Groce credited Richardson for sparking the comeback.
‘‘I thought he was absolutely terrific on both ends of the floor,’’ Groce said. ‘‘He battled, he fought.’’
Griffey was benched several weeks ago after a blowout loss at Wisconsin. On a team that had lost its shooting touch, the senior forward had grown especially cold. And, though one of Illinois’ bigger players at 6-9, he wasn’t adding much to the inside presence the Illini desperately needed.
The play that brought him to life Thursday, though, had nothing to do with Illinois’ late surge. Griffey hit a 3-pointer less than 4 minutes into the second half. He had missed 20 straight 3-point attempts, dating to the start of the Big Ten season.
‘‘I said to myself, ‘Finally,'’’ said Griffey, who said he has been doing so much extra shooting that he’s had to have regular ice treatments on his wrist.
Groce said that, even after he benched Griffey, he never gave up on him.
‘‘I just have told him numerous times here I believe in him,’’ the first-year Illinois coach said. ‘‘I do.’’