That was really bad.
It’s another week that passes that only raises more questions about the direction of the program under Brad Underwood and provides very few answers. The only thing we know for sure is that Trent Frazier is good.
I’m going to try and not get too emotionally carried away. There were a lot of storylines and people to talk about after this one, so let’s touch on a few.
Remember when there were reports that Brad Underwood punched a trash can at halftime of a game last year? Well if that trash can was Mark Smith then I totally understand his desire to transfer.
He looked like the same old Mark Smith. Cuonzo Martin appeared to be hiding him on defense for the majority of the game due to his poor on-ball defending. When he transferred, there were reports that he wanted to play more point guard, but instead I guess they were using him as a decoy?
Cuonzo: We used Mark as a decoy. We put him on the back side because they weren't helping off him... A lot happened because of his ability to shoot the ball.— TK (@TKissack20) December 23, 2018
Jokes aside, congrats to Smith. Not just on the win and being 2-0 in Braggin’ Rights, but for finding a home where he can enjoy some of the best years of his life.
One of the only people to have a worse night than Mark Smith was Ayo Dosunmu. Ayo’s really struggling. Last night, he went 1-of-5 from the field with zero assists and four turnovers. Late in the game, he was dribbling it off of his foot and looked completely out of sorts. His field goal percentage is down to 40 on the season, which is incredibly disappointing for as crafty and efficient of a prospect he was. Since returning from Maui, he’s shooting a miserable 27 percent (15-55) from the field. He just has to provide the team with more offense. He just has to be better.
Last night, he picked up a personal and technical foul in the first two minutes which threw him and the Illini completely out of whack. After being suspended last game and not playing the last two weeks, I’m sure Dosunmu put a lot of pressure on himself to perform in the biggest game of the season. Between the personal pressure and the spotlight of Braggin’ Rights, the moment clearly became too large for him. That’s something not many of us thought would be an issue with him.
Javon Pickett + Jeremiah Tilmon
That must have felt good.
The two former Illini signees were 14-of-19 from the field for 32 points and Pickett was a huge part of the final run that put Illinois away. They also combined for 16 rebounds against an undersized Illini frontline with Tilmon collecting 12 himself.
They were two of the best four players on the court last night. And it would’ve been nice to have them in orange. There’s not much else to say.
He deserves a shout out cuz he played his ass off.
They say seniors die hard, and it’s true. Jordan has grown into such a wonderful player to watch. He makes boxing out sexy. Jordan had 10 points and five rebounds while knocking down two of his three 3-point attempts in 29 minutes.
He is doing his job perfectly, but the team needs a few more guys (Dosunmu, Feliz, Williams) to follow his lead.
What the hell was that?
With all due respect to Adonis De La Rosa and the effort and grit he is displaying by trying to give this thing a go, it’s time to end that experiment. He’s playing on one leg out there, and at times, it’s concerning to watch. De La Rosa played seven minutes and Samba Kane played six. In Kane’s six minutes he drew two fouls on Jeremiah Tilmon. Tilmon would end the night with three fouls in 29 minutes. Clearly, Kane’s foot speed was giving Tilmon fits. I would like to see the game replayed where Kane gets all of the back up center minutes from the jump.
Let’s talk about the Tyler Underwood thing.
He played five minutes in the first half when the game was swinging back and forth. I want to give Underwood credit because he made two great plays on the defensive end by forcing Tilmon into a bad shot and later grabbing a tough rebound. He gives it everything and is doing what is asked of him. The problem is what’s being asked of him.
On the first offensive possession, he dribbled from one side of the court to the other and it looked like my dad guarding me in the driveway when I was eight. He’s not a point guard or a creator, and he’s not a shooter, and he’s not a great one-on-one defender on defense. So he’s just making it really easy on the opponent. It’s 4-on-5 on offense when he’s out there. And then, if you put him in a lineup with Kane and Williams (which happened), it’s 2-on-5 on offense.
All the while, Alan Griffin watched from the bench. Now, Griffin has had a rough stretch the past few weeks, especially with turnovers. But, he’s a shooter and an offensive threat. If he goes in there and throws it away two straight times, fine, I get it. But you need to give him a shot.
Jordan and Frazier were 8-of-16 from three. The rest of the team was 0-of-13. You need shooters. And Alan Griffin (and Tevian Jones) can shoot. I know Jones broke a rule, and this suspension may be out of Brad Underwood’s hands, but it’s not hard to imagine why guys don’t want to commit to Underwood or why they are transferring away at a record clip. Imagine being Griffin or Jones during this game, watching the team struggle, seeing multiple guys contributing nothing, and then, Underwood throws his son in before calling your name. This is just the dynamic of having the coach’s son on the team. Now, I’m not in that locker room so maybe all the guys are on the same page and think nothing of it. But it’s not a wild idea that this could cause some eye-rolling. Hell, this dynamic causes drama on every single youth club sports team. I really hope Tyler is genuinely earning his teammates respect everyday in practice. Because if he’s not, Brad Underwood is putting his son and his team in one hell of a spot.
Forget the outcome of this single game. This is a lost season. It’s not amounting to any success in the near term. So why are we playing a grad transfer and a walk-on when we could be developing young guys like Kane and Griffin? And I know Underwood has to put the team in the best position to win every game. The problem is that I haven’t seen anything to prove playing Adonis De La Rosa and Tyler Underwood over the freshmen gives us a better chance to win on a nightly basis.
Brad Underwood is out of excuses. He can’t afford to lose two or three of these guys via transfer. There are no stud recruits coming through the door. This is his team and these players will be his legacy at this university. I really hope he can make it work. But right now, it seems that hope is all we have.