Things Really Suck: The Day After Losing To Minnesota
There really isn't much to say about this one. Given that the first Illinois Minnesota game went to overtime in Champaign, I really shouldn't be surprised that this one went into extra minutes too. But it should not have. These teams have been playing each other very close, and you can't afford to make dumb mistakes and expect to win. Down the stretch, both Illinois and the Gophers made dumb mistakes, which swung the pendulum back and forth wildly. Illinois goes on a 17-2 run, takes the lead, then turns the ball over a bunch of times. Minnesota gives Illinois a four point possession, Illinois does not cover the three pointer in transition. Both teams had idiotic out of bounds mistakes, and both teams had terrible decisions on fouls in the last minute. Unfortunately, Illinois' foul was way way more costly.
Up three and 20 seconds to go, Illinois could have done one of the following things to win the game. A: foul way far away from the basket, before Minnesota even thought about shooting. B: clear the lane and let them get the easy layup. Or C: foul the shooter, but make damn sure you foul him hard enough so he can't make the shot. Illinois opted for option D: lightly foul the shooter in the act, but not enough to change his shot, and keep your feet moving so the refs HAVE to call it. (They didn't have to, yes, and Doug Gotlieb thinks they were hosed, but Meyers was moving way too much not to attract attention.)
All of the sudden, Illinois lost the lead, with no time to get a good shot off, and lost the most talented big man on the floor. They lost in overtime.
The game was defined by inexperienced mistakes, the mistakes we thought we wouldn't see because Illinois had been in so many close games already this season. That is not the case though. And for all the bright spots of the game, Tracy playing very well on offense, Brandon Paul once again taking over in the second half, there were too many bad notes as well. The bench, that was at one point going to be a strength this season, is an absolute liability now, and it has been since Joe moved into the lineup. This compared to the Gophers, where otherwise unheralded players took Illinois to school for a stretch in the first half.
The offense only really moved in the second half when Brandon simply took the game over, and cleared the lane for himself. When that happens it is a thing of beauty, but even his heroics weren't enough. Until overtime, and in desperation mode at that, three point shooting for Illinois was a non factor, with DJ and Sam Maniscalco, two players whose main offensive weapon is the three-ball combining for 1-9. That is just about as catastrophic as it gets. Illinois basically played without what has been its major offensive threat at times this season.
Offensively, the team has devolved into Meyers and Brandon doing everything themselves, accounting for 62% off all of the points. This isn't a bad thing if you can play them for 40 minutes each and make sure they get the ball with a decent look, but the passing of this team just can't guarantee that.
Things are really bad right now. Really bad, three game losing streak bad. You can turn things around to a degree, but the road is much much harder now, starting with a visit from Michigan State Tuesday night. Brace yourselves, things could get worse. If this was the breaking point of the season, and the team lost, does that mean the whole thing is broke?
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