks Up With Johnny Manziel Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan Man Poses for New Mugshot Photo Wearing Shirt with Old Mugshot Photo On It Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listeners' Caught On Camera: Johnny Manziel Obscene Gesture Rita Ora Embraces the Ice Bucket Challenge Bird surprises soccer player Ashley Young during game Chapter Two: Never too late to become an artist Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Viral, Raises Over $15M For ALS