The Orange Krush started the season with the Orange Hush, and it would stay quiet for most of the game. The Georgia Southern Eagles kept the crowd quiet for most of the game, keeping it close for the majority. It wasn't until the final minute, when Rayvonte Rice hit a three over three defenders, and the Illini finally pulled away. It was a bad performance from almost everybody except for Ray Rice, after the good win over Quincy. Here's three things we learned from Illinois' first game of the season:
1. It doesn't need to be Rayvonte Rice, but it still can be
Malcolm Hill stepped up in the first game of the season with 20 points against Quincy. Today he had just 11 points on 2-6 shooting. Even though it seemed like he had a bad game, he still found a way to score double digits. Malcolm didn't know what to do when a zone was thrown at him in the first half.
But this is supposed to be about Ray Rice. He scored 24 on 8-12 shooting, with 3 assists and 6 rebounds. Hopefully, he won't have to do this every game with our added depth this year. He led the team both offensively and defensively. Rayvonte Rice can still be there when we need him, but as we saw with Quincy, he doesn't need to.
2. Will the whole team be this streaky?
The Quincy game it seemed as everyone was firing on all cylinders. Tonight not so much. Just four players scored in double figures tonight. Some players seemed to disappear. Nnanna Egwu had just 5 points and 1 rebound after getting into foul trouble early in the game. Elswhere, Leron Black had 5, and Kendrick Nunn had 0 in his first game back from surgery. There was not as much ball movement and open threes. The team really struggled and hopefully they can recover and beat Coppin State bad.
If the entire team is this streaky then it is going to be bad for the Illini. Only a few players stood out: Aaron Cosby, Ahmad Starks, and Rayvonte Rice. This is just Georgia Southern, if we continue to be this streaky imagine the Big Ten. This has gotta get fixed before Big Ten play. This game makes the Coppin State game much bigger than it should have been.
3. Will this happen every year?
2012 Gardner Webb, 2013 IPFW, 2014 Georgia Southern?
— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 15, 2014
Will this happen every year? Since the Groce era has begun (and before) we have always had a very close non-conference game that we should have won by 30. This years' came in the season opener. Hopefully, we won't have anymore of these and we can coast through the rest of the non conference season.
And on a side note Jaylon Tate played the best out of the sophomore bench mob. He was driving well and really taking it to Georgia Southern, which everyone should have done. Coach Groce: "Jaylon Tate played at a consistent pace, but needs to know when to change gears. We're going to need him." If he could get a consistent jumper he could be very good backing up Ahmad Starks.
Starks played well and went on a little bit of a run all by himself and finished with 10 points, but just 2 assists. The Illini had just 11 assists on the night, leading back to my point about swinging the ball. Swing the ball, hit threes= more assists.
It wasn't a good game for the Illini, but if some players can get back to how they were playing against Quincy they can beat Coppin State and keep rolling.