It's starting to feel like I'm writing the same post over and over and over and over again. Illinois has a game at home against a team from a much smaller conference, and whether it's bad shooting or just not taking care of the ball, the Illini make the game tougher on themselves then they have to. Of course, they also win the game.
On Sunday evening against Eastern Kentucky it was a little bit of everything allowing the Colonels to hand around. While the Illini ended the game shooting 49% from the floor, they only shot 26% (6-23) from deep. And we all know that this team isn't blowing anybody out if it's not hitting threes.
And it's really not going to blow anybody out when it's turning the ball over 20 times. The 20 turnovers tie our season high, as we also turned the ball over 20 times against USC.
Still, it wasn't all bad. The Illini out-rebounded Eastern Kentucky 38-20, and in spite of the bad shooting and turnovers, they didn't trail for a single second during the 40 minutes. Brandon Paul got off to a slow start and didn't have a great game, but he still managed to finish with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Then there was Tracy Abrams, who made 5 of his 8 shots and grabbed 5 rebounds of his own while finishing with 13 points.
But my player of the game was D.J. Richardson. D.J. did not have a good night shooting, making only 1 of his 5 shots and finishing with 5 points, but he also set a career-high with 7 assists and had 4 rebounds. When the Illini were finally able to start pulling away in the second half it was D.J. setting up a lot of the offense with his passes. Which is exactly what you want to see from somebody when he's not shooting the ball well.
-- This may have been Nnanna Egwu's best game of the season. He hit 3 of his 4 shots, and they were all nice little turnaround jumpers from the post. The kind of shot that will make him a valuable player in conference play if he can hit it consistently. He also blocked 4 shots, and if he'd finished with more than 2 rebounds I'd say this was a great game for him. As it stands, it was simply encouraging and nice to see.
-- Joe Bertrand was great off the bench. He didn't contribute too much during the second half, Bertrand kept the Illini in control in the first half, as he was the only player who seemed unafraid to attack. He finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
-- It's hard to get your transition game going when your guards are grabbing all the boards. Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tracy Abrams and Joe Bertrand combined for 25 of our 38 rebounds in the game. Which is awesome to see from your guards, but it slows down the transition game. It'd be much better if Egwu and Sam McLaurin pulled those down and hit the guards on the outlet to start the break.
-- I enjoyed Myke Henry tonight. He only played 15 minutes and was 0-for-3 from deep, but he had good energy and pulled down 3 offensive boards. I also don't mind him taking those threes because he was open and they were good shots. I'd just like to see them go down.
-- I liked the orange coat, John Groce. Though I'd prefer you saved it for games that are a bit more important than Eastern Kentucky.