CHAMPAIGN – The Illini led by 30 points but a wayward pass by Myke Henry sailed over the bench was enough to infuriate coach John Groce.
Groce – an enemy of sloppy play even in a blowout – was the only one who did not appear to have a thoroughly pleasurable evening as he smacked the scorers’ table and stomped his foot on the court a few times.
Illinois breezed to a 89-64 victory against St. Francis for a 2-0 start to the season and a reason for frustrated Illini fans to turn a year-long grimace into a smile.
Sterling graduate Joseph Bertrand had seven points and five rebounds in 21 minutes of play.
With a football team seeing out the end of a miserable season on a seven-game losing streak, the Illini basketball team is supplying the good news and good vibes in Champaign.
The cherry on top of the St. Francis victory was news that the Illini had received an oral commitment from three-star rated forward Austin Colbert, from New Jersey.
He will sign a letter of intent on Wednesday with an acclaimed class that includes wings Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, point guard Jaylon Tate and big man Maverick Morgan.
Illini fans seem pretty pleased with the current roster as well.
They chanted Tyler Griffey’s name in the second half as the senior forward made good decisions on the court and led the Illini with 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
Griffey, who averaged just 10 points per game last season, made 3 of 4 3-pointers before halftime to spark the Illini.
After some early back-and-forth with the aggressive Terriers, the Illini quieted them early with a 15-0 run before halftime that left St. Francis scoreless for 7 minutes, 11 seconds.
Point guard Tracy Abrams followed up on his stellar season opener performance by scoring 15 points against St. Francis.
After Groce implored his team to execute better than the opening victory against Colgate (39.2 percent), the Illini connected against the Terriers, making 49.2 percent from the floor.
Illinois’ competition will be upgraded as the team meets Hawaii on Friday before playing in the Maui Invitational.
Star of the game: Tyler Griffey, Illinois, 17 points, 3 3-pointers
Bertrand watch: 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals in 21 minutes
Up next: Illinois at Hawaii, 11:30 p.m. Friday