Illinois 64 Norfolk State 54: The Toughest Spartans We'll Face All Season

USA TODAY Sports

It's wash, rinse, repeat with these Illini this season. Play well against your good opponents and play down to your bad opponents. Especially at home. It always ends up a win.

The good news: we're 11-0, and despite suffering a couple injuries during the game, both D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams returned to action and seemed fine by the time it was over.

The bad news: everything else.

You know, you can get angry at people for not showing up to Assembly Hall to watch a top 10 team if you like, as the empty seats in the A sections are very obvious on most nights. And while there are the "it's Tuesday night" and "it's Norfolk State" excuses, really the only thing anybody who isn't going to these games has to say is "have you seen us play at home?"

It's a power move. Guaranteed to shut down anybody trying to shame you because it's utterly infallible. For the most part we've been a bad team at home. Tonight was no different. We shot 35% from the field, 26% from three and 59% from the free throw line. Brandon Paul finished with 14 points, but 5 of those came on free throws as he was 3-for-10 from the floor.

We all know that when he struggles we're going to struggle. This is not a secret. Tonight was just another indicator.

But, a win is a win, and I'm not going to give it back. No, instead I'm just going to prepare for the nail-biter that will be the Eastern Kentucky game.

Other Thoughts

-- D.J. Richardson was huge. He hurt his shoulder in the first half and did not start the second half on the floor, but he came back in relatively quickly and provided a spark for the Illini at one point, scoring 7 straight points. That little run of his helped give us a lead that, while we would never really add to, we didn't give up either.

-- MAKE YOUR DAMN FREE THROWS. Seriously, things went so well against Gonzaga. I guess tonight was regression toward the mean, as we made only 16 of our 27 free throw attempts. I hereby command everybody skip class or studying for finals for the rest of this week and do nothing but shoot free throws.

-- We did have 15 offensive rebounds. Of course, it's a lot easier to get offensive rebounds when you miss 39 field goals and 11 free throws during the course of a game.

-- The defense wasn't bad. Brandon Paul had an off night on offense, but he played pretty solid defense, which is something I don't think we give him enough credit for. As a team the Illini blocked 7 shots, had 7 steals and forced 15 Norfolk State turnovers.

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