Illini hoops: seniors leave mark on Illinois program with gutsy W

Illini hoops: seniors leave mark on Illinois program with gutsy W

Illini hoops gave their home a proper 50th birthday party, and sent out their seniors with style. This Illinois senior class will leave a mark in the Illini hoops record books, so it’s fitting the final home game was a victory. Illinois beat Nebraska 72-65 to improve to 21-9, 8-8 in Big Ten play. More importantly, this win firmed up their resume for March Madness. Barring an utter collapse, Illinois is in the big dance.

Senior guard Brandon Paul, who finished with 14 point points, five assists and one turnover, teared up as the game ended and buried his head in his jersey as he crouched at Assembly Hall midcourt.

“It means the world to me,” Paul responded when asked about what it means to leave Assembly Hall with a win.

He ranks 9th on the Illini all-time scoring list (tonight he passed up Andy Kaufman- no, not the controversial comedian R.E.M. wrote a song about) and is closing in on career numbers of 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals – on pace to become just the second player in school history. Paul is a candidate for the Naismith Trophy, averaging 16.2 points (4th in the Big Ten) and 4.3 rebounds this season.

D.J. Richardson is a four-year starter who ranks among Illinois Hoops all-time top five players in both minutes played and games started. He stands 13th on the Illini career-scoring list passing up former Chicago Bulls and NBA journeyman Kendall Gill. D.J. is third in the Illini hoops record books with 263 three-pointers.

Kevin Berardini is in his third year with the Illini after joining the team as a preferred walk-on. He played the final 8.5 seconds.

Sam McLaurin is in his first season with the Illini after joining the program as a graduate transfer from Coastal Carolina. He has played in every game this year, starting the last 11.

Tyler Griffey has played in 117 career games, earning 42 starts. He kind of plays like a 6’10″ shooting guard and despite his massive size is just sixth on the team in rebounding. However, he will forever be remembered for one of the greatest moments in Illini basketball history when he cut to the basket for a lay-up at the buzzer to take down the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers and set off a court storming celebration at the Assembly Hall.

“I always say, seniors die hard,” Coach John Groce said.

Groce also made a weird reference relating to some book called “The Energy Bus.”
“We don’t want energy vampires around our organization or team. I thought we did a good job of keeping our heads up and we found our way.”

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, a Google News site generating millions of visitors. He also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter and Yardbarker

A Fulbright scholar, author and MBA, Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB)

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