Climbing the Ladder

Climbing the Ladder

Illinois cracks the Top Ten in the AP Top 25 for the first time in six years.

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois jumped three spots to No. 10 in the most recent Associated Press Top 25, released Monday.

The Illini (10-0) defeated now-No. 14 Gonzaga Saturday, impressing voters with a 85-74 victory on the road.

This is the highest Illinois has been ranked since December, 2010 (No. 12) and the first time in the Top Ten since March of 2006 (No. 10).

"I'm happy for Illini Nation," coach John Groce said when asked about the national recognition his team is receiving. "I'm happy for the alums, I'm happy for the students on campus. I think they're excited. I'm happy for all the people that support us. I'm glad that people like to watch our team."

The Illini first cracked the Top 25 two weeks ago after winning the Maui Invitational and a close game against Gardner-Webb. Last week, a strong finish against Georgia Tech bumped the ranking to No. 13.

Now the Illini are in the Top Ten, the fourth highest-rated of six Big Ten teams. No. 1 Indiana, No. 3 Michigan, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 13 Minnesota and No. 19 Michigan State join the Illini in the poll. Groce has downplayed rankings of any sort for weeks, but with the team at it's highest standing in over six years, even he had to acknowledge he was proud of where his program stands just 10 games into his tenure.

"Well I think anytime you can obviously win, you know it continues, whether you like it or not, it continues to build credibility and kind of philosophy in where you're going and how you're building it," he said.

"We tried the very hardest, we sell our players on this, not to change the disposition regardless, but I do think certainly has created an excitement."

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