Brandon Paul

No. 13 Illinois goes from good story to real threat after win over Gonzaga

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For many, seeing No. 13 Illinois included in the nation’s Top 15 wasn’t worth much more than a storyline.

First-year coach John Groce, inheriting a team from now-Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, had led the Illini to a 9-0 record coming into Saturday night’s match-up with Gonzaga. Problem was, the Zags had been beating an opponents by an average of nearly 25 points per game.

This “good story” couldn’t withstand that, especially on the road, right? Wrong.

Illinois guard Brandon Paul tallied 35 points on an efficient 10-of-16 shooting to lead all scorers in the Illini’s 85-74 win Saturday night in Spokane.

“I kept telling everybody, `This is it. We’ve got to take this right now,” Paul said after the game, recalling his team’s mindset at halftime. “We’re not playing well, but we’re still in this game.”

“A lot of people doubted us,” Paul said, as reported by the AP. “We came into the game as underdogs. We love that stuff.”

After a slow start and falling down 8-0 and eventually 12-3 in the opening minutes, Illinois dialed up the defensive pressure. Groce’s team would force 16 turnovers on the game and hold Gonzaga to 28 percent from behind the arc on its way to a win.

Much of the offensive attack centers around what Paul is able to do, complemented in the backcourt by Tracy Abrams (13 points) and D.J. Richardson (10 points), who were the other two Illini players in double figures.

But with everything centered around Paul, it raises a red flag. If he shoots poorly on any given night, is there enough around him to pick up the slack? The Illini might just answer as they go along.

Check out video highlights of the game here, courtesy of Illinois athletics.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.


PHOTO: South Carolina gets new uniforms

Frank Martin
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South Carolina debuted some new uniforms early this week as the school is going with a fresh look and three color ways.

They’re also going to with the “Carolina” branding this season, but I think these new uniforms look pretty cool.