Let us hope that this is the worst game we see all season, because this game was ugly. Both teams shot below 33% from the floor and missed numerous layups and dunks, sprinkling in plenty of missed jumpers in between.
But, hey, we won, and in the end that's all that really matters. And the fact is, with the lack of a great shooter on this team, odds are it won't be the last ugly shooting night we see from this team. I wrote before the game started that I was somewhat worried about how we'd handle the boards against a Valpo team with a lot of size, but it turned out that wasn't really a problem. The Illini outrebounded the Crusaders 31-27 on the night, and 18 of our rebounds came on the offensive glass.
Of course, in order to get 18 offensive rebounds you either have to grab every single one or miss a lot of shots. The Illini took the latter route tonight.
Hopefully we'll cut down on those offensive rebound opportunities on Sunday against Bradley.
- It took three games, but Nnanna Egwu finally fouled out. He missed a lot of the second half after picking up his fourth foul with 11 minutes to go and would then foul out with a couple minutes left. Of all Nnanna's fouls, none was worse than when he bit on a fake at the three point line.
- Starting to get seriously worried about Tracy Abrams' shot this season. He went 4-for-16 tonight and is now 12-for-37 on the season, and 2-of-11 from three. With the lack of scorers like Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, I was hoping Tracy would be able to step up and fill that gap. It's still extremely early, but so far not-so-good.
-- Rayvonte Rice led the way with 18 points tonight, but he seemed way too passive for much of the second half. The Ray Rice I love is the one that attacks the basket and either gets an easy layup or draws the foul. Not the one that hangs out around the perimeter. Ray would start attacking late, though, and amazingly that's when the Illini finally put this game away.
-- Jon Ekey is proving to be a reliable rebounder. He only had eight rebounds through the first two games, but had 15 tonight, including eight on the offensive glass alone. He also hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half. If he can keep crashing the boards and hitting some threes -- and maybe finishing some of those putback dunk attempts -- he could prove to be extremely valuable this season.
-- The Legend Of Jaylon Tate took a hit on Wednesday night. He's a freshman so you know he's going to struggle, and tonight he struggled. He was 0-for-3 from the floor and finished with no points, a rebound, an assist, a steal and a turnover.
-- And it wasn't just Tate struggling, it was all the freshman. The five freshman finished the night 0-for-8 from the field with four points. All of which belonged to Malcolm Hill, and he got those at the free throw line. Also, Maverick Morgan and Kendrick Nunn did not see much playing time at all, continuing what we saw against Jacksonville State. It's clear that John Groce trusts Tate, Austin Colbert and Hill a lot more than he does Nunn and Morgan at this point.
-- Joseph Bertrand had a somewhat quiet 14 points and six rebounds, hitting two of his three treys. Yet, of all those points and rebounds, I don't even remember half of them. That's not a knock, I'm saying that Joe had a ninja game.
Points per possession: 0.97
Turnover rate: 12.1%
FT rate: 34.8%
Points per possession: 0.82
Turnover rate: 18.8%
FT rate: 38.5%