The Big Ten season has started and the start was not kind.
If you're natural reaction to tonight's loss is to panic, I get it. I even respect it. It's hard not to considering how things have gone around here the last few years. In our last 27 non-conference games the Illini are 24-3. In our last 19 conference games we are 6-13.
This year we're 0-1.
With a trend like that, it's easy to let panic creep in. Especially after losing to a Purdue team that was only 6-6 coming into tonight's game and at no point looked all that impressive this season aside from a win against Clemson. And then Purdue looked impressive for the second time this season tonight against Illinois.
I'm not panicking, though. Not to go all "I told you so" on you, but I fucking told you so. While we were all enjoying the 13-1 start to the season, the victories were making it all too easy to look past this team's deficiencies.
We can't rebound. We're not very good defensively, particularly on the interior. We have a very tough time winning when Brandon Paul isn't playing well. We don't respond to adversity all that well.
All of it was on display tonight. We led this game for most of the first half and early in the second half, but then Purdue surged and took a lead, and once that surge began the Illini looked lost. Hell, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson were lost. Both disappeared for a giant portion of the second half, and by the time they decided to start playing in the second half it was too late.
If you didn't see the game and just looked at Brandon Paul's stat line (15 points, 50% from the floor, 57% from three) you'd say he had a good game. Of course, if you watched, you know that's not true. For much of the second half junior season Brandon was on the court.
Instead of being aggressive and drawing fouls Brandon was just looking to get fouled. And though he did get fouled quite often, they weren't called and he ended up shooting only 1 free throw on the night. And he probably shouldn't have had the chance to shoot that free throw.
As for the boards, just looking at the box score, we weren't killed on the glass. Purdue had 38 rebounds, we had 31. Purdue had 12 offensive rebounds, we had 10. The difference was what Purdue did with those rebounds as the Boilermakers had 15 second-chance points to Illinois' 4. Purdue also had 36 points in the paint to our 18.
They beat us up. Plain and simple. They did what Purdue likes to do, and when the game is at Mackey, they can get away with it a lot easier. It sucks, but that's the way life works in conference play. You get calls at home that you're just not going to get on the road.
And because of it we're 0-1 in conference play, and it should now be obvious to everyone that the last couple months of this season are not going to be easy.
But we're still 13-2. So while you may want to panic, you don't have to just yet.
-- D.J. Richardson had 9 rebounds tonight and Joseph Bertrand had 7. Sam McLaurin, Nnanna Egwu and Tyler Griffey had 7 rebounds between the three of them. I think that says everything we need to know about our frontcourt. Now, it's possible we can survive this kind of rebound deficit if the frontcourt is scoring, but our three forwards combined for only 13 points tonight with Tyler scoring 8. And believe me when I say that Purdue's big men are not the best we're going to see in this conference.
-- The other day I wrote about the importance of this team getting to the free throw line. Tonight we did not do nearly as good a job of it. We shot only 14 free throws on the night, making 9 of them. Some of this is due to not getting calls, and some of it is due to a lack of aggression. This is where I'd normally give a platitude about the aggressive team getting the calls, but oddly enough Tracy Abrams was our most aggressive player tonight attacking the rim and he only shot 4 free throws so.... Well, actually, 4 free throw attempts was enough to tie Tracy for the team lead with Sam McLaurin.
-- D.J. Richardson's shooting woes continue. If only I had a dollar for every time that's been the case the last few seasons. D.J. was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-6 from three, though he did hit this shot that didn't count. The good news is that D.J. did contribute with those 9 rebounds. However, what he didn't do was attack the rim like he did against Auburn.
-- We hit 10 threes. So we can't really use that excuse.
-- Fuck D.J. Byrd. Fuck him so hard.
-- As U-God pointed out in the GameThread, The Champaign Room first went live on October 22, 2012. Since then Illinois football and basketball have played 6 conference games. We are 0-6. I promise you, if the Illini go 0-18 in conference play this season I will burn this blog to the ground, forever erasing it from the internet. I'll even burn down the Google cache if I have to.