So here’s the issue. With Kofi getting double-teamed, there just isn't a player I can name off the top of my head that can draw the defense's attention.
Illinois runs a constant motion offense with four guards on the outside and Kofi in the paint. The guards start handing the ball off hoping for a seam to pop open on the perimeter or Kofi maintains his position. The goal is to either drive the seam or pass into Kofi. But this offense is so predictable, that coaches are ready to double team every play.
But Kofi is able to break through the double team and take it to the rim. There’s a reason he is in the running for B1G and National POTY. Kofi can brush off a couple defenders over, and over again. He's just that good.
But when that doesn't happen, Kofi is supposed to pass back out to Illinois’ assortment of sharpshooters for the easy three. This is both a blessing and a curse. When it works, the more teams double Kofi, the more open Illinois guards are. But when Illinois doesn’t hit shots, the double team stays and therein lies the kryptonite.
Every single game, Illinois goes on these scoreless streaks allowing teams to stage a comeback, as we saw at Northwestern, or as we saw last night, and grow their lead. This happened 3 times at the RAC, and this time, it was too much for the Illini.
Scoreless Streak 1
Start: 16:32 1st Half, End: 9:01 1st Half
Illinois: 2FG 2-9, 3FG 0-5, FT 0-0
To make it worse, most of those 2 pointers are missed layups. Kofi was subbed out for most of this streak, but at this point, that is just an excuse. I would understand if this happens once in a blue moon, but this happens every game. Other teams capitalize on it. The worst stat is the 0 free throws. Be a bit more aggressive, take it to the rack, get fouled, and that’s free points (Illinois shot 9-16 from the line, so that's not even a given).
Scoreless Streak 2
Start: 5:00 1st Half, End: 0:54 1st Half
Illinois: 2FG 0-2, 3FG 0-3, FT 0-0
Again. I really wished college basketball tracked time of possession. It really seems as if Illinois is coming down the court and settling for threes without playing a whole shot clock. How, in 5 minutes of play does your All-American big man get one shot attempt. And then again 0 free throws. If you are counting, that's about 11 minutes and 30 seconds of the 20 minutes half that Illinois has not even attempted a free throw.
Scoreless Streak 3
Start: 17:58 2nd Half, End: 12:01 2nd Half
Illinois: 2FG 1-4, 3FG 0-2, FT 0-4
After ending the half on a scoreless streak, the Illini come out flat again. Props to them at least they are aggressive and getting to the line. After this, Illinois started to make their shots, but the game was already lost midway through the 2nd half.
But to look at the stat line. The streaks lasted 17 minutes and 35 seconds. Rutgers during this time were a whopping +27 and Illinois made 3-of-25 field goals, going 0-10 from beyond the arc, and 0-4 from the line.
And that’s the game folks. Illinois is a streaky team. When it clicks, it clicks. When it doesn’t, this happens. Brad Underwood needs to figure some stuff out in these last couple of weeks.
I’ll end on a good note. What a game by RJ Melendez. The freshman seemed to be the only player with some life on the court late in the game, scoring 10 points in 11 minutes while racking up 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. I’m excited about this freshman class.