Illini all-time leading scorer Deon Thomas joins UIC Coaching Staff

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Deon Thomas has landed a coaching gig at the University of Illinois. Just not in Urbana-Champaign. At the Chicago campus instead. When Assistant Coach Isaac Chew departed Illinois for Marquette, just weeks after he left Mizzou to join the Illini an assistant gig opened up under John Groce at Illinois.

Paris Parham filled the position instead ofFlorida State assistant Dennis Gates, Simeon Coach Robert Smith and Deon Thomas. All were considered candidates.

It was just announced minutes ago Illini fans, that Deon Thomas will be on Howard Moore’s staff at UIC.

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Misinterpreted Fighting Illini basketball promotion exudes family values (photo)

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It’s been a great week and change for Illinois Fighting Illini basketball. They beat the #1 Indiana Hoosiers, then the #18 Minnesota Golden Gophers at their place. Then they finally ended their 8 game losing streak to Purdue, trouncing them by 20. I don’t have the facts and figures, but I bet the winning streak was good for their ticketing office. So things were going great for their marketing…

…until this happened.

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Possible sports photo of the year: Illini coach John Groce and son

john groce

I’m not talking about the picture above; I’m talking about the Chicago Tribune photo after the jump. It’s Illini coach John Groce and his son embracing the moment after knocking off the #1 Indiana Hoosiers, their hated rival. Of course, there’s conflict for Groce as he grew up a huge Hoosiers fan in Muncie, Indiana. And his wife went to IU as well.

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9 things really wrong with Illini basketball right now

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Last night the #23 Illini lost at home to a Northwestern team that has their coach squarely on the hot seat, is reeling from injuries and without their best player in Drew Crawford. The loss was the third in a row by double digits for the Illini, and the three defeats have been even more lopsided than the scores indicate. This shouldn’t be happening to a team that was ranked in the top ten just a few short weeks ago.

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Illini guard D.J. Richardson can’t seem to find his shot

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After starting 12-0 the Illinois Fighting Illini are 2-3 in their last 5. And one of those wins was rather ugly. A big reason for their recent struggles is the ramped up level of competition as Big Ten play has begun. But it’s also they fact the team lives and dies by the three, and no one was more so than senior guard D.J. Richardson. Of all his field goal attempts on the season, only 46 have been of the 2-point variety. The three is D.J.’s game so when it’s off, so is he, as are the Illini?

Richardson has always been streaky, he’s had major struggles with his shot at various times during his college basketball career, but this slump could be his worst. Or it seems that way since the Illini are ranked so high and playing in so many high profile games?

Maybe it’s time for Coach John Groce to sub Joseph Bertrand in the lineup for Richardson?

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#11 Illini crush #8 Ohio State, rebound literally and figuratively

john groce

This is what it’s like to rebound: both winning the battle on the glass and coming back from a loss. In their last three games (Mizzou, Auburn and Purdue) the Illini got owned on the backboards and went 1-2. In their Big Ten opener Illinois got upset by a .500 Purdue team. The loss was shocking, but the #11 Illini recovered nicely, CRUSHING the #8 Ohio State Buckeyes 74-55 in their conference home opener. They won the battle of the boards 40-30.

It was their second win over a top ten team this season, and their most lopsided defeat of a top ten ranked Big Ten team since 1954. Although it appears both teams in this one are over-ranked and overrated. Or it’s just that no one will be able to win on the road in the Big Ten this year. Either way, it was Illinois’ best defensive effort of the year by far, and a career game for center Nnanna Egwu.

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#12 Illini struggle too often in beating bad teams

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The 12th ranked Illinois Fighting Illini have struggled this pre-conference season in blowing out/closing out teams that are supposedly very inferior to them. When you’re a top 15 ranked team, with very solid signature wins over #13 Gonzaga and #18 Butler, you should handle the mid-major and low-major scrubs very easily.

But the Illini don’t do that. They let bad teams hang around. After leading a 5-6 Auburn team by 11 at the United Center, they found themselves up by just one within four minutes to play at the home of the Chicago Bulls. This Auburn team is HORRIBLE. They lost to DePaul, Winthrop at home and Murray St by 20. This never should have been close. But it’s a pattern that’s been continuous all non-conference season.

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Illini seniors D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul lead the way

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The Illinois Fighting Illini suffered their first loss last night to Mizzou, but they’re still 12-1. And nationally ranked. I think any Illinois fan would have taken 12-1 at this point when the season started. This Illini team will go as far as their seniors will take them. And I’m not talking about Tyler Griffey. Four year starter guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul are the keys to the Illini maintaining that top ranking and getting a high seed in March. And then doing something with it.

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#10 Illinois Fighting Illini suffer first loss to #17 Missouri

john groce

Before we get to the breakdown of what happened in the Illinois Fighting Illini first loss, (Illinois was one of the last 6 unbeaten teams remaining in the nation) suffered at the hands of the Missouri Tigers 82-73, a few observations and notes on this series and rivalry overall, with updated stats.

-Why is this even called the Braggin’ Rights game? I mean seriously, how many of you Illini people actually have Mizzou people to tell how much they suck? (after Illinois wins of course)

-Why does this arena have a NBA three-point line on the floor? There hasn’t been a NBA team in St. Louis since 1965? (And why were Brandon Paul and company bombing away from that spot so much?

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Illini Brandon Paul wins national player of the week award

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The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected Illinois guard Brandon Paul as its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week for games ending the week of Sunday, Dec. 9. The USBWA’s weekly honor is presented by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and will be handed out each Tuesday through Feb. 19 this season.

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#13 Illini are for real; win at #10 Gonzaga verifies

john groce

Last year’s Illinois Fighting Illini started 10-0, just like this year’s team. They finished an awful 17-15. But those were the Illini of Bruce Weber, not John Groce. With the 85-74 win at #10 Gonzaga last night, the first year coach has now produced the fastest start for a rookie coach in school history.

11 point underdogs, no one gave the Illini a chance. CBS’ Doug Gottlieb called Illinois overrated and predicted the Illini would get thrashed. And many preseason publications predicted the Illini to finish 9th or 10th in the Big Ten.

They were all wrong.

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’13 Illini hoops recruiting class gets even better

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The Tim Beckman hire is such a disaster that it requires FEMA aid, but so far the entrance of John Groce may be alright. It looks like this guy can really recruit. Monday afternoon Austin Colbert, a four-star center from Gill St. Bernards in New Jersey, announced his commitment to the Illini. He did it through Twitter; which is of course the new AP.

Get ready “cuz this is the Colbert Report.”

Expect a ton of Stephen Colbert jokes over the next four years.

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