Mark Tupper's blog

Bertrand takes game over for Illini

2012-11-28T23:29:00Z Bertrand takes game over for IlliniMark Tupper
November 28, 2012 11:29 pm  • 

It was crunch time, do-or-die time, reach-deep-and-find-another-gear-or-go-home-weepy time.

And with seven minutes to go in Wednesday night’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at the Assembly Hall, Georgia Tech was looking like it just might have the edge with athletes who could get to the rim.

Georgia Tech led 58-54 and Illinois needed a spark that could turn into to a wildfire.

Enter Joseph Bertrand, who is beginning to exert himself as a maturing athlete who is finally showing a big-time skill level.

Bertrand took the game over, scoring 10 unanswered points by himself, triggering a 21-4 finishing sprint that gave Illinois a 75-62 victory that ended up being essential in the Big Ten barely hanging into the Commissioner’s Cup with a 6-6 tie.

After leading 4-2 in games played on Tuesday, the Big Ten won just two of six games on Wedneday (Illinois and Purdue). And while that’s disappointing, Illinois can be pleased knowing it did its part and won in the Challenge for the fourth straight year.

Give Bertrand the MVP award for this game based on his scintillating minute-and-a-half stretch that broke the game open.

And give the runnerup MVP to Illinois’ defense, which triggered that burst with steals, deflections and blocked shots.

“I thought our defense ignited our offense in the 21-4 run,” coach John Groce said. “When we defend like that and get stops and get out and run, we can score points in a hurry.”

That’s just what happened as Illinois trailed 58-54 when Bertrand took the game over.

It started when Brandon Paul stole the ball and hit Bertrand with an outlet pass, resulting in a gliding fast break layup that closed Georgia Tech’s lead to 58-56.

At that instant, Groce turned to the Assembly Hall crowd and began windmilling his arms, begging the fans to crank up the volume.

“I don’t do that a whole lot with the crowd, but I thought it was a heck of a play and we needed them,” Groce said. “It makes a huge difference. The energy in the building went up another notch or two and our players feed off that.”

Just as Groce beckoned the crowd to get move involved, Illinois created another turnover and this time Bertrand buried a 3-pointer to put the Illini on top, 59-58.

Now the fans were standing on their own with the Orange Krush student section whipping their white towels high in the air.

Illinois responded again, this time with 6-foot-4 Paul blocking the shot of 6-8 Robert Carter. With the crowd roaring, Bertrand took the ball with pulled up with another jumper, flicking in a 3-pointer to extend the Illini lead to 62-58.

After Georgia Tech called timeout to regroup with 5:15 to play, the Illini defense trigged another Bertrand basket, this one a fast-break, acrobatic, gravity-defying, double-pumping, bank shot while being fouled.

Paul called the basket, “that loopedy-loop ridiculous shot that you’ll see on Sports Center tonight.”

Bertrand, who was a gymnast as a youth, said the basket, “was just momentum, adrenalin, the crowd was going. It was a big play and I had to finish it.”

With that basket Illinois had a 64-58 lead it would never relinquish, despite abysmal free throw shooting. Illinois made just 7 of 18 free throws on the night and Paul was 3-for-9.

But while the Illini couldn’t find the range from 15 feet, they were better from beyond the 3-point line.

Illinois made 14 of 28 3-pointers, missing the team’s Assembly Hall record for made 3-pointers by one and the all-time school record by two.

It was the seventh time in eight games that the Illini have hit at least 10 3-pointers. They entered the game leading the nation in 3-point field goals made at 10.9 per game.

So it’s an 8-0 start that will grow to 9-0 on Dec. 4 when Illinois hosts Western Carolina.

Then comes what figures to be a monumental task when the Illini play at 12th-ranked Gonzaga on Dec. 8.

These next five or six days are crucial, Groce said, because while playing game after game after game, the team will not have some long, hard two-hour practices where the staff gets to work on some shortcomings.

