The Illini dropped their second straight conference game Thursday night. It was more of the same story that we’ve all become used to for this season — the team hangs around just enough to make it competitive and fail to close it out in the final minutes. This season has been nothing short of a sad, broken record. That being said, there was still some positives in the loss.
- The Trent Frazier Show - This fan base deserves Trent Frazier. After years of underwhelming season after season with John Groce at the helm, at least he left us with Frazier. Trent is the diamond in the rough, the ray of sunshine peeking through a sea of black clouds, he is this team’s savior. He continued his impressive stretch last night with a career-high 32 points, including 7-11 shooting from beyond the arc. His 32 points are the third most in a game by a freshman in Illini history. Hopefully, the emergence of a side kick next season and the addition of a big man can push the team over the hump.
- Gray Area for Black - I’m hesitant to put Leron Black in the “Good” category. He did pull down a double-double for the Illini, but he scored only 13 points on 12 shot attempts. These are solid numbers for Black last year, but his role this year asks him to contribute just a little bit more. Illinois needs more than 17 combined points out of their big men.
- Normally, this is where I’d tell you something that wasn’t awesome nor atrocious, but there really wasn’t an in between.
- Unproductive Minutes - This was the killer on Thursday. Ten guys played, but at the same time, two guys really only played. There was only a pair of Illini that showed up, and I mentioned them earlier in this article. Only four other players scored, and they combined for just 24 points on 5-23 shooting. Mark Alstork and Aaron Jordan’s free throw shooting (10-11) was the only thing that saved this stat.
- Kipper The Magnificent - After a stretch of three solid games, Kipper Nichols performed everyone’s least favorite disappearing act. In his 15 minutes, he contributed one rebound, one assist and a missed three-point attempt. Nichols and Frazier would be a solid 1-2 punch, but that requires him to show up night in and night out.
- Three-Point Shooting - was very, very rough if your name isn’t Trent Frazier. The rest of the team combined for just 2-13 shooting from deep. Without a three-point game, there’s not much this team really brings to the floor offensively. They lack size in the post, and when they can’t turn teams over to the tune of 20 times per game (just 10 against Wisconsin), very quickly it turns into the Trent Frazier show. He looks like the only player comfortable with the ball in his hands anymore. After the first 24 seconds of the shot clock tick off with no success, the ball makes its way to Frazier, who creates a shot for himself, a teammate, or turns it over.
This turns into what most like to call “Hero Ball”, and it is also one of the reasons the assists (7) were so low. When the rest of the team shoots 11-35 (31 percent), and it’s on Trent to save the offense towards the end of the shot clock, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of assists. His turnovers aren’t a cause for concern yet either. When he is called on to do so much as a freshman, I expect him to turn it over three to five times a game.
Illinois welcomes the Penn State Nittany Lions into town Sunday at 6.