Two football losses, three basketball wins, and an exciting recruit

Maverick Morgan, Rice, Bertrand and Malcolm Hill get excited on the bench; Photo by Cary Frye

Maverick Morgan, Rice, Bertrand and Malcolm Hill get excited on the bench; Photo by Cary Frye

In case you didn’t know, I’ve been out of the country for about 12 days. In that span of time, the football team continued to prove its suckitude by almost beating Penn State and then losing to Indiana, while the basketball team surged ahead to have zero problems against the subpar teams that they faced in the beginning of the season.

Oh, and we got a commit from an exciting basketball recruit (not the one you’re thinking of, but exciting nonetheless).

As I’m sure you’d expect, I was aware of all the scores, but actually watching the games just wasn’t possible. First of all, no one in the UK gives a rats butt about Illinois football or basketball (instead we enjoyed watching Scotland rugby vs. Japan at numerous pubs in Edinburgh). Secondly, the games were on anywhere from 11pm to 1AM.

Here’s a quick recap of what I missed… just in case you missed it as well.

FOOTBALL

Any hopes of slipping into a bowl game this year have been completely dashed, as Illinois dropped two more games, putting their overall record at 3-6. While those 3 wins to start off the season put them ahead of last year, it’s not clear if they’re going to win any more upcoming games. And, Coach Beckman has yet to beat a Big Ten opponent. However, there is still a Purdue game coming up in a few weeks…

The Illini managed to take the Nittany Lions into overtime two Saturdays ago, barely letting the game slip away 24-17. Penn State isn’t having the best season, but it would’ve been an important road win, as well as a coveted B1G win. But it wasn’t meant to be.illini-football-orange-helmets-2013-a

Against Indiana a couple of days ago, Illinois started off strong and appeared to actually be in the game, tying it up 35-35 in the fourth quarter. Then, something went terribly wrong. The Illini failed to score again, while Indiana managed to rack up 17 more points to finish with a 52-35 win.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Ryan Lankford has a shoulder injury that will probably keep him out for the entire season. So there’s that.

For some reason (probably due to withdrawal), I’ll be heading to Champaign this weekend to witness the OSU massacre in person. It better not be freezing outside.

BASKETBALL

On a happier note, the basketball team is pretty much doing what it’s supposed to right now. I missed out on an exhibition against Northwood in Michigan (83-67), and the home opener against Alabama State (80-63). I did manage to make it home yesterday in time to sort of watch Illinois beat Jacksonville State 86-62. I say sort of, because the game was on BTN Digital, which means it was either blurry, choppy, weirdly speeded up, or simply nonexistent.

Joseph Bertrand getting it done for the Illini; Photo by Cary Frye

Joseph Bertrand getting it done for the Illini; Photo by Cary Frye

Needless to say, I’m extremely excited to actually SEE a game on Wednesday at 6:30pm against Valparaiso, which will actually be aired on BTN.

Here’s what we’ve learned: Illinois can beat teams that no one has ever heard of. This is a great thing, especially since Kansas State lost to Northern Colorado last week, proving that it is possible to lose these games that are supposed to be “easy” (hey we almost did it under Bruce Weber as well). The fact that the Illini have scored at least 80 points on each game and the most an opponent has scored is 67 is a nice sign.

Since the exhibition games don’t count, the Illini are 2-0 for the season. Rayvonte Rice is leading the team in points, averaging 17.5 per game. Joseph Bertrand is right behind him with 17 points. Nanna Egwu and Tracy Abrams are also averaging double digits, at 11 and 10 per game, respectively.

Bertrand is leading on the rebound front, averaging 9 per game. He also enjoyed his first double double as an Illini against Jacksonville State, with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Egwu is behind him on rebounds with 8.5, and has also had 7 blocks.

Jaylon Tate is emerging as an asset as well, leading the team with 10 assists with just 1 turnover in the first two games. Abrams has 4 assists and 3 turnovers, while Bertrand has had 5 assists and five turnovers.

This is JUST the beginning! I expect Wednesday’s Valpo game to be a little bit closer, though I am very confident the Illini will take the win. There were moments last night when JSU was in the game, but they didn’t last very long. Valpo could be a little bit more pesky, and the game may be less of a blowout. But a true test probably won’t come until Nov. 26 at UNLV.

RECRUITING

We nailed another one! We’re still awaiting news from Cliff Alexander (which should come Friday), but D.J. Williams quietly slipped in a commitment while I was gone. The 6-foot-7 forward from Simeon is the first member of the 2015 class. The 4-star recruit is ranked 2nd in the state by ESPN, and 6th for his overall position.

I love that the kid knew what he wanted (Illinois!) and made his commitment to Groce and the team early.

And that’s what we missed!

 

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