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Recently in Maui Invitational Category

            John Groce has received a $200,000 raise that brings his annual salary to $1.6 million and a one-year extension to his contract, which now runs through the 2017-18 season, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced Saturday.

            ``We are pleased to extend John Groce's contract by a year and reward him for an outstanding job in his first season at Illinois,'' Thomas said. ``The arrow is definitely pointing up for Fighting Illini basketball, and this helps solidify the commitment by both the university and John to continue moving the program to a championship level.''

            Groce guided Illinois to a 23-13 record, capped by a victory in the NCAA tournament. The Illini began the season with 12 straight wins, highlighted by the school's first Maui Invitational championship, and rose to No. 10 in the nation. After falling to 2-7 in Big Ten play, the Illini won five straight en route to an 8-10 league finish.

          Sharing the ball when it had it and playing lockdown defense when it didn't, Illinois opened a 57-26 halftime lead and wheeled past USC 94-64 in its Maui Invitational opener on Monday.

          ``The first half was about as good as we defended this season,'' coach John Groce said. ``We were really unselfish in the first half, really shared the ball.  We've got a lot of guys that can score and shoot the ball, so it's hard to key on one guy.  [But] I thought the whole deal was key by our defense.''

            Brandon Paul (26 points) led the way as Illinios (4-0) shot nearly 69 percent in the first half against the Trojans (2-1). D.J. Richardson (13), Tracy Abrams (11) and Tyler Griffey (10) also were in double figures

            Next up for Illinois is Chaminade (9:30 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN2). The Division II tournament host  upset Texas 86-73 in its opener. The Silverswords are 7-76 since the tournament begain in 1984.

            A win in that game would put the Illini in the Maui championship game against Butler or No. 9 North Carolina, the tourney favorite.

            Illinois lost the Maui championship game to Arizona in 2000, its highest finish in the prestigious early-season tournament. The Illini finished third in 1987 and 2007, their other Maui appearances.

The USC start was very different from Illinois' first island game. It  trailed Hawaii 44-28 early in the second half on Friday before surviving 78-77 in overtime on D.J. Richardson's three-pointer at the buzzer.

``We were disappointed we didn't get off to a better start Friday,'' Groce said. ``I thought the start to the [USC] game was critical.  I thought we came out and got off to a great start, had a lot of energy, and really moved the ball.  It was a freeflowing first half.  I thought the tempo was to our liking.  We got the ball up and down the floor, and guys made plays.''

            The men's basketball schedule Illinois released Thursday will be a challenging one for new coach John Groce and his rebuilding roster.

            The nonconference schedule will be highlighted by trips to the Maui Invitational and Gonzaga, an ACC/Big Ten Challenge meeting with Georgia Tech in Champaign, the annual Braggin' Rights showdown with Missouri in St. Louis and Auburn at the United Center.

            The Illini will begin Big Ten play at Purdue on Jan. 2 and finish at Ohio State on March 10.  Their home single-play opponents are Indiana and Penn State. They will travel to Michigan State and Iowa for their only meetings with those schools.

            ``Our team will be tested early and often,'' Illinois head coach John Groce said. ``Our nonconference includes every situation imaginable. The journeys of November and December give us the opportunity to be prepared for an extremely competitive Big Ten race. There have been as many as six teams ranked in various preseason polls. With the tremendous players, coaches and home court environments in this league, we'll be challenged at the highest level throughout the conference season.''

 

 

2012-13 Illinois Basketball Schedule

DAY DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIME TV

Monday Oct. 22 Orange & Blue Scrimmage Assembly Hall 7 p.m.

Saturday Oct. 27 Lewis (Exh.) Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Sunday Nov. 4 West Chester (Exh.) Assembly Hall TBA TBA

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday Nov. 9 Colgate Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Monday Nov. 12 St. Francis (N.Y.) Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Friday Nov. 16 at Hawaii Honolulu, Hawaii TBA

Monday Nov. 19 vs. USC % Lahaina, Hawaii 11 p.m. ESPN2

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. Texas/Chaminade % Lahaina, Hawaii 9:30 p.m./4 p.m. ESPN2

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA % Lahaina, Hawaii TBA TBA

Sunday Nov. 25 Gardner Webb Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Wednesday Nov. 28 Georgia Tech # Assembly Hall 8 p.m. ESPN2

Tuesday Dec. 4 Western Carolina Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Saturday Dec. 8 at Gonzaga Spokane, Wash. TBA TBA

Tuesday Dec. 11 Norfolk State Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Sunday Dec. 16 Eastern Kentucky Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Saturday Dec. 22 vs. Missouri * St. Louis, Mo. (Scottrade Center) TBA TBA

Saturday Dec. 29 vs. Auburn Chicago, Ill. (United Center) TBA TBA

Wednesday Jan. 2 at Purdue West Lafayette, Ind. TBA TBA

Saturday Jan. 5 Ohio State Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Wednesday Jan. 9 Minnesota Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Saturday Jan. 12 at Wisconsin Madison, Wis. TBA TBA

Thursday Jan. 17 Northwestern Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Tuesday Jan. 22 at Nebraska Lincoln, Neb. TBA TBA

Sunday Jan. 27 Michigan Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Thursday Jan. 31 at Michigan State East Lansing, Mich. TBA TBA

Sunday Feb. 3 Wisconsin Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Thursday Feb. 7 Indiana Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Sunday Feb. 10 at Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn. TBA TBA

Wednesday Feb. 13 Purdue Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Sunday Feb. 17 at Northwestern Evanston, Ill. TBA TBA

Thursday Feb. 21 Penn State Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Sunday Feb. 24 at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. TBA TBA

Saturday March 2 Nebraska Assembly Hall TBA TBA

Tuesday March 5 at Iowa Iowa City, Iowa TBA TBA

Sunday March 10 at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio TBA TBA

Thu.-Sun. March 14-17 Big Ten Tournament Chicago, Ill. (United Center)

Tue.-Wed. March 19-20 NCAA First Round Dayton, Ohio

Thu.-Sun. March 21-24 NCAA Second & Third Rounds TBA

Thu.-Sun. March 28-31 NCAA Regionals TBA

Sat. & Mon. April 6 & 8 NCAA Final Four Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Dome)

% = EA SPORTS Maui Invitational

# = ACC/Big Ten Challenge

* = Bud Light Braggin' Rights

All times listed are Central.

All dates are subject to change.

Remaining times and television information will be released when available.

About the blogger

Herb Gould started with the Sun-Times in 1977 and has covered several teams, including the Blackhawks. He is a long-time beat reporter covering the Fighting Illini and the Big Ten for the Sun-Times.

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