Henry, Langford Heed the Call

Reserves Myke Henry and Devin Langford filled the void with Joe Bertrand sidelined Sunday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It became evident that Joe Bertrand would not be able to go Sunday against Ohio State, as the redshirt junior dressed out but did not partake in pre-game warm-ups.

An occasional starter, Bertrand injured his shoulder in practice this week and for the sake of his long-term status, coach John Groce opted to rest Bertrand with the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Madness in mind.

While it's true Bertrand had not been playing well of late (he failed to score in double figures in the previous eight games), the loss meant somebody had to appear for the 23-plus minutes Bertrand averages per game this season.

That somebody was two people actually, as Devin Langford and Myke Henry stepped in to fill the void in the 68-55 loss to the Buckeyes.

"I was really pleased with both of them," Groce said.

Henry was especially effective. The sophomore forward logged 24 minutes, his second highest total this season, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds (six offensive).

"I felt like I gave a lot of effort, offensively and defensively, and that's what Coach wants me to do," Henry said. "Rebound and shoot, that's really what I do, rebound and make shots."

Henry failed to score earlier this week at Iowa, but he tallied a season-high 12 in the previous game versus Nebraska.

According to Groce, Sunday's performance was another step in his progression as he gains the trust of the staff.

"I really like the progress that he's been making lately here," Groce said.

Added Henry: "Coach tells me, 'don't get too much outside of your game.' I think I played OK."

Langford, meanwhile, failed to score, but grabbed two offensive boards and played sufficient defense while equaling his season high with 13 minutes played.

"I liked his effort. I thought he was good defensively. He did some good things for us, gave us some good minutes," Groce said.

A redshirt freshman, Langford has seen action in 20 of Illinois' 31 games this season. Still searching to find his role on offense, Groce didn't hesitate to insert him early on in the game. He played nine minutes in the first half. At game's end, Groce detailed moments where Langford impressed and others that showed the need for improvement.

"He rebounded it well. He had one where it was a great shot fake under the basket and he missed the lay-up there," Groce said. "We need to finish that one. We need to not get the ball slapped out of our hands after we gave such great effort to get offensive rebounds in the first half."

With both Henry and Langford putting in performances to build on, Groce appeared confident Bertrand will return for the Big Ten Tournament.

Illinois plays Minnesota Thursday at 11 a.m.

"I thought the right thing to do for Joe was to try to give him a chance to get healthy leading into the Big Ten Tournament, so that was my decision as well as the doctors and the trainer," Groce said.

"We're hoping he's able to go and his time of rehabbing and getting ready to go is beneficial to us."

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