When Illinois was trailing UNLV on Tuesday night, battling back from a 10-point deficit at halftime, it was nerve-wracking, but in the fun and exciting kind of way. Tonight the Illini had to battle back from an eight-point deficit at halftime, and trailed with under three minutes to go, and it was just terrifying.
Losing to UNLV on the road would have been one thing, but losing to a Summit League team at home would have been a disaster.
And we got lucky to avoid the disaster.
Sure, you can point out how Tracy Abrams came out like a man possessed in the second half to help get the Illini back into the game, or you can mention Ray Rice's big steal in the final minute and the free throws that iced the game. But I don't care. You may want to look at it like the Illini played sloppily and then battled back to get a win against an inferior opponent -- and, I mean, you wouldn't be wrong if that's what you saw -- but that's not the way I look at it.
I look at it like the Illini managed to beat a team that shot 2-for-13 from the free throw line by two points. If the Mastodons managed to shoot even 38% from the free throw line on Friday night we're looking at one of the worst home losses in recent memory.
So, no, I don't think the Illini battled back to get the win. I just think IPFW gave one away.
-- Honestly, I don't even know what I want to say about this game. I'd prefer to just forget that it even happened, but at least it was nice to see Abrams take things over in the second half? I mean, it's not going to get his critics off his back, but without him tonight we aren't winning. It's pretty simple.
-- Freshmen benches are going to really hurt you sometimes. Now, IPFW has a pretty consistent rotation that sees members of its bench scoring points regularly, but the Mastodons bench outscored our bench 28-3 on Friday night. Even against teams like this we need production from the bench if we're going to win. We didn't get it tonight. And we won't be able to get away with that kind of play from here on out.
-- This isn't an actual stat, but if basketball had an OPS like stat that added up FG%, FT% and 3P% the Illini would have a Total Shooting Percentage (TRADEMARK COPYRIGHT PATENT PENDING) of 114.7% tonight. Which is terrible, but not as bad as IPFW's TSP of 100%. Good god, somebody burn the film of this game.
-- It figures that the one guy who made most of his shots tonight was in foul trouble most of the time. Joe Bertrand was 4-for-5 on the night with 11 points. The rest of the team was 16-for-46.
-- These two teams combined for 32 turnovers tonight. It was just a horrible basketball game. If you didn't watch you made the right choice.
Points per possession: 0.86
Turnover rate: 21.2%
Off. rebound rate: 27.8%
FT rate: 45.1%
Points per possession: 0.86
Turnover rate: 28.0%
Off. rebound rate: 36.1%
FT rate: 24.5%