Saturday, January 17, 2009

Disappointment in East Lansing ...

I mean come on already. For the second time this year we let one get away in Michigan - this time to Sparty. Ugh! We owned this game all night but gave them the win down the stretch thanks to empty possessions (turnovers and bad shots). Nobody turns victory into loss better than Illinois. Nobody.

We played a decent but not great first half to earn the 34-27 lead at the break on 48% shooting, making the most of turnovers with 18 points including 18 off the bench. Somehow we posted 9 second-chance points even though they killed us on the glass all day. But the second half was another story after putting their backs up against a 27-game home-winning streak.

A. Legion was huge for us off the bench with 15 points, and were it not for some easy misses he would have had more. He's only shooting 32% from the field after joining the team in late December. That should and needs to improve over the next few weeks. McCamey (0-9) was shaving ice all night and was a non-factor on offense most of the game. Same for Meachem (1-7). It was good to see Brock and Davis contribute with Alex.

I see three areas we need to improve in going forward: running the court, offensive boards (playing larger than we are), and a go-to scorer down the stretch when the game is in doubt. Right now we have several guys looking around for someone like McCamey, Tisdale, Davis, Meachem, or Legion to step-up and fill that role.

Sparty closed the game on a 12-3 run. It was a night of runs for them that got them back in and then over the top to earn the victory tonight in one of the strongest home-court advantages in CBB. And it doesn't get any easier this week as we head back to Champaign to host Ohio State and Wisconsin before a road trip to Minneapolis next week. Such is the life in the BIG-10.

For now, we're plus one (+1) in conference after earning the road win in West Lafayette earlier in conference play. I fear that we should be at least +2 or +3 at this point in the season. January is all about building the March resume. And for mid-pack teams like Illinois it's important to be positive in conference if you expect to earn a bid and do damage in the big dance. We have quality wins against Vandy, Mizzou, Purdue, and Michigan. Quality losses against Clemson, Sparty, and Michigan won't hurt. But, we're still in seach of that break-out / season-defining victory to launch us into the top-25 and the national debate of legitimate title-contenders this year. Losing 10 of our last 13 conference road games, we're on the outside of that discussion looking in at the big-boys.

web site counters
ISP unique hits since Aug. 2k6

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?