I'm not going to blame this on the call. I'm just not. Yes, I'm just as pissed off about it as you are, but I'm not going to let that one call be considered the sole reason that our season is over. The call that was obvious to me from my chair hundreds of miles away even before the replay, but was too hard for the referees working the game to see. That call. It was a horrible call and it may actually have cost the Illini not only this game, but their season.
I'm not going to blame that call for all of it.
I want to, but I'm not going to do it.
The truth is that there were plenty of other chances for the Illini to take control of this game and they never could. With just over three minutes left the Illini settled their own fate. A Brandon Paul dunk had just given them a 54-52 lead and after a defensive stop the Illini had the ball back coming out of a television timeout. It was set up to be the most important possession of the game and the Illini botched it.
Brandon Paul was too slow to get rid of the ball out of a trap and Tracy Abrams was two seconds too late to see D.J. Richardson open on the three. Because of it D.J. had to force up a bad shot as the clock was expiring. He missed, Miami got the ball, missed a layup but got the tip back to tie the game.
That was the momentum swing Miami needed and they rode it to the end.
It wasn't just the call.
How about the fact that aside from Tyler Griffey the Illini were 3-for-21 from three tonight? And it seems like at least 15 of those 18 misses rattled around inside the rim, teasing you into thinking they'd drop just before they came out the wrong end.
There were plenty of chances for the Illini to take control of this game and put it away, and it wasn't for lack of effort that they failed to do so.
I loved this team tonight.
In fact, that may be the most painful thing about tonight's loss.
I'm devastated to see Brandon Paul, Tyler Griffey and D.J. Richardson go out losing after playing their asses off. D.J.'s shots weren't falling, but he played a fantastic game on the defensive end. Tyler was hitting big shots and rebounding. Brandon Paul was doing everything we've been asking Brandon Paul to do for years.
These were three guys who didn't want their careers to end tonight, but they did. And it hurts.
It hurts more than that call did.
-- If tonight's Nnanna Egwu is what we should expect to see the next few seasons, yes please. Nnanna finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, seven of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass against the best defensive rebounding team in the ACC.
-- The Illini out-rebounded Miami tonight. Who would have believed that?
-- I wish the Tracy Abrams that showed up in the second half would have played in the first half too.
-- It was a wonderful season, and I'll have more to say about it in the coming days once I've had more time to sit back and reflect on it, but hold your heads up high, Illini fans. Tonight showed us all what the future of this program can be once again. We were five points shy of a Sweet 16 berth in a year we were just hoping to make the NCAA Tournament. I wish this season could have ended better, for Brandon, for D.J, for Tyler and for everybody in that Illinois uniform. I know you did too. But there will be better seasons ahead and every single person on this roster will know that they had a part in it. Thank you for a wonderful season, Illini.
Points per possession: 1.03
Turnover rate: 13.9%
Free throw rate: 11.5%
Points per possession: 1.12
Turnover rate: 10.7%
Free throw rate: 27.3%