After sitting the previous three games and slowly working back into the mix, Illinois point guard Sam Maniscalco's goal is 10 to 15 minutes of playing time when No. 22 Illinois gets back into action later this week, coach Bruce Weber said Monday morning.
CHAMPAIGN -- After sitting the previous three games and slowly working back into the mix, Illinois point guard Sam Maniscalco's goal is 10 to 15 minutes of playing time when No. 22 Illinois gets back into action later this week, coach Bruce Weber said Monday morning.
Maniscalco returned to the practice court Sunday, and the coaches will monitor him before the Illini (15-3 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten) play at Penn State (9-10, 1-5) in a key road game Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN2).
Maniscalco felt fine after going through about a third of the Illini's practice Sunday, Weber said.
Maniscalco strengthened the ankle with pool work, shooting and light drills before enduring some live work when the Illini returned from a two-day break on a bye weekend.
"We'll know more as we put a little more stress on it,'' Weber said. "We'll have him go a little more today. Tomorrow, we'll probably ease off a little bit and just shoot. We'll hope that he makes some progress.
"Our goal would be to have him for 10 to 15 minutes.''
The plan follows the same strategy as earlier in the season, when Maniscalco missed the exhibition games before playing as a reserve in the season's first three games.
Illinois moved into the top 25 for the first time since the Dec. 19 poll after winning all three games in Maniscalco's absence, and Weber didn't mind the bye weekend for the Illini. It allowed players to return home prior to the start of the second semester Tuesday and return from the euphoria from the 79-74 upset over Ohio State to subside.
"In the long haul, to get some guys back healthy, get some freshness and come back down to Earth, it was a good thing,'' Weber said.
The Illini appeared at No. 25 in this week's USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.
Illinois basketball was ranked No. 10 in the RPI, according to RPIratings.com. The Big Ten was the top rated league with all 12 teams in the RPI's top 145.
Illinois was a No. 6 seed in the latest bracketology released by ESPN.
BASKETBALL: Illini guard Brandon Paul earned player of the week in the Big Ten after finishing with 43 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against Ohio State.
He scored the most points by a Big Ten player since Purdue's Glenn Robinson had 44 against Kansas in the NCAA tournament in 1994 and the most in Big Ten play since Robinson had 49 against Illinois in the final game of the regular season in 1994.
The upset win "gave us a chance at this point to be up in the race,'' Weber said.
Illinois is tied with Michigan State for the Big Ten lead.
VOLLEYBALL: Kevin Hambly was named national coach of the year by Volleyball magazine after leading the Illini to the NCAA title game, where Illinois fell to UCLA. It was Illinois' first appearance in the NCAA championship match.
Hambly is 82-20 in three years as Illini coach, including a 32-5 mark last season. Only three teams in school history won more games in a single season, and the Simi Valley, Calif., native guided the Illini to first Final Four in 23 years and third in school history.
The publication also named Michelle Bartsch a first-team All-American and Colleen Ward a second-team All-American.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.