So that post I wrote this morning about the Illini being the most overrated team in the country? Well, I'd like to take this moment to thank the Illini for going out and making me look correct instead of winning by 50 and making me look like an asshole. It was awfully considerate of them.
Of course, they could have spared me this basketball game. I know I said we shouldn't take Western Carolina for granted in the GameThread, but I didn't mean we had to let them tie the game late in the second half before we finally pulled away.
In short there was nothing about this game that made me change my mind about what is going to happen when we travel west to take on Gonzaga Saturday night. The same problems that have been around all season existed tonight.
It's become clear that no matter who the Illini are playing, if the shots aren't falling, we are going to struggle mightily. The Illini shot only 40% from the floor tonight, but trust me when I say that number improved greatly over the final few minutes. Where it never improved was behind the arc where the Illini shot 29.2% and made "only" 7 threes.
Western Carolina shot only 38.5% from the floor and turned the ball over a whopping 22 times and yet we were still only able to win this game by 8 points. I repeat, the Catamounts turned the ball over 22 times -- twice as many times as we did! -- and we only won this game by 8 points.
This team does not deserve to be ranked 13th.
-- I mentioned the same old problems, and those same old problems definitely include the front court. Nnanna Egwu, Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey combined for 14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 fouls while shooting 6-of-15 from the field. Oh, and Nnanna finished with more three pointers made than Griffey did.
-- And the free throw line? John Groce has emphasized that foul shooting is not a problem with this team, but I don't think he actually believes it because foul shooting is most definitely a problem with this team. The Illini shot only 68.4% from the charity stripe tonight, but it didn't kill them because Western Carolina shot only 68.2%. Oh, Western Carolina missed 7 free throws tonight and we still only won by 8 points.
-- Joseph Bertrand only had 7 points in 16 minutes tonight, but he really needs to get more minutes. He's the only player on this team that's capable of creating his own shot and beating defenders off the dribble on a regular basis. On nights like tonight when the shots aren't falling, having somebody like Bertrand out there getting to the rim and drawing fouls would be a benefit.