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Senior Night: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Not an ideal way to end the home slate.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Shooting

There’s something to be said for the way the Illini started off the game and were able to keep up scoring in the first half. Overall, it was a great shooting night.

The Illini managed to score 42 points in the first half, and for the entirety of the game they shot 50% from the field and over 45% from beyond the arc. That will win you plenty of games, except when your opponent makes nine field goals in a row (many of they right at the rim) leading up to the end of the half.

Hence, the 10-point halftime deficit.

Giorgi, Ayo, Andres

These three have been the best players for the season as a whole, albeit no one has really earned the title of “most consistent.” Giorgi had 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, Ayo had a team-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from beyond the arc), and Andres had 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting.

Trent didn’t have a terrible night either, as he went 5-of-7 from the field himself. He just seemed to fade into the background at certain point and gave up the ball three times. Still, the poor performance certainly shouldn’t be pinned on the offense.

The Bad

Free Throws

This is a pretty nitpicky thing, considering it was an 18-point loss. But after shooting free throws so well against Northwestern (33-of-38), the Illini got to the line 22 times against Indiana but only hit 12 of them.

That’s just south of 55%, compared with nearly 87% against Northwestern.

When you are almost always getting outshot at the foul line as Underwood’s team has this year, it is paramount to make the most of free scoring opportunities. 55% isn’t going to cut it.

Defense

It seems like a simple concept, but you aren’t going to win many games when you give up 52 points in the first half. Plain and simple. I’m glad that Indiana did not reach the century mark, but it was tough watching Juwan Morgan bully Aaron Jordan down low and Phinisee hit open threes (despite the Hoosiers starting 2-of-9 from the 3-point line, they made five of their next 11 attempts).

The real issue was the lack of turnovers. Illinois had just four turnovers midway through the second half — which is great — but Indiana had the same number. Underwood’s pressure defense thrives on forcing turnovers in the halfcourt, and when the number is that low, things go from bad to worse very quickly. Indiana shot darn near 60% from the field in the first half, and the high on-ball pressure is partly why. Archie Miller had a great game plan to break down the defense, and there were plenty of easy looks around the rim.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else I can qualify as “bad.” The game as an entirety was bad. An 18-point loss on Senior Night, the last home game of the year, was bad. It all pretty much came down to one side of the ball.

The Ugly

The way the season is ending

I gave Underwood a lot of credit after the streak where Illini defeated Minnesota, Maryland, and Michigan State within a matter of a couple weeks. That was no short feat. But unfortunately, whether due to experience or systematic problems, the Illini have fallen flat the last few games of the season.

The 30th anniversary of the Flyin’ Illini, where Illinois was coming off somewhat of a winning streak, resulted in a disappointing loss to Penn State. Penn State is not Northwestern, mind you, but that’s a winnable game at home. I know the Big Ten is tough, but it’s disheartening to lose games like that.

Senior Night was worse. Watching Aaron Jordan leave the court after another loss leaves fans like me with a pit at the bottom of my stomach.

I only hope that by this time next year, I won’t have the same feeling for a senior class of Kipper and Andres.

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