Well someone has to write a recap after what we just saw, so here goes nothing...
This was without question the toughest test to date for this year's squad; playing on the road--excuse me, I meant at a neutral site--against a ranked team is no easy task. Despite all of this, the Illini did actually have something going in their favor as they entered this contest; it was the last game of a suspension for the Ducks' Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. The Oregon standouts were suspended 9 games at the beginning of the season for selling their team-issued shoes.
The Illini came out ready to play tonight; the defense was swarming and creating turnovers while the offense was finding open looks. After a back-and-forth first half of play, the two teams went into the break tied at 32.
Things continued to go well for Illinois as the second half got underway; they went on an early 10-0 run and established a lead. The Ducks wouldn't go away and eventually answered with an 11-0 run of their own to take the lead. Unfortunately, Oregon would keep up the pressure as they built a late lead that wouldn't go away.
--Tonight's game kicks off a month stretch in which the Illini play 5 ranked teams--3 of which are in the top 5 of this week's polls. IF YOU WERE COMPLAINING ABOUT OUR STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY!!!
--You gotta love these "Neutral Site" games. The Moda Center is about 2,117 miles away from Champaign, compared to about 110 miles from Eugene. I shouldn't really be complaining though, it's better than being visually impaired while watching the Illini play on Oregon's interpretation of a home court. Despite this discrepancy in distance, Illini Nation came out in full force to support the team up in Portland.
--Illinois shot 42.9% from the field, 29.4% on 3-pointers; Oregon meanwhile shot 55.8%, 26.7% from three.
--Oregon isn't the tallest team, but they still out-rebounded Illinois 31-27
--Maverick Morgan and Kendrick Nunn have really been playing well as of late, but it's not necessarily showing up in the stat sheet. Morgan has been noticeably more comfortable on offense and is proving to be a solid backup for Egwu. Nunn's great defense is starting to impact his play on the other end of the court as his scoring totals have seen a rise. Only time will tell if these trends can continue into B1G season.
--Jaylon Tate came into this game looking to score. Although the shots weren't really falling, it was nice to see him being more aggressive; the points will eventually come.
--Our pick-and-roll game needs some work, we're picking up way too many unnecessary fouls on illegal screens. I'm not sure if the guards or the bigs deserve more blame, but we can't afford to keep taking Nnanna Egwu out of the game.
--For the 2nd time in the last 4 games, the Illini saw a second half lead evaporate before their eyes. It seems that there's a theme of "let's stop making shots in the second half" that's starting to develop...Hopefully things change as the team moves forward.
For the time being I'll probably continue writing some of the usual posts, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Also if you haven't already seen it, check out my previous post that addresses running the website.