John Groce’s press conference transcript

Had this passed along through Illinois and then Indiana media relations. The transcript from Illinois coach John Groce’s press conference:

Opening Statement:

“I thought we did some pretty encouraging things at Ohio State, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I thought in the first half we were tremendous, maybe as good as we have played defensively all year and we didn’t take advantage of it on the offensive end. We needed to do that.


“The way the game played out, looking back on film, I thought it was huge that it was only a one-point game at the half, with the way we had defended and they had missed some shots. We didn’t take advantage of that maybe as much as we should have.


“I thought we battled in the second half and our defense wasn’t quite as good. We made a few mistakes on defense and then we made some ‘live-ball’ turnovers that I thought were a big difference in the game there in the second half. All-in-all, I was encouraged by our fight and I was encouraged by the way we played, especially defensively.


“Now, obviously we shift to Indiana. It’s essentially a month later. A lot has happened since we played them but a lot of things are still the same with them, from the standpoint of (Yogi) Ferrell’s impact on the team, how good they are in transition and how great they are on the glass. They are second in our league and top 10 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.  Those things were true going into game one and they were able to get 23 points in transition on us. They got 42 percent of their missed shots back on the offensive glass, so we didn’t really slow them down in either of those two areas. I think it is important that you try to defend them and we put them on the line, we did that 30 times. So at the end of the day, I thought in game one we were able to win the possession battle because we took care of the ball; we made some plays – I thought we were really good on offense. It was maybe one of our better offensive performances of the year. I thought we were really hitting on all cylinders and it was a good win for us.


“We have learned from that, watched film of that first game a little bit and we learned from our Ohio State game the other night when we watched that yesterday. We didn’t do a lot yesterday because this is such a quick turnaround with a 2 p.m. (Central Time) tip on Sunday. So you have to be careful, physically, what you do with your guys so they are ready to play at 2 p.m. on Sunday. A lot of our work (since the Ohio Sate game) has been video and mental before we travel today and get ready to play tomorrow.”


On the team still be receptive despite not getting the wins:

“They better be; they have no other choice. Obviously, I’m not trying to make light of your question, but I’m getting kind of tired of answering that question. We have good guys. Those guys have been good and been through a lot. They don’t have a choice. We choose to hold our head high. We talk a lot about controlling the controllables; things we can control and things we can’t. There are some execution things we have to clean up and then we have to make some plays.


“Our SID was even telling me that in five of our seven losses, we have been ahead or tied with seven minutes or less left in the game. So we have been very competitive. We have won some big games and some other ones we haven’t been able to finish off. We have to figure out a way to be a little bit more consistent.


But in terms of attitude and effort and those kinds of things, that is not negotiable in our program. We don’t play that game. That’s a long answer to your question – yes, they have been very receptive.”


On the breakout game for Egwu at Ohio State leading to ‘smooth sailing’ for him in the future:

“I don’t know about ‘smooth sailing’ for him in this league. The coaching is too good and the players are too good. They take things away; they take your strengths away and force you to play to your weaknesses. We are trying to do the same with our schemes as well. The other night he made a few shots. I thought the biggest thing, for me, has nothing to do with shot faking, he is a guy that has had some double-figure games in his career. As long as he takes (good shots), I am all for that. He ‘M-O’ is not that he is a prolific scorer; that is not his impact on the game.  He needs to defend and rebound and I thought that was the most encouraging thing he did the other night. He had nine rebounds in 33 minutes and was impactful on the defensive glass, which we need him to be. So it would be great to have that back.


“Obviously, his shots went in and that was a bonus. Defensively, he graded out really well like he always does, for the most part. When you include the rebounding, his defense and he was able to make a few shots, it was maybe one of his best all-around games of the year.”


On Egwu being able to build on that good outing against a strong post play like Vonleh:

“I think each game I separate. Vonleh is good; Amir Williams is good; Frank Kaminski is good; Matt Costello – in Adriean Payne’s absence was good; They are all good because this is a ‘big boy’ league. But (Egwu) will be ready to go. I thought he did a great job defending last time but I would like to see him do a little better this time with Vonleh, in terms of keeping him off the foul line. Vonleh had two field goals in game one, and they were both 3-pointers, and he was 1-of-6 from the 3-point line coming into the game. Then including the two he made in our game, he is now 9-of-12. So obviously he has now proven that he can shoot the basketball, so that makes him even more difficult to cover.”


On Rayvonte Rice and his struggled recently at continuing to be aggressive:

“I thought the other night was as bad of a job as he has done at recognizing when to be aggressive. Watching the film, I thought there were times when he forced a couple and there were times where I wished he would shoot it or make a play and he didn’t. He has to find that balance again of not forcing it but being very aggressive because that’s what is best for our basketball team. And that’s when he plays his best. As disappointed as he is with the scoring, he would probably tell you that, based on the ‘grade-outs’, we need him to defend a little bit better as well. I look for Ray to bounce back tomorrow and play a little bit better on both ends of the floor.”


On whether Rice’s struggles could be attributed to not going through a tough schedule like the Big Ten presents:

“I’m not sure. That’s speculation. I don’t know. I watched him practice all year last year against Brandon Paul, and Brandon Paul is a pretty good player, and those were some really interesting practices. So I don’t think so. He is a really good player. He just has to get back to playing a little bit more consistently at both ends of the floor.