Rebounding and a stronger offensive presence in the post will be high on the list.

Yes, free throw shooting, too, which fans like to point out. But this is a good shooting team that will get rolling from the line. Eventually.

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(19) Comments

  1. VA JACK
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    VA JACK - December 03, 2012 2:57 pm
    Not to much of a stretch to believe Parker.2 years of Weber laying the groundwork makes it very possible.I hope he plays well,just not against Illini.Parker might have enoyed playing for Groce too.==13 in the polls,who saw that coming?? 4 cupcakes,2 the Who,2 the could be,equal 8 wins,not 13 in polls.In fact,it makes one woner if they are drinking it or smoking it before they vote.Off the top of my head,somehere in the 25 to 35 range, before the season and after it is all said done.Not 9th in the conference either.6th or 7th looks just right.Do they not believe what they write about a tough Bten conference.That minefield the Illini must go through.
  2. Pistol Pete
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    Pistol Pete - December 02, 2012 7:51 am
    I totally agree about Parker too, sug. After the Illini's collapse at the end of last season, I don't see how he could have been thinking that he wanted to still play for Weber, if he ever did. I like DecIllini's last sentence. Parker would be more likely to want to play for Groce after seeing the development of the Illini this season.
  3. DecIllini
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    DecIllini - December 01, 2012 8:18 pm
    Sugmeister, I agree 100 %. It makes me mad when I hear Parker say that about wanting to play for Weber. Why do these guys insist on throwing another shot at our beloved Illini. Pure and simple, Jabari was never, ever, coming to Illinois. I beleive if HIS DAD, let the kid choose, we would still be in the picture. Just imagine, if we got him to go with what we have coming back, we could be a Final Four team next year. I see that John Groce and Paris Parham are in Chicago tonight watching SImeon and Whitney Young play. Jamal Walker is in Springfield watching Jeff Finke play, and Larry Austin play vs. Tyler Ulis. My buddy is in Spfld to see Finke and see how Austin plays vs. Ulis. I am anxious to get his report. Recruiting will be a blast with Groce and Co. I cannot wait until he lands his first 5 star recruit and it could be soon.
    I cannot imagine any Illinois kid watching the development of this year's Illini team and not wanting to play for Groce.
  4. sugmeister
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    sugmeister - December 01, 2012 11:46 am
    that comes across as way, way too hard on a 17-18 yr old kid..... my frustration is directed at Sonny, not Jabari. I think Sonny is driving his recruitment. I have little doubt that his recruitment is much more clean and above board than many others in chicago. I just don't think Sonny ever wanted him coming to Illinois. Jabari probably just wants it to be over and make a decision.
  5. sugmeister
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    sugmeister - December 01, 2012 10:59 am
    I saw that..... I don't want to call the kid a liar but is Kansas St on his Final List? After all Bruce has been recruiting him since 7th grade right? I don't think so. if I grew up dreaming of playing for Illinois and if Illinois were my team that I followed growing up, then there is NO way I would go and play for some other school.

    Places like UK and Duke can say they get players to the NBA so come here, but that is mostly a result of the actual players they get to go and play there. Style of play has something to do with it I would agree. But if guys like Chester Frazier and Calvin Brock, etc went to UK or Duke they wouldn't go pro there either. And if guys like Anthony Davis, etc came to Illinois you can darn well bet they would go pro just as readily from here as they would going to UK. These top 10 guys are only going to college for 1 yr because they have to anyway. they aren't there for the college coach to "develop" them. They are there for the college coach to "showcase" them.

    If Parker were truly interested in UI, then he would have just said right up front "thats my school and thats where I am going". Bottom line is that there is no loyalty to the state school. These players can make all the excuses they want. So go play wherever but quit telling IlliniNation that if bruce were still here that we'd be right up there because I don't buy for a minute that he was ever coming here.
  6. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - December 01, 2012 9:19 am
    Parker went as far as to say Illinois would have been on his final list if Weber was still there.

