"I'm really proud of our effort and the toughness we showed in the second half," Groce said. "It's something to build on for sure.
"We'll let them go home for Christmas and get them back on the 26th, get things in order and head to Chicago. The drum just keeps beating.
"We don't allow one game to define us. We're going to play 35-plus games. We want to continue to get better and my guys showed me something tonight. They showed me fight and they showed me great passion."
Not only did Paul, the Illini's leading scorer, have a poor offensive outing, but he was joined by D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams, the team's trio of starters. They combined to make 10 of 40 shots and three of 20 3-pointers in the worst shooting meltdown of the season for the previously unbeaten Illini (12-1).
"Our execution was a little bit off," Paul said. "A lot of that's in the hands of me and Tracy. We have to get everybody focused and make sure everyone knows what we're doing. We usually take a lot of good shots, and we took some questionable shots, including myself. That didn't allow us to get into the offense we wanted and put us in a bind."
"I just don't think our quality of 3 was great tonight, to be honest," Groce said. "How do you get the best 3s? This isn't brain surgery. You get them in transition. You get them off offensive rebounds and kick-outs. You get them [off] post touch. You get them off drive-and-kick. Or you get them off some sort of set play you run to put them at a disadvantage. Tonight, I thought a lot of our 3s were not coming from those means as much as they have been in the past."
"Things get emotional at times in this kind of atmosphere. Our players aren't going to back down to anybody," Illinois' Brandon Paul said. "I just made sure I got in there and made sure it didn't escalate, and I think the refs did a good job. It happens in these types of rivalry games."
After the game, there didn't appear to be bad feelings on either side. McLaurin and Bowers hugged and shared encouraging words when the teams shook hands after the game.
"It just got a little chippy; it was in the heat of the moment, guy fell on me, it was just chippy, it wasn't really much to it," Bowers said. "I thought we showed maturity coming together after that. It just got us fired up and Illinois."
I really liked tuppers article. It was a very tempered response to an unfortunate result. While we didn't win, I too am encouraged by the heart and competitiveness that was displayed. I really liked those five or so minutes we played early in the second half where we really put the pressure on and dug in. It reminded me of how the 05 team performed for the full 40 minutes. No give..great tenacity....we really have it in us but it will take us performing like that for longer than 5 min to get us a good ending to our season. Great work guys and I can't wait to see how everyone grows the remaining 2/3 of the season we have left!!