With 9:15 left in this game the Illini had just finished riding a wave of Ray Rice to finish with a Kendrick Nunn transition layup and an easy lob to Nnanna Egwu. That Egwu dunk would put the Illini up 60-48 on Georgia Tech and finish off a 21-4 run that seemed to put the Illini firmly in control of things.
But things didn't quite work out that way.
Georgia Tech would then finish the game on a 19-4 run of its own that saw the Illini completely collapse on the offensive end. The Illini would make only one of their next nine shots and turn the ball over five times in that stretch. And another thing they failed to do is put the ball in Ray Rice's hands.
Rice scored 15 points in the first ten minutes of the second half and then only took two shots in the final ten minutes, one of which was a hurried three to try and beat the shot clock that never had a chance. How that happens I have no idea, but it wasn't difficult to see how lost the Illini looked on offense without running it through Rice. Tracy Abrams tried to force too many things while playing hero ball, Joseph Bertrand was too passive -- Rice's missed three to beat the shot clock only happened because Bertrand passed up a shot in the corner -- and Nnanna was sloppy with the ball.
It was a terrible loss, made only worse by the fact that it could cost us a lot more than one game come March.
-- I'm truly starting to wonder if it shouldn't be Jaylon Tate running the offense late in the game when things are getting tight. I've been patient with Abrams this season, because I realize his importance on defense, but if he's not getting to the rim and drawing fouls I just feel like he's doing more damage to the offense than anything at this point. Tonight Tracy had three turnovers and two assists to go along with shooting 1-for-7 from the floor. I'm fully aware that I'm probably overreacting to the end of that game, but if I'm this frustrated with Abrams right now, I can only imagine how the people who were already against him feel right now.
-- I wish Joseph Bertrand was more confident in his jump shot. He's actually shot very well from three this season, and if there's anything the Illini could use right now, it's a shooter to stretch the floor. Sure, Joe's overall shooting percentages will go down the more he shoots, but if he keeps hitting threes from the corner like he has been, it'll only make it that much easier for him to get to the rim. But his lack of confidence hurt twice tonight. There was the three in the corner he passed up that I mentioned earlier, and then his three from the corner in the final seconds -- on a very good play design by John Groce that left Bertrand wide open -- came up short. I may be wrong, but coming up short like he did when he's shot so well from that spot tells me he wasn't confident taking it. Not that I can blame him, as the game was on the line, but maybe if he was more confident earlier in the game he's feeling much better about himself at that moment.
-- Jaylon Tate: no points, five assists, no turnovers (though I swear I remember Jaylon committing a turnover, but the box score doesn't list him with any). This line should just be called The Tate.
-- Second road game of the season, second time Nnanna Egwu has gotten in foul trouble in the first half and gotten us in trouble early. Will Nnanna ever stop getting in foul trouble? I'd like to think so, but this is his junior season. If it hasn't happened now, odds are that it probably never will.
-- Jon Ekey had nine rebounds tonight, but so far in our two road games he's shot 3-for-12 from the field and 2-for-9 from three with eight points. Better shooting from him on the road would go a long way.
-- Overall the Illini actually had one of their better shooting nights of the season. It's just there were stretches when they stopped playing defense, didn't take care of the ball and couldn't rebound. And it killed them. We should not have lost to this team. Not with how well we played most of the night. That's what's so fucking frustrating about this one. And it's one I'm going to be angry about for a while.
Points per poss: 0.99
Turnover rate: 17.2%
OR rate: 30%
FT rate: 27.2%
Points per poss: 1.08
Turnover rate: 14.5%
OR rate: 36.4%
FT rate: 33.9%