The regular season has ended for Illinois basketball, and despite some late-conference surges, Illinois dropped their last two games to end the season in eighth place in the B1G Ten Conference. If you’ve been paying attention, that means that today’s 68-55 loss at Ohio State has left me with no chance of seeing them play in the Big Ten Conference Tournament (I’ve got tix to the 6 and 7 games if you’d like to purchase them). Oh, and it means Illini fans will be more stressed out on Selection Sunday next week.
The Illini were down about 10 for most of the game, but it still felt like they had some sort of a chance. They would cut the lead slightly, and then let it slip back away in Columbus. I wasn’t ready to give up until the very end, though it seemed like they gave up much sooner.
Brandon Paul fouled out of his last regular season game as an Illini, but he did manage to finish with 21 points and 5 rebounds. D.J. Richardson was also in double digits with 10 points, and contributed a steal and two rebounds. Tyler Griffey made two 3-pointers and had 6 points, but no one else really seemed to have gotten off the bus. For some reason Devin Langford was in the game for 13 minutes, contributing 3 rebounds and zero points.
The Illini had 12 turnovers and 25 rebounds, compared to 36 rebounds and 15 TOs for OSU. They were 7-25 from behind the arc, and OSU wasn’t much better at 4-15. Overall FG percentage for Illinois was just 35%, with OSU shooting 47%. Deshaun Thomas had 19 points and Aaron Craft had 14, while Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 10. When you look at the numbers, OSU didn’t really play that well either, but we just managed to play worse.
After today’s loss, Illinois will end the season 21-11, and 8-10 in the conference. They have a chance to get a few more wins, but they’ll be facing Minnesota to start off the Conference Tourney this week, instead of Nebraska. The road to more pre-Tourney wins is going to be bumpier, but it is by no means impossible. Illinois has beaten Minnesota on the road, and lost to the same team while at home. So basically, I have no idea what’s going to happen next.
Obviously, Illinois can beat Minny, because they’ve done it already. However, the Illini have lost two games in the row, and their confidence is going to be down. Both teams are supposedly guaranteed a bid in the Tourney no matter what happens, but I’d certainly feel a bit more comfortable with another win under our belt (or two).
Just like many of the games we lost this year, Thursday’s game is more than just winnable, but it all sort of depends on which teams shows up at the United Center. It’s time to see what Coach John Groce can really do. It’s his job to get this team ready, and to make them understand what they are capable of. After we get to the Tourney it will be a different story, but let’s go ahead and solidify our entrance ticket to the best of our abilities.
Illinois and Minnesota will kick off the Big Ten Tournament with the first game on Thursday at 11AM.