Men's Basketball
John Groce Postgame Quotes - Chaminade Game

John Groce (file photo)
John Groce (file photo)

Nov. 21, 2012

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An interview with: Illinois Coach John Groce

THE MODERATOR: Coach Groce, some opening comments?
COACH GROCE: Obviously, we are excited to compete in such a prestigious tournament and championship game tomorrow. Our guys have earned that right with the way they've played and their effort and our execution I think continues to get better, which is going to make us a more complete team.

I thought tonight the key was two things: The defensive end, for us to affect them and they shoot 37%. We forced 14 turnovers. Then I thought the second factor was our bench led by Joseph who is here with me. I thought that Joseph and Devin Langford and Myke Henry gave us great energy off the bench. What an asset to have as our team continues to develop and get a little better every day.

Q. Can you expand on how important the bench play is in this tournament specifically? Three games in three days?
COACH GROCE: It's huge. It's huge all the time, but it's a great point, especially when you're playing three games in three days. I thought a couple of our guys certainly made some plays for us. But one is consistent with their energy level, maybe some of our higher minute guys.

But I will tell you, the bench was ready to go. Good teams have depth. Again, I thought Joseph and Myke Henry and Devin Langford, in particular, and even the way the guys finished the game at the end of the game. The guys we put in finished it the right way. They were all ready to go, and as I said earlier, it's a tremendous asset to have.

Q. What did Devin do specifically or in general that was so much different?
COACH GROCE: Well, I thought he was really active. Got his hands on a lot of balls. Got a lot of deflections. Came up with a big rebound or two. Had the steal in transition when I thought we were going to give up a lay up or dunk and jumped up in the air when we stole the pass. Just was really alert tonight. Defensively off the ball I felt like he covered up some of the sins we had. Defensively he was able to put us in situations where he was helping the helper and cover some things up. So his alertness and awareness was really good tonight.

Q. Can you talk about the team, how they've sort of melded over the last week since the Hawaii game and coming together, all of you playing together?
COACH GROCE: I think we're playing really well. This is kind of a different game for us playing against kind of a smaller team, keeping the smaller guards out of the lane. I think that was a really big difference from Hawaii.

Q. Can you talk about Butler? Excited about playing them tomorrow?
COACH GROCE: Yeah, it's a great opportunity for our guys. As I mentioned at the outset there, this is a great tournament. We've talked about it. The last several days I've made the comment I watched it when I was younger. Especially the championship game the night before Thanksgiving, the whole country is watching. For us to have an opportunity to play in such a prestigious tournament game, our guys are looking forward to the challenge of watching whoever it is.

Obviously, Butler's well-coached. They're tough. They're physical. They don't beat themselves. They execute well. They'll be challenged in a lot of areas tomorrow, but I know our guys are looking forward to that opportunity.

Q. What you didn't say about Butler is you were at Butler, and Brandon Miller was at Butler as well. Is it just the two of you?
COACH GROCE: Yeah, obviously, Brad and I are really close. We were on the same staff together. We talk frequently and shoot ideas off one another. Maybe not quite as much this year until we get to this tournament, but once we get to the tournament, we'll do that. Our families know one another.

Brad's got a great family. Brad's a great coach and a great person. He's done a tremendous job. As I had a chance to be on staff with them, it didn't take very long to figure out how bright Brad is. So I'm very proud of what he's accomplished and looking forward to the challenge of competing against his team tomorrow.

Q. Another non strategic question. It came to mind that I would describe the style of your team as scrappy. What word would you use or couple words?
COACH GROCE: Well, we hope when people watch us it's funny you said that. We had Stan Van Gundy did our clinic in the second weekend after practice had started. Stan made the comment to me if he comes to practice within the first 30 to 45 minutes, he should be able to have an idea of what a team's identity might be.

I think for us I would hope that that identity is attacking. That we're very aggressive in everything we do, whether that's defensively or offensively. We played a pace on the offensive end. Whether that's up tempo, transition game or even when we're running half-court offense, when we're hard to guard.

Tonight I didn't feel like we had quite that pace in our half court offense. I thought we stood a little bit too much. The ball stopped a little too much. We didn't have the energy level we needed there.

But I thought the guys on the bench gave us a huge boost in that department. But the word I would hope would be attack.

Q. What were you most concerned about in Chaminade tonight and what they brought to bear against you guys?
COACH GROCE: Well, Joseph hit the nail on the head. We're really concerned about the smaller team. They create so many mismatches driving the ball. They have several guys that are what we call do both guys. They can shoot the ball and deck it. We had Nnanna Egwu tonight our 6'11" center guarding a 6'4" 190 pound guard. That's atypical.

So I thought it was good from that standpoint. Put us in a situation where we had to be outside our comfort zone. That's what these tournaments do this time of year. Gives us a chance to learn a lot about your team. So we were thankful for that. Thankful in addition to bringing that style, we have a chance to advance to tomorrow's championship game.

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