Illinois’ loss to Maryland on Sunday was arguably the worst upset suffered by the Illini over the last two years, and looking at the schedule, it was certainly the worst loss this year. There are plenty of negatives that I’m more than happy to point out, which I will. But this is no time to panic.
Illinois is still 5-2 in the Big Ten, and while Maryland is down this year, this was a hard-fought game between two historically good programs. Mark Turgeon is an excellent coach, and his players made clutch shots.
Let’s take a look at some of the positive takeaways from the game before we delve into some of what went wrong.
First of all, Coleman Hawkins continued to make the most of his inexplicably limited time with impact plays on back-to-back offensive and defensive possessions. More to come on Coleman later.
Also, Adam Miller looked really good for the first 16 minutes of the games. He sank 3 threes, and he was moving the ball confidently. Unfortunately after the 4-minute mark, he turned the ball over three times and had no impact plays.
Finally, Kofi and Ayo played well. Kofi in particular played very well, and it was nice to see Ayo connect on 2 threes from the wing. But, it should really be a given at this point that these guys are going to play well. In my mind, they’re two of the best players in the country at their respective positions.
Although Ayo got 23 points, it took him an inefficient 23 shots to get there, giving him an in game effective FG% of just .522. While Ayo has improved his efficiency each year, his eFG% ranks just fifth on the team at .541.
Da’Monte Williams, who leads the team with an eFG% of .798, played one of his worst games of the year. He played well for most of the first half, grabbing five boards with three assists. But with 1:06 left in the first half, he made a poorly-timed pass fake, and missed on a wide open give-and-go reverse layup.
This caused me to scream out loud, and I was watching this on DVR having known the final score of the game. In the second half, Da’Monte missed another open layup, airballed a three, and missed two huge free throws in the last minute of the game.
I hate to pick on Da’Monte because he’s one of my favorite players, but he played 32 minutes, and there were points in the game where he looked tired. Meanwhile, Jacob Grandison and Coleman Hawkins have shown that they deserve more playing time on both ends of the court.
While Grandison missed his only two shots Sunday, he’s shown that he’s a wing that can play solid defense and score in many different ways. Coleman is an intriguing stretch four who’s playing lights out defensively. Both of these guys are absolutely hustling, and if you ask me, they both need more playing time.
Don’t hit the panic button. The Illini are 9-4 (5-2), and they just won four straight games. Plus, they’re still No. 14 in the AP Top 25, and they’re ranked No. 13 in the Coaches Poll.
Just beat the Buckeyes.