Illinois-USC - Postgame Quotes

Quotes from Coach John Groce and seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson following Monday's win over USC.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, some opening remarks about the game?

COACH GROCE: Well, our whole deal has been to get a little bit better every day. We were a little bit disappointed as a group that we didn't get off to a better start this past Friday night. I thought tonight the start to the game was critical. I thought we came out and got off to a great start, had a lot of energy, and really moved the ball. It was a free flowing first half. I thought the tempo was to our liking. We got the ball up and down the floor, and guys made plays. I thought the first half was about as good as we defended thus far this season. Obviously, in the second half we struggled to defend dribble penetration a little bit, so we'll take a look at that. We were really unselfish in the first half. Really shared the ball. We've got a lot of guys that can score and shoot the ball, so it's hard to key on one guy. I thought we moved the ball really well. Obviously, did some really good things. I thought the whole deal was key by our defense. At the half, we were holding them to 40%. They were 1 for 6 from three. They only attempted 7 free throws. We were able to keep them off the line and force 12 turnovers. When we defend like that, it gives us an opportunity to get out in transition, and I felt like we took advantage of it.

Q. Tracy (Abrams) had eight assists, eight turnovers, you lost the turnover battle and you lost the third quarter. I know you like to concentrate on the weaknesses as well as the strengths.

COACH GROCE: We'll get it figured out. He's been making some good decisions here of late. I think the bulk of those were in the second half. I thought he tried to make a few too many home run plays. It wasn't just him. I thought in general we did that a little bit, because really, we're an unselfish team. And I thought early in the second half there, about the first eight minutes, our shot selection we forced some things and tried to make some home run plays. But we'll get it corrected. Like I said, our whole deal has been about getting better every day. I thought that we did that tonight, and I'm sure there are some things that we'll have an opportunity to learn from to improve even more.

Q. They had ten guys play ten minutes or more. Was it ever hard to pick up your man and know who you were guarding your defensive assignments?

BRANDON PAUL: No, we tried to do a good job of getting it together, whether it was a dead ball or free throw or match up. Whenever we can't hear our coaches, me, Tracy, D.J., we bring everybody together to make sure everybody knows their man so we can get back in transition.

Q. Coach, can you talk about facing Chaminade tomorrow, pretty much the home team here?

COACH GROCE: Yeah, we're excited. One of the great things about playing the Friday night game, these guys will tell you, was it was loud in there. It was really loud in there. It was a great environment, and I'm really glad we got a chance to play in that road environment. I'm glad our guys showed great resolve and toughness. Our guys love challenges, they love it. Tomorrow is a great challenge.

We're playing them on their home court. I think these guys have been through a lot, D.J. and Brandon, they've seen it all over four years.

They've been in plenty of intimidating environments, I can assure you. We know tomorrow will be one. I think we'll take the challenge on and look forward to competing against a very good Chaminade team.

Q. Can I get each player on the thoughts of playing Chaminade, giant killer over the years, and playing them in this environment which is going to be rocking tomorrow night?

BRANDON PAUL: Yeah, they're a great team, obviously, we were focusing when they were playing, and we caught a glimpse of some of the things that they can do. They came out with a lot of energy. And they're a team not to be taken lightly. We're going to come in tomorrow ready to play. We respect every opponent that we play against, and it's going to be a good one.

D.J. RICHARDSON: Like Brandon said, we've got to respect everybody we play. We've got to be ready to play tomorrow, and do some scouting tomorrow and prepare for tomorrow.

Q. Coach, can you talk about that slow start to Hawaii, and the fast start tonight? Did you sense that coming over here and playing three days ago kind of helped you tonight?

COACH GROCE: I think it did from the standpoint of getting acclimated for sure. I think it's great to play on the road this early for our team. I've got an older team. We play in a league that's led the nation in attendance for close to 30 years.

I had a chance to coach in the league. These guys have played I'm not nearly as good a player as these two guys but they played in those environments.

Once you become a senior like these guys and they've been very good players over the course of their career. Like you said, they've seen it all. They've played in front of thousands of people. We know tomorrow will be a tough environment. We'll relish the challenge and look forward to it.

But I think playing that game for our team on Friday night was certainly helpful, especially now going into tomorrow night's game and playing our second true road game of the season tomorrow night.

Q. Coach, what impact do you think the addition of Maryland and Rutgers will have on Big Ten basketball?

COACH GROCE: Well, I'll only speak on behalf of Maryland at this juncture, because I don't think anything's official with Rutgers. But one thing I've always appreciated about the Big Ten, and one of the reasons why I grew up in the Midwest, I'm a Big Ten guy. One of the things I love about Illinois is it's a do both place. Academically Illinois is rated 13th in the country, and from a basketball standpoint, Forbes Magazine rated us one of the best basketball teams of all times. You've got do both. I think with Maryland you get the same thing. They're the 19th ranked public University. They also have tremendous tradition basketball wise. And they're a research institution, which I think fits well philosophically with the Big Ten, not only from an academic perspective, but from an athletic perspective. So we're thrilled with their addition to what we think is already a great league. I know they're going to make us even stronger.

Q. Can you talk about Joe? Both the excitement that he brings to the team and also his development as a defensive player and a ball handler?

D.J. RICHARDSON: Joe came a long way. Red shirted his first year and waited his turn. Actually he's been playing with a lot of energy. Coach wants us to defend, and that's what Joe's been doing in practice and getting better every day.

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