Alan Griffin turns it up for Illinois as they get close to securing an NCAA Tournament berth

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EVANSTON – Around the middle of the Big Ten season, when Illinois was finally beginning to find their stride, he was dealing with the toughest part of his season.

After scoring just three points in each of his two previous games, one of which included Northwestern at home, Alan Griffin was ejected against Purdue for stomping on forward Sasha Stefanovic. He’d serve a two-game suspension, which was a major disappointment considering the potential Griffin showed early in the Big Ten season.

But slowly the guard is finding his rhythm again as the Big Ten season comes to a close, and on Thursday, he enjoyed his finest game of the season in Evanston. 

The sophomore guard scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the floor, including six three-pointers, as the Illini beat Northwestern 74-66 at Welsh Ryan Arena. It’s the third-straight win for Brad Underwood’s team in the Big Ten and continues to solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s continued his recent string of strong play, with the guard scoring in the double digits in three of his last four games. Griffin had 14 in a loss to Rutgers on February 15th, then after a nine-point effort at Penn State the following week, he had 13 Monday in a win over Nebraska.

Add in his 24 from Thursday, and Griffin is averaging 9.4 points per game in 18 minutes a contest.

So what has been working recently for the guard? Griffin credits a more relaxed mindset before games as the reason for the increased production.

“It’s something I work on,” said Griffin. “Finding different mindsets for each game. So if I didn’t play good in a recent game, I change my mindset, and today I had a different approach, and I’m gonna keep with this approach from now on.”

That’s a great thing for Illini basketball, who are closing in on their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2013 thanks in part to the guard’s recent play.

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