The first 28 minutes of this game were the most fun I've had watching an Illinois sporting event in a good long while. Maybe since last year's upset of Michigan State or when Brandon Paul went off against Ohio State. Though like I said following the first game of the season, you really shouldn't take anything of importance from these early games. Tonight's contest was not much more than a glorified scrimmage, but I think we all needed to see the Illini dominate another team for once.
And that's what the Illini did tonight. The 89-64 score doesn't really tell the whole story as the Illini had 72 with 12 minutes left to play and then checked out for five minutes. If not for that stretch they hit the century mark tonight.
Other than that lapse, there's not a whole lot to be upset about with this game. Illinois played a team that was clearly inferior and treated them as such.
There were two things I truly enjoyed about this game, and they were Brandon Paul and Tyler Griffey. I commented after the Colgate game about how confident Griffey seemed in the contest, not afraid to take shots without a coach screaming "NOOOOOO" at him from the bench, and that was the case again tonight. Hell, Tyler was feeling so good that he eventually grew tired of drilling threes and started taking his defender off the dribble.
Seriously, Tyler Griffey was doing that. He finished the night with 17 points -- one shy of his career high -- 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal. He also shot 70% from the floor.
Then there was Brandon Paul, who struggled from the field, hitting only 4 of his 12 shots, but he got to the free throw line 10 times. Of course, he only shot 60% from there as well. Still, it wasn't his shooting that impressed me. He spent more time running the point tonight than Tracy Abrams did, and he was doing an excellent job keeping the offense going. He finished with 6 assists compared to only 2 turnovers, his second straight game with numbers like that. Time will tell if he can keep playing like this against real competition, but it's still an encouraging sign.
-- While we're on the subject of turnovers, after having 12 against Colgate, the Illini had only 8 tonight. Again, Colgate and St. Francis, but we were turnover crazed against West Chester and Lewis so I'm not going to just dismiss this.
-- Illini ran with the same starting five in this game as they did against Colgate. The only starter not to finish in double-digits was D.J. Richardson who continued to struggle finding his shot tonight. He'll be fine, though.
-- I have liked what I've seen from both Nnanna Egwu and Sam McLaurin in these first two games. Nothing spectacular from either, but the effort is there and they aren't reaching on defense, just letting their length work for them.
-- U-God might be right. Sam LaTulip is going to work his way into the rotation at some point. His shooting stroke is just too pretty for him not too.