This one felt familiar. A huge first half lead got squandered once again and Illinois simply could not match Ohio State’s shotmaking in the final few minutes of the game.
The First 10 Minutes: A+
The Illini looked impressive early, jumping out to an 8-4 lead to begin the game. Alstork and Finke both hit treys and things were off to a great start. Finke’s jumper put Illinois up 24-13 with just under 12 minutes to go in the half. These are the types of starts that we’ve seen a few times (like the Iowa game).
But both starts were ruined by an offensive breakdown leading to defeat. The silver lining here is that Ohio State is actually good...
The Final 10 Minutes of the First Half: F
Illinois didn’t make a bucket, so that is why they get this grade.
Defensive pressure: A
Illinois forced 15 turnovers on the day, which is the most the Buckeyes have had in any Big Ten game. It should be noted that Illinois is fourth in the nation in forcing turnovers, and had 25 against Michigan State, 18 against Indiana and 25 against Rutgers. So it turns out that Underwood’s “inherently flawed” system actually works in some ways.
The best example from the game was when Da’Monte cut off a passing lane, which forced a bad pass that Kipper stole and took the other way for a slam. (Best dunk of the year so far?)
Mark Alstork: A-
Alstork had what was either his best or second-best game of the year. Fans have been pretty critical of his offense, and he turned it up a notch Sunday. Alstork had an early three-pointer and pretty much led the offense in the first half. He made jumpers and pushed the ball on the break effectively.
He ended the day with 19 points, a season-high, and, save a few missed free throws, was probably the best player for Illinois on the day.
Decision Making: C
Mental mistakes happened in this game exactly how I expected them to. We were up big, then we went on a scoring drought and made bad decisions down the stretch to seal our fate.
The team had a shot clock violation during its scoring woe, and no one on the floor even realized they were running out of time. There were a couple bad offensive fouls (Alstork and Trent each had one, notably) that certainly hurt Illinois’ momentum.
Trent Frazier: B+
This was not Trent’s best game of the year by any means, but he really came alive in the second half. He was scoreless through the first twenty minutes, but was able to keep Illinois in it when Ohio State’s offense started churning again.
He had 12 points, all in the second half, but was just 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. He’ll look to bounce back in the next outing for sure, and if I’ve learned anything about Trent, I think he will use this as an opportunity to get better.
Free Throws: C-
Twelve of 17 is not a horrible stat line by any means, but most of those misses came in the second half when Illinois needed the points the most. Alstork had a few down the stretch that he should’ve made, and Te’Jon missed both of his attempts.
Even making just two more could’ve made a huge difference in how the ending played out.
Instead, Illinois lost by 8 and now sits at 12-12 on the year.
What grades would you give Illinois after the loss? Let us know in the comments!