Wash, rinse, repeat.
For all the talk of schematic changes for the Illini from the Bethune-Cookman game, none of that mattered or carried over into the matchup against the Wildcats on Wednesday night.
Very little went well for the Illini, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Is it the lack of leadership (both from the players and coaching staff), the low IQ plays on both sides of the ball, the inability to respond and stop the bleeding in key moments, the despondence/indifference from the team, or the inability of Underwood and Co. to reach anyone on this team?
It looks like all of the above as these Illini haven’t learned anything from their recent blunders against Missouri and Penn State.
By the Numbers
The Illini had another bad shooting night, finishing 29% from three and struggling to force many turnovers (only 8) while turning the ball over 15 times themselves.
While the Illini held the Wildcats to 32% shooting from the field, they lost the points off of turnovers battle (22 for Northwestern vs. only 4 for Illinois) and got buried by Northwestern’s free throw disparity (32 of 40 from the line for Northwestern vs. only 6 of 10 for Illinois).
It’s hard to erase any deficit and remain competitive when the Illini continue to turn the ball over and foul at such a high rate. The Illini couldn’t get out in transition and finished with only 6 transition points against a tough Northwestern defense.
Individually, Wildcats guard Chase Audige was the story for Northwestern, really setting the tone on both ends of the floor (21 points, 4 steals) and frustrating the Illini’s leader Terrence Shannon (9 points) all night.
Given the early-season success with big wins against UCLA and Texas, it’s easy to see why so many pointed to the talent of this new look team in the early season projections. The other side of that, the youth/immaturity, lack of continuity and leadership, poor decision making and responses in key moments, etc., is coming home to roost.
Underwood continues to rip into this team during timeouts to generate some response and only gets aloof disinterestedness from his players in return.
Whatever is being worked on in practice is clearly not translating into the games. On offense, there’s zero offensive consistency, and the shot selection, passing, and decision making have been moronic at best. Defensively, the Illini defenders are slow and reaching in their on-ball defense, not closing out possessions with box out rebounding, and getting zero support from their help defenders on dribble penetration.
The list goes on, and it’s hard to isolate any one issue that’s ailing this Illini squad.
The players seem to be operating less like a team and more like a group of isolated individuals looking to win their individual battles and pursue their own agendas.
No one — not the veterans or any of the freshman — appears to be up to the task of demanding more and holding this team to a higher standard of play and stress the schematic and preparatory details, maturity, effort, and togetherness that’s required to succeed in the league and beyond.
Without a significant shift in attitude, effort, and execution from the Illini, it’s hard to see them reversing this trend of listless, disconnected, boneheaded performances. It doesn’t get any easier as conference action ramps up with a matchup against league-leading Wisconsin coming up on Saturday.