Before we get into this game, if you didn't see it, don't believe what you see in the final score. Yes, the Illini won by 24 points, but what that final score doesn't show is that the Illini actually finished the game on a 22-2 run. It was actually 55-51 in the second half, as the Illini let a Chicago State team that had no business hanging around do just that for most of the night.
But thankfully Jon Ekey, destroyer of dreams showed up in the second half.
Ekey sat a lot of the first half as he picked up two fouls, but he just took over late. Rebounds, dunks, threes, it was all there for Ekey as he finished the game with 19 points and six rebounds while shooting 5-for-8 from three. It was great to watch, and it comes on the heels of Ekey's last game against Bradley in which he finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.
If he wants to keep contributing 19 points and six or seven boards every night, I'm going to be okay with that.
I'd also like to take this moment to thank Illinois State for having no clue how to use Ekey last season which no doubt led to him transferring to Champaign to play for a coach that has a clue how to use him. I'm terrified to think of where the Illini might finish this season if they didn't have Ekey and Rayvonte Rice.
-- Speaking of Ray Rice, he had his worst night as an Illini. Of course, that worst night means he finished with 12 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals, but even so, it wasn't the kind of night we've grown accustomed to seeing from Rice in the first four games. He just made some odd decisions in the first half, and didn't seem nearly as aggressive attacking the basket tonight.
-- Coming into the season there was the thought that Joseph Bertrand would have to step up and become a centerpiece for this team. Now, while it would be nice if he was able to do that, I don't mind the role he's currently serving much, either. There are still times when he tries to attack the basket when he should just pass the ball, but even so he put together another solid night of 12 points and eight rebounds, continuing to be our most efficient shooter as he hit four of his six shots.
-- I saw Jeremy Werner and Brad Sturdy wondering why there's a portion of the fan base that doesn't like Tracy Abrams, but I think tonight gave us a good example. Personally I like Abrams, but I get why he frustrates people. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists and only one turnover, which is awesome. However, what's not so awesome is the fact he shot 3-for-11 from the floor. So even when he's doing so many good things out there, his inefficiency on offense is what's going to stick out to a lot of people, leading to the frustration.
-- I don't know if it's Nnanna or if it's this team, but this was one of those nights where I have no idea exactly what we're doing with Egwu on the offensive end. Chicago State's tallest regular is 6'8, yet Nnanna only took five shots tonight. I know that a lot of this is because of the 2-3 zone that Chicago State was playing, but with that kind of size advantage you need to figure out how to get the ball in Nnanna's hands more on offense. Whether he's actually posting up and shooting or dishing out once the zone collapses in on him. Including Egwu more often on offense would really open things up for everybody else.
-- Playing all these tiny teams is making the Illini look like they're a much better rebounding team than they actually are.
Points per possession: 1.27
Turnover rate: 16.5%
OR rate: 46.7%
FT rate: 40.7%
Points per possession: 0.87
Turnover rate: 21.4%
OR rate: 13.8%
FT rate: 31.1%