    "They would," Parker said. "Me and Bruce, he's been recruiting me since seventh grade. He knows me probably more than any of the other coaches on the circuit right now."
    Jabari Parker
    First Gordon, than Parker, another Final Four vanishes before our eyes :) crk
  7. sugmeister
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    sugmeister - November 30, 2012 2:04 pm
    Dec - I have no idea what a Sugmeister even is. I'm in a fantasy football league (since the mid 80's) and my team name was the SudSuckers... somebody called me a Sugmeister and it sounded good so I kept it.... probly means a dumb*** in German though so the jokes on me).

    wow, what a game.... never change the channel and give up on this team with this coach. you just never know what you will miss.

    a little disconcerting to see Tracy be on the bench in crunch time again, but he hasn't played well 2 gms in a row now and Joe deserves to play for sure!

    When Joe gets on a roll - look out. virtually unstoppable just like the Mizzou gm last yr.

    When did they change the rule about switching to a zone?? I thought they had a rule that if you start the game in a man to man that you had to stay with that?? oh well - glad they changed it because that little move kept GT off balance and since they are typically a poor shooting team was just what the Dr ordered.

    Our bigs are incredibly weak with the ball. Egwu needs to dunk the ball. Sam seems stronger with the ball but is still having trouble getting shots up. Egwu also has a tendencey to bring the ball down and make himself vulnerable to 6 ft guards swiping at the ball.

    glad DJ got hot when he did because he didn't look very good the first half.

    nice to see some swarming defense out of guys like DJ, Joe, and especially BP. They can really wreak some havoc and agree that is what keyed our big run.

    isn't it nice to see adjustments made at halftime? I thought only other teams did that. most games this year we have come out sharp the first 3-4 mins of the 2nd half and really blitzed the other team. GT did a good job calling a timeout and shutting us down.

    I didn't read much hype about this #42 kid that apparently transferred in this past summer. he looks like a pretty good player and I am a little shocked that the media didn't make more of a big deal out of it. he shoots really well and uses that threat to put the ball on the floor and get into the lane even. we REALLY could have used a kid like this the last couple yrs. maybe if we had some of that talent our last coach would have done better. oh well, groce is just lucky to have a surprise transfer in like that. is he on scholly or a walk on??
  8. Basketball Jones
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    Basketball Jones - November 30, 2012 10:09 am
    The state of illinois produces some pretty good BB talent. You don't always have to get the best player in the state out of HS, as long as you get a couple of the best players in the state each year to have a pretty good team. I said it in here for for to long, that get rid of Weber, and hire a new BB coach, and watch what happens. Were back to being a team that other teams and coach's have to worry about. Illinois BB, Fun to watch again.
  9. Red in a blue state
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    Red in a blue state - November 30, 2012 9:35 am
    Seniors playing like senoirs, wow what a concept. Zone, oh my I forgot what that was. Showing the players some love instead of the nonstop sreaming from the sidelines. Shooters actually ecouraged to shoot if the shot is there no matter what. Sacrilege! Stay with the motion come heck or high water! I have to wonder if Kstate will put up with Weber as long as we did? After seeing so far at least what a difference a coaching change can make I wonder why I supported Bruce for so long. Pay the good ones whatever it takes to keep em , can the bad and move on.
  10. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - November 30, 2012 8:29 am
    Of course what factors weighs most heavily come tournament selection-time stenght of schedule or total number of victories. Playing int he Big Ten is going to give one a strong strenght of schdule most years, so one can see why the desire for pre-conference season victories leads to this type of scheduling. Agreed, often leads to dull basketball. crk
  11. VA JACK
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    VA JACK - November 29, 2012 4:51 pm
    NEW RULE:NCAA establish all Div.1 schools must schedule Sagarin 200 rating or more as an away game.Western Carolina at the CU is just awful for getting your team ready for an away game with the Zags.Its like getting your Big Game Trophy at your local Zoo with an automatic weapon.Not Groces fault,but in the futue all 200 plus teams are only for the first 3 games of the year.I know every one does it,so what?? Izzo is trying to lead the way,now if others join in,better BB for all.
  12. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - November 29, 2012 3:02 pm highlights

