Bertrand scored every point during a momentum-swinging 10-0 run, lifting No. 22 Illinois out of a 58-54 hole and propelling it to a 75-62 win over the Yellow Jackets in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Assembly Hall.
Illinois closed the game on a 21-4 run and is 8-0, riding the high of a start many didn’t expect from a team going through a transition.
Yet, when you have someone like Bertrand ready to step up if needed, it’s not a surprise Illinois has yet to digest defeat. Bertrand scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. highlighting the effort with three shots from beyond the arc.
“Until you get to know him, Joe sometimes comes off like a quiet guy, but he’s got some big-time energy,” Illinois head coach John Groce said in a post-game press conference. “I very rarely will watch practice film or game film and say, ‘Bertrand isn’t playing hard.'”
Bertrand has come a long way since his first year when he was sidelined by a knee injury. He has worked hard to become a threat for the Illini, especially when it comes to shooting the basketball from 3-point range.
“It’s really helped my confidence,” Bertrand said in a post-game press conference. “I’m looking to shoot them more this year. I was driving more last year. I’m looking to do both.”
What Bertrand has become is a match-up problem for opponents, and considering the way he played against Georgia Tech, don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association as well.
Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.