Another game, another mediocre performance from the Illini under head coach Jon Groce. Illinois looked to give a sell-out crowd a victory, but Minnesota had other plans. The first half went back and forth, as the teams headed into the locker room tied, thanks to 13 from Kipper Nichols.
In the second half, Minnesota came out firing and took the lead quickly, including a seven-consecutive-field-goal run to increase the lead to, yep, you guessed it, double digits. Minnesota’s lead peaked at 13 points, culminating with a John Groce Table Pound. classic. An attempted rally cut the lead to six, but Illinois’ abysmal shooting, hardly-existant defense, and probably just a better Minnesota team ultimately ended Illinois’ chances at this one by a score of 68-59.
Malcolm: As an Illinois fan and a fan of Malcolm, there’s no one who wants to see him play basketball at the next level more than me…But he’s making it really difficult on himself. His offense seems to consist of jump-shot attempts, attempts that haven’t been falling. 5-18 shooting including 0-7 from the three point line. It seemed like we were just one 3-pointer away from being back in this one, yet Malcolm couldn’t get it to fall. In what was a microcosm of his shooting tonight, Malcolm missed a wide open three, got his rebound, went up for the shot again, and inexplicably passed it to a non-existant player, turning it over.
JCL: All you really need to know from Mr. Coleman-Lands’ performance tonight was that it was cold. Like ice, ice cold. He didn’t score a bucket in 25 minutes. He went 0-10 from the field. He went 0-8 from three. If you’re a shooter you just have to keep shooting, but boy his lack of production hurt the Illini tonight.
Kipper: A bright spot for the Illini. Career-high 16 points, he shot the ball nicely. Would definitely like to see him develop more on defense to take on B1G Big-men.
Mav: 12 points, 11 rebounds. A nice double-double for Morgan considering how much this big man has struggled to get boards the last few games. He also put up not one, not two, but three slam dunks. If you watch Illinois basketball you know how seldom a dunk comes, particularly for Mav.
Tate: 12 minutes for Tate…That’s a lot of minutes for someone who typically comes into the game, dribbles the ball into the corner, and has a ceiling of one bucket (he made two free throws).
Abrams: Only saw three minutes of action due to extended minutes of Lucas, JCL, and the minutes of Tate. Didn’t score.
What I loved: We didn’t let our opponent outplay us in the first half, particularly in the first four minutes of the game. The Illini held their own in the first half, going into the locker room tied. It looked as though it was a very winnable game.
What I hated: Shooting. Illinois has been shooting absolutely disastrous from the field the last few games. Tonight saw no deviation from that. 38% from the field and 18% from beyond the arc. These shooting percentages don’t surprise me, Illinois drives to the paint less than anyone in the NCAA. When you constantly rely on jump-shots, if they don’t fall enough, field goal percentage will drop. That paired with next to no defense is going to hurt you in the Big Ten.
Overall: Another loss in the B1G under John Groce, a game that is supposed to be won by the University of Illinois. The Fire Groce bandwagon is continuing to gain steam, and probably for good reason. After having a career best 13 points at half, Kipper Nichols doesn’t see the court for the first 6 minutes of the 2nd half. JG’s predetermined rotations have been driving Illini fans nuts, particularly when in those first 6 minutes Minny goes on a run to take a lead.
What’s Next: Illinois (13-11, 3-8), takes on Northwestern in Evanston, a team that is primed to make the NCAA tournament for the very first time ever.