Illini finish third in Maui Invitational

 

 

By Jason Grodsky

LAHAINA, Hawaii – Exhausting. That’s the word Chester Frazier used to describe the Illinois basketball team’s trip to Hawaii.

The Illini played four games over six days in Hawaii, finishing 3-1, beating Oklahoma State 65-49 on Wednesday to conclude their games and earn a third-place finish in the 2007 EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Led by junior guards Frazier and Calvin Brock, the Illini stifled their opponents on defense, forcing teams to shoot a combined 42 percent from the field and less than 38 percent from the three-point line. Illinois also forced an average of 12.75 turnovers a game and had 23 steals on the trip.

“Our kids hung in there and stayed positive throughout the trip,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “We obviously didn’t come away with a perfect trip but we did the next best thing, which is go 3-1 and won a few road games.”

Brock emerged as the team’s most impressive player for the Illini during their four-game stay and earned a spot on the Maui Invitational’s All-Tournament Team, joining former Illini Marcus Griffin and Frank Williams as the only Illini to earn the honor.

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    Williams and Griffin were selected for the All-Tournament Team in 2000 when the Illini finished second.

    Brock hit the game-winning shot with five seconds left to allow Illinois’ escape in its first game against Hawaii and averaged a team-high 9.75 points and 5.25 rebounds per game on the trip.

    Weber rewarded the Chicago native by giving him his first start of the season in Illinois’ final game against Oklahoma State. Brock then thanked his coach by scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the Illini’s victory.

    “I’ve really built my confidence up,” Brock said. “Every time I step on the court I’m going hard and trying to do everything to help the team win. I’ve been making my shots and been able to get inside and score and that’s helping as well.”

    Senior forward Brian Randle, the team’s leading scorer in the first two games of the tournament, went out with a left leg contusion seven minutes into the first half of the team’s game against the Cowboys and did not return.

    Randle pulled up lame after fighting for a rebound on the defensive end and was unable to run down the court, limping heavily on his left leg. The fifth-year senior was examined at the end of the Illini’s bench and eventually was taken to the team’s locker room.

    Randle’s career has been plagued by injuries that have forced him to play at less than 100 percent for most of his career, including a broken hand that forced him to redshirt his sophomore season during Illinois’ run to the Final Four.

    “It’s like he hit his funny bone in his leg,” Weber said. “He had a numbness and tingly feeling from his knee down through his calf, but I think he’ll be fine.”

    The most impressive stat on the trip for Illinois was its rebounding.

    The Illini outrebounded their opponents 153 to 109 overall and 58 to 32 on the offensive boards.

    Illinois’ best offensive weapon in its four games was a missed shot, which often created a good scoring opportunity for the Illini with the help of an offensive rebound. In the Illini’s only loss of the trip to No. 13 Duke, they outscored the Blue Devils 32-10 on second-chance points.

    After having a week off to rest, the Illini will head back out on the road Wednesday to play Maryland in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

    “This was a good trip for us and a learning experience for everyone,” Frazier said. “We were able to come away with three wins and have built a lot of confidence and improved in some areas.”

    Maui results

    First round

    Illinois 77, Arizona State 54

    Second round

    Duke 79, Illinois 66

    Third round

    Illinois 65, Oklahoma State 49