    Imagine if you were used to this type of basketball, and Bruce Weber became your coach. Freddy and Jason and Edward on the same team. :) crk
  13. Tendonitis Tom
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    Tendonitis Tom - November 29, 2012 1:08 pm
    Sweet giveback-comeback win. Was impressed by G-Tech. Hope to not draw them again when we play in the tourney! If we don't switch to the 2-3, we don't win. It seemed like an aggressive, extended, almost pressing, zone at times. Good to see. I wonder how many more possessions a game we're getting under Groce. Leading the nation in trey %! Shows what taking 11,000+ shots in the summer can do, AND what taking them before one second left on the clock can do. Give Egwu some time; has to mentally decaffeinate on offense. Still big upside there methinks.

    "It's your world, Joe!"

  14. VA JACK
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    VA JACK - November 29, 2012 12:19 pm
    Both teams picked pre-season to finish near the bottom in thier conference.Illini held thier own against above average post players,in which I did not think that was possible.Think the Zone had something to do with that.Ewgu and Tyler improved greatly in the paint.Tyler even powered a drive to the rim,thats a big surprise.Once again Bertrand saves a win and Groce must soon decide when its time to start Bertrand.TA or DJ, DJ playing # 6th would be my choice for now.==Had ACC picked to go 7 and 5. Purdue lucked out,Cllemson coach sat thier big gun player for a Team infraction.Huskers played like they never had before.Not sure the Huskers are for real.Three teams out of all 12 Bten teams looked like Final 8 teams {OSU,IU and UM}.ACC just have two teams that are Final 8, teams Duke and NC St.===Had to be the best Challenge I have watched over the years,just one over matched game,IU and NC.Great BB for both Conferences,give a slight edge to BTen.
  15. KentuckyMike
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    KentuckyMike - November 29, 2012 9:48 am
    Steals by jumping the passing lanes, shots in in sync, responses to runs by the other team, a coach that seems to control himself and the team all awesome signs to me. To many turnovers, poor post defenders caused the double team to come down to far, thus causing way to many wide open threes. Good win. I think that Georgia Tech team is not bad at all. Just keep winning and keep getting better. So happy our AD had the stones to make this switch!!!!!
  16. namber
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    namber - November 29, 2012 9:18 am
    BTW During football I retired my O&B martini glasses. Gosh it is nice to get them out again
  17. namber
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    namber - November 29, 2012 9:14 am
    I feared that missing the FTs would kill us, but GT suddenly went cold and our defense had a lot to do with that. Speaking of defense, a 2-3 zone? God forbid! I was under the impression that the zone was a violation of the rules. Whoops! it's not the NBA

    Why do our bigs have such as hard time getting shots up in the paint? Though we seldom get the ball down on the block we are getting stuffed far too often. With Several practice days coming up I hope we can fix some of this to balance our paint scoring.

    I really thought the B10 would make mockery of the ACC duel. Curses to OSU, Wisc, PSU, MSU, NU, IA. Perhaps we are going to end up much higher on the conference totem pole than expected.
  18. Pistol Pete
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    Pistol Pete - November 29, 2012 8:08 am
    Ditto what Mikey said. Bertrand's acrobatic shot was #3 on ESPN's Top 10.....should have been #1.
  19. Mikeydamouth
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    Mikeydamouth - November 29, 2012 6:54 am
    I thought it would be a matter of time before we broke loose. Illini had the superior athletes. The zone worked well for the most part. Unusual poor free throw shooting, hope it was just 'one of those nights' with that. The T/O's in the 1st half really bothered me, but I think we had only 2 in the 2nd half. Thank you Joe Bertrand!
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