Paul's Well-Rounded Effort

Brandon Paul's all-around game was impressive in Friday's 75-55 victory over Colgate.

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois fans witnessed Brandon Paul score 20 or more points in a game 13 times in his first three seasons.

So Friday's 20-point effort in the 75-55 season-opening victory over Colgate came as no surprise.

Instead, it was the accompanying stats in Paul's line that were most impressive. He nearly surpassed career highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (five), took two charges and played with a particular intensity on defense.

"I was just trying to do everything, not just score the ball," he said. "I take pride in defense, and that's something I look forward to doing more of this year."

The word on Paul entering his final season was that he was immensely talented but wasn't consistent. He could score at a high level – 43 points against Ohio State last year -- but didn't always provide help in other areas.

To combat that, assistants Jamall Walker and Brandon Miller watched film with Paul in the offseason. They pointed out the weak points, telling him what coach John Groce was expecting and what the team needed.

When Paul didn't have his best effort in the final exhibition against West Chester Sunday (five turnovers), he studied the film.

"There was plays I kind of took off, and I didn't want that to happen this game," he said. "I kinda want to just play every minute that I can."

Watching the tape paid off. He had six assists to only two turnovers Friday, once against citing Miller and Walker as the chief influences on his efficiency.

"They help me out, you know, make the right decisions," he said. "I kind of just try to slow down."

The way Paul scored also provided hope that he's well on his way to becoming a well-rounded player. Finishing 8-of-15 from the field, he didn't force the action. He didn't settle for 3-pointers, but he took open ones when they were there.

"Not taking an open look is like taking a bad shot," Groce said, sitting next to Paul in the postgame press conference.

He attacked the basket. Scored once on a left-handed drive after being fouled, another time on an offensive put-back and had a high-arching jumper from the elbow swish through the net. He did miss four of his five 3-point shots in the second half, but none of the attempts were outside of context, hitting three overall.

"I might have settled a little too much on the 3-point line," he said. "A couple went in, but at the same time we were hitting shots and the game was flowing."

Paul credited Groce's new offensive scheme, comprised heavily of ball screens, for freeing him up with open looks and providing him the green light.

"They pretty much give me the confidence to shoot, you know, any shot I can take within the offense," he said. "I think it's a pretty open offense. My teammates do a good job of giving me chances to score, and when I dish the ball off I do a good job of doing that."

It's only one game. Paul's past inconsistencies dictate there should be no rush to judgement. But for a player who seems to have genuinely attacked his weaknesses in the offseason, so far so good.

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