If you’re like me, watching Illinois play Grand Canyon on Saturday was about as stressful as a basketball game can get. It was back-and-forth all day, and Illinois in a lot of ways nearly beat itself. But thanks to some good late-game shooting, the Illini pulled one out over the Antelopes.
Let’s take a look at the box score, and some of the storylines behind it:
Final. pic.twitter.com/WMkzW4lJyg— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) December 30, 2017
This may have been the most staggering and frustrating aspect of the game. Illinois had six turnovers with over ten minutes left in the first half, and went into the locker room with 11.
Credit is certainly due to Majerle with his defensive scheming, but that does not excuse many of the lazy passes and bad decision making we saw from the Illini. Mark Alstork, Trent Frazier, and Kipper Nichols all had at least one ridiculously bad pass.
I’m sure Underwood laid into them at halftime.
Leron continues to show his worth
Leron was the leading returning scorer for Illinois coming into this season, but may perhaps have made the most strides so far. He led the Illini again in both points and rebounds (20 and 11, respectively) and was 8-of-12 from the field. He also made a three-pointer.
With another sluggish start in the first half, and with the team struggling down the stretch, Leron made shots when no one else could.
Frazier: The Good and the Bad
I love Trent Frazier’s fire, but his decision making has not been great so far this year. I am shocked to see that he was 6-of-12 from the field for the game, because, just like against Mizzou, he had several absolutely unwarranted shots.
With 4:30 left in the first half, Brian Barnhart said that Frazier was “trying to do too much.” He was right.
To Trent’s credit, he was hustling his heart out, and had a pair of very difficult shot fall midway through the second half. I would conjecture that at least two of those field goals he had do not go in eight times out of ten. If he can channel his energy better and mature a bit, he is going to be very special.
Three-point shooting was...
...bad. For both teams.
The teams combined to shoot 8-of-39 from three point land. As I mentioned earlier, Dan Majerle deserves a lot of credit for the Antelopes’ tough defense. I thought Illinois played an alright game defensively, and to some degree disrupted the Antelope offense.
Alstork doing the little things
The grad transfer was not efficient or effective on offense, but he did have several important effort plays during the ball game. Most notably, he finished the game with eight rebounds, second only to Black’s 11. Most of those seemed to be in the second or in crunch time.
It’s not apparent that Alstork is getting back on track on the offensive side of the ball, but if he can bring the hard-nosed basketball he played on Saturday it will be an improvement on much of the season so far.
Da’Monte has “it”
Remember when Brad Underwood was speaking during a press conference before the season and said that Da’Monte has the “it” factor? We saw it in the Grand Canyon game when he nailed a three with 15.2 second left in the game to put Illinois up by four.
The broadcasters noted during the game that he had been struggling with his outside shot, but that did not phase him as he made his only basket of the game and the most important one for the Illini.
Da’Monte always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and seeing him develop offensively will be exciting.