New Role Pays Off

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois forward Tyler Griffey will likely remain in an off-the-bench role for the time being, coach John Groce said Monday.

Griffey started the first 18 games of the season before a shooting slump forced Groce to replace him in the lineup with senior Sam McLaurin against Northwestern.

Coming off the bench suited Griffey. He posted six points and six rebounds in 23 minutes of play. It was his highest point total since scoring eight against Purdue Jan. 2 and most rebounds in a game since Dec. 11 against Norfolk State.

"Pretty much the entire time he played I felt like was pretty locked in," Groce said. "Pretty locked in."

Griffey was 2-of-15 shooting from the field in the three games prior to the Northwestern loss. Those games featured 14 straight misses on 3-point shots and a total of four points and seven rebounds. Previously averaging over nine points a game, the struggles left Griffey looking tentative, and at times he appeared reluctant to shoot.

That's why Groce changed it up, inserting McLaurin into the starting lineup (he had six points and five rebounds) and challenging Griffey with a different set of instructions.

More than scoring, Groce wanted to see Griffey provide hustle and energy.

"Really challenged him to do things other than just be a guy that can be counted on to make a shot," Groce said. "I thought he did that. I thought he rebounded well. I thought he was more physical. He drove the ball. He posted it one time. He was on the floor a couple times. I thought he was active."

Due to Griffey's improved play and McLaurin's steady showing, Groce said the plan as of Monday was to stick with the starting lineup that included McLaurin Tuesday against Nebraska.

"I thought Tyler played really well coming off (the bench). Obviously he's going to play starter-type minutes, Lord willing," Groce said, referring to foul trouble. "More than likely that's the way we're leaning."

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