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Groce hopes buzzer-beater is ‘trampoline’
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On February 8, 2013 @ 6:01 pm In All,Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
As Tyler Griffey’s game-winning shot at the buzzer went through the bottom of the net with time expiring, Illinois coach John Groce stormed the court with his hands in the air, yelling at the top of his lungs in jubilation.
Lost in a sea of orange, Groce was mobbed by players and Illini fans. Groce called it the best “basketball atmosphere he’s ever been a part of.” The first-year Illinois coach was searching for his family in the Where’s-Waldo crowd. Then, he spotted one shirtless fan who looked familiar.
It was his son, Conner.
An emotional Groce picked him up and screamed happily.
“After that shot went in, the first thing that I felt in my heart was pride,” Groce said by phone Friday morning. “I felt pride for my players, those seniors, pride for Illinois basketball, the Orange Krush — the best fans in the country. Most of all, I felt pride for my family because of how much they sacrifice for me.”
There are moments that define a college basketball season, and Groce believes his team’s latest moment was the springboard needed to avoid another demoralizing late-season collapse after the Illini lost 12 of their last 14 last season and were heading in a similar direction.
“You hope that you can use a win like this, a special memory, as a trampoline,” Groce said. “I try to tell my guys all the time you have to work everyday not to become dysfunctional and at the same time, you can’t swallow the poison that success brings. We just beat a great team, but we play another great team (Minnesota) on Sunday.
“Obviously, we play in a tough league with tough arenas to play in, our RPI is ranked the best in the country. It was our fifth team in six games that was nationally ranked. I always try to not just look at wins and losses but ask myself, ‘are we getting better?’ We’ve lost some close games, but my guys keep fighting, they’ve stayed engaged. When you see a team lose consecutive games, it’s tempting to say they’re not … [For more on John Groce hopes buzzer-beater serves as 'trampoline' for Illinois, click here.]
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