Illini Recap: Illinois Defeats BYU


CHICAGO — Illinois’ win over BYU last night makes it five straight for the Illini, and with their rivalry game against Mizzou on Wednesday before starting Big Ten play on Dec. 27, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Tracy Abrams led the Illini with 15 points while Maverick Morgan had 14 points and 10 rebounds of his own. The game came down to the wire after the Illini held a six-point lead under the 30-second mark. The team’s lack of production late in the game was something head coach John Groce says his team will need to clean up.

“Just adjusting to the game play and understanding we’ve got to get it down there to the bigs,” Abrams said. “I think we did a great job. We talked about that in the huddles. We understand our weapons. Coach talks a lot about our strength in numbers, and we know that, so we’re going to keep going and keep building on what we can build on.”
“Sometimes a team throws a zone up there and you struggle the first couple of posessions until you get adjusted to it,” Groce said. “We were unbelievable the first three or four posessions, and then I thought we got stagnant to end the half.”
“It was a crazy game and it came down to the end. To extend this winning streak out to five games going into the bragging rights game, (it’s) very big for this program to continue to build momentum and come out in the clutch when you need to get a win, and they got it.”
“Coach Groce talked about it a little bit too in the press conference, about kind of letting them come back and he thought maybe they should have had an even bigger lead heading into the half. What were you thoughts on kind of letting BYU come back there in the end?”
“I thought they really struggled with the zone. They went away from post touches, as Groce mentioned in the press conference. That was something that was really working for them early on, getting the ball down to Mike Thorne (Jr.) and Maverick Morgan, but in the second half,  they kind of went away from that. The zone prevented that, but made some big plays down the stretch, and I think that was a key factor in BYU getting back in the game.”
“The Illini are going to head down to Missouri for their final non-conference game. How important is that, in comparison to tonight’s game, for a win?”
“Well, you’ve got to win a rivalry game, obviously. To close out the non-conference on a six-game winning streak, only have three losses going into conference play, that’d be really big, obviously. You know, you throw the records out in a game like that, a bragging rights game, Illinois is going to have to bring their best effort and it’s going to be a big one for them on Wednesday.”
“I saw a little bit on Twitter just talking about a win tonight and what it could mean way down the road into March as far as a chance at the NCAA tournament. How much will this win, in your opinion, effect that, or not?”
“I think it helps. Obviously you want to have as many quality wins as possible heading into March. I know the team isn’t going to be thinking about that, but everyone on the outside is definitely going to be tallying up how many they have. So, to beat a pretty quality BYU team who’s probably going to be a bubble team, is better than having a loss, obviously. But, I think it’s a pretty quality team when you look back at it in March.”

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