Unfortunately, the first ten minutes were not indicative of what was to come for the Illini yesterday morning. After a hot start, the team failed to keep its foot on the gas, and ultimately, lost the battle in the second half.
How did they get there, and who stood out? Let’s take a look at the final box score.
Final. pic.twitter.com/PsiaLfo0z7— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) February 4, 2018
It might not pop up in that above box score, but it does in this one.
Halftime. pic.twitter.com/N2mL8bkex3— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) February 4, 2018
Coaches and players look back on games, and most will say it doesn’t come down to just one play or possession. But this loss came down to just one scoring drought, and that was it. It’s a miracle that they were down just four after not a single point for 10:11.
At first, it seemed like it was a cold stretch that might pass. The team was getting good looks, but things just weren’t falling. For a normal-sized team, this is usually when the coach runs a play or two to his big to get a good look around the rim. With a vertically handicapped team such as Illinois however, the responsibility will fall on the guards to get a drive going towards the hoop. When you see one go in, suddenly those outside looks start to fall.
This slump allowed Ohio State to go on a 19-0 scoring run and gave them all the momentum heading into the half.
Free Throw Discrepancy
I could just say Keita Bates-Diop made more free throws than the entire Illinois team, and that would sum things up pretty well. The Illini were 12-of-17 and missed a couple crucial ones down the stretch. Bates-Diop was 13-15, and his team was 26-33 for the game.
I thought the Buckeye guards did a great job of attacking the Illinois perimeter defense, especially in the second half. They were beating our guards off the dribble, drawing contact, and got to the line as a result. The points in the paint category shows this as well — the Buckeyes had 38, while the Illini had just 16.
Rebounding Matters Too
Cue another statistical category where the Illini got spanked: rebounding. They got absolutely destroyed on the glass yesterday. At half, the Buckeyes led in boards 21-9, and they increased that to a 45-22 mark by the end. Ohio State’s 14-5 advantage on the offensive side gave them nine more possessions than Underwood’s squad.
As an undersized team, this has to be an emphasis day in and day out. They aren’t going to be able to out-muscle teams for boards, so it comes back to fundamentals — find your man, hit him, and hold him. Every offensive rebound is another chance to put points on the board. Illinois lacks consistent rebounders, and it showed through yesterday.
The Bates-Diop Show
The redshirt junior has had a breakout season this year, and it has put him in talks for Big Ten Player of the Year. He lived up to the hype yesterday.
Bates-Diop, a Normal, Illinois, product, led all scorers with 35 including 13-of-15 from the line, and 13 rebounds. He is now averaging 20 and nine on 51 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from deep. Those sound like Big Ten Player of the Year numbers to me.
Illinois will look to bounce back Thursday as they welcome Wisconsin into town.