Ga Tech fades in 75-62 loss to No. 22 Illinois

Georgia Tech still needs to learn how to finish.

Reserve guard Joseph Bertrand hit 3-pointers on consecutive

possessions and scored every point in a 10-0 run Wednesday night

that rallied No. 22 Illinois to a 75-62 victory over the Yellow

Jackets in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game.

Before the second-half scoring spurt by Bertrand, Georgia Tech

held a 58-54 lead.

”Unfortunately for 33 minutes, that was a heck of a game,”

Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. ”We didn’t play very well

at the end. Very similar to our other loss against Cal. We’re just

not quite tough enough at the end.”

Illinois (8-0) took control late thanks to Bertrand’s one-man

show. The Illini finished the game on a 21-4 run over the final

7:15.

”Until you get to know him, Joe sometimes comes off like a

quiet guy, but he’s got some big-time energy,” Illinois coach John

Groce said. ”I very rarely will watch practice film or game film

and say, `Bertrand isn’t playing hard.”’

Bertrand scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half as the

surprising Illini kept up their early-season run.

After missing his first season with a knee injury, the redshirt

junior relied upon his athleticism to get to the basket and create

scoring opportunities for himself the last two years. By

concentrating on his perimeter game during individual practice

sessions over the summer, he’s become tougher to guard.

”It’s really helped my confidence,” Bertrand said. ”I’m

looking to shoot them more this year. I was driving more last year.

I’m looking to do both.”

Bertrand was 6 for 8 from the floor while going 3 of 4 behind

the 3-point line.

”He brings a lot of energy off the bench,” Gregory said.

”He’s a great athlete. He’s just streaky enough to be

dangerous.”

Illinois guard Brandon Paul also scored 15 points to go with

seven rebounds and seven assists. Tyler Griffey and D.J. Richardson

had 14 points apiece.

After losing 12 of its last 14 games last season, Illinois is

off to a strong start under Groce, who became the only coach since

World War II to start his Illini career with eight straight

wins.

”If you’d have said, `Hey, would you predict 8-0?’ I wouldn’t

have been bold enough to do that,” Groce said.

Kammeon Holsey led Georgia Tech (4-2) with 14 points while Jason

Morris and Mfon Udofia scored 10 apiece. The Yellow Jackets

appeared to grab control with a 12-3 run midway through the second

half for a 54-50 lead before wilting down the stretch.

Illinois entered the week as the nation’s leading 3-point

shooting team, making an average of 10.9 per game. The Illini

quickly found themselves in a long-distance shooting contest with

Georgia Tech.

The teams combined to make 6 of 10 from the 3-point line to

start the game. But the Illini kept it up, finishing with a

season-high 14 3-pointers, one short of the Assembly Hall

single-game record.

Meanwhile, the Illini also used a 2-3 zone defense for long

stretches, something not seen from Illinois in years, but relied on

man-to-man defense most of the game.

”Our defense ignited our offense during that 21-4 run,” Groce

said. ”When we defend like that and get some stops, we can put

points on the board in a hurry. That’s what happened to end the

game.”

Illinois has a 31-game nonconference winning streak in

regular-season games at Assembly Hall. A loss to Dayton in 2011,

when Gregory was coaching the Flyers, came in the NIT.

Illinois, which relied upon 3-point shooting in its biggest wins

this season, used 3-pointers from Richardson and Griffey during an

8-2 run to start the second half for a 44-37 lead.

Georgia Tech rallied with two 3-pointers from guard Chris Bolden

and a breakaway dunk by Morris for a 54-50 lead with 10:16

left.

Georgia Tech was finishing an eight-day trip that took the team

to California. After placing third in the DirecTV Classic in

Anaheim, the Yellow Jackets were 7 of 10 from the field to grab a

21-15 lead.

The lead changed hands six times in a back-and-forth first half,

when Illinois shot 46.7 percent from the 3-point line while the

Yellow Jackets hit 45.5 from behind the arc.