It should come as no surprise to anyone that Illinois lost to the No. 2 team in the country last night. And, with that road win for Michigan, the Wolverines are now tied with Kansas for the top spot in the country. Hey, if we’re going to lose at home, at least it’s to the best team in the country!
Before yesterday’s game, my only wish was that Illinois didn’t look stupid. Despite the 74-60 win for the Wolverines, the Illini actually hung in there pretty well for a good portion of the game. The Illini were down 8 points at the half, 35-27. About halfway through the second, Michigan pushed harder and the game slipped away. With about 5 minutes left the Michigan lead surged to 18, and it was pretty much over at that point.
Brandon Paul had a team-high 15 points, which is still on the lower side for him. He had a block, a steal and a couple of assists, but he also had 5 turnovers. D.J. Richardson fresh off of a career-high 30 last week at Nebraska, scored just 12 points yesterday. He also contributed an impressive 7 rebounds. Nnanna Egwu continued to lead the team in rebounds, he contributed 10. One of these days, I believe he will have a double double, but it hasn’t happened just yet. Tracy Abrams had 10 points, and those were the only guys in double digits.
Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand each contributed a measly 4 points. The Illini had 6 3′s, all of which came from Richardson, Paul and 1 from Abrams. What I said before the game is that we needed someone else to step up and have a good game besides Paul, and that didn’t happen. We won the battle of the rebounds 34-33, but lost the TO stat 15-12. Four separate Wolverines were in double digits, including 19 from Trey Burke.
Of course I knew this game would be a loss, but a gal can always dream for something different, right? Michigan was clearly the better team, and Illinois acted like this was a given, and thus gave them the game. The Illini are doing exactly what I expect, which makes me very nervous for what’s to come. They have just 2 wins in the conference, home against OSU and at Nebraska last week. Thursday, they’ll have to head to Michigan State and do something spectacular, or else fall further down the spiral toward the bottom of the conference.
The keys again, in case this time they’re listening, is to stop the turnovers and get everyone involved. There are too many games where this appears to be a 3-person team (Abrams, Richardson and Paul). There are a whole lot of other guys on the bench and on the starting roster that can contribute, and need to if we’re going to have a prayer at heading to the NCAA Tournament this year.
On the whole 15 wins isn’t a terrible place to be at this point in the season, especially playing in what might be the toughest conference out there. However, there is a very real chance that we’ll only win 2 or 3 more games on the season, and that’s not going to do the trick. We need some surprises, so why not get started this week?
Up next, you can watch the Illini at Michigan State on Thursday at 6pm on ESPN.