Griffey makes most of opportunity against Wolverines

Though he may be the forgotten one in his class, junior Tyler Griffey of the Illinois men’s basketball team made his case for more playing time on Sunday.

The Wildwood, Mo., native was the lone bright spot in the Illini’s 70-61 loss at Michigan after scoring 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting and adding five rebounds and two assists.

“I was happy for Tyler,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “He’s struggled, he stepped up big for us, made shots, gave us a chance.”

Griffey recorded 29 minutes in the game — just two fewer than he did in Illinois’ previous seven games combined — opening a possible opportunity for him to possibly see more time.

“That’s up for coach to decide,” Griffey said. “Hopefully I tried to prove my case, but we’ll see.”

Through the team’s first 12 games, Griffey saw regular playing time, getting at least 15 minutes per game and having a career-high 36 minutes against Richmond.

Since conference play began, however, his playing time has declined significantly, eclipsing 15 minutes played just once before Sunday. But Griffey knew he had to be prepared to step up at any moment.

“You’ve got to go in expecting to be ready, expecting to play every game,” Griffey said. “Whether I didn’t get in the last one or whatnot or what happened, just gotta be ready to play every day.”

With sophomore center Meyers Leonard in foul trouble Sunday, Griffey’s role suddenly grew, but he rose to the occasion, scoring 10 points in the first half including a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to put the Illini within six points.

“My confidence was going, and I was feeling it,” Griffey said.

By the end of the game, he had eclipsed his previous career high of 13 against Ohio State during his freshman season.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Illinois dropped its third straight game and sixth of the last seven with just six games remaining.

“We gotta be better,” Griffey said. “We gotta turn around, go back to practice and get ready for Purdue on Wednesday.”

The next game won’t be an easy one for Griffey and his classmates, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson — they are 0-5 in their careers against the Boilermakers. However, they know the significance of what a win would bring while currently being on the NCAA tournament bubble.

“Every game is important now,” Griffey said. “We’re desperate. We’ve got to get one.”