You’ll do hard to walk away from an Illinois basketball loss feeling good, but that’s exactly what happened last week when a comeback at No. 1 Purdue was stopped short in an 83-78 loss.
And they did it without Terrence Shannon Jr.
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood was available to the media on Wednesday and reflected on the Purdue loss and looked ahead at the Michigan State game.
“Some good, some bad, some ugly, some not-so-ugly,” was how Underwood summed up the loss to the best team in the nation.
Terrence Shannon Jr.’s saga took an interesting turn earlier this week when he sued the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in hopes of ending his indefinite suspension.
Shannon’s attorneys say they seek a temporary restraining order that would allow him to be immediately reinstated.
The Michigan State game does not seem like a return to the court for Shannon, at least according to coach Underwood.
“There’s no change in Terrence’s status as of now. I’m worried about Michigan State. Tom Izzo doesn’t have to worry about him and Tyson Walker [doesn’t],” Underwood said.
Quincy Guerrier took a hard fall during the Purdue game and went down holding his right hand, but will be okay to return against Michigan State, according to Underwood.
He also shared that Ty Rodgers, who played just 13 minutes, had a fever during the game. Rodgers returned to practice on Tuesday.
Niccolo Moretti has also returned to practice recently.
Underwood shared that “he’s looked really good and he’s been really solid in practice. Until we get the final [approval], I think it’s probably a gameday, game-time decision based on what the doctors say.”
What last Friday boiled down to...
Underwood commended the team’s fight last Friday. Despite never leading throughout the entirety of the game, and going down by as much as 21, the Fighting Illini never truly seemed out of it.
Underwood saw some of the aforementioned good, bad, ugly and not-so-ugly in Luke Goode’s game last Friday.
“Whether it’s 4 times or 14 times, every time he lets it go I think he’s gonna make it,” he said. The junior had a career-high 16 points and shot 4-of-8 from deep, but finished with zero rebounds.
“I didn’t think we were ultra-competitive on the glass. The biggest downside of the game was that,” he said. “We have to get back to rebounding the basketball.”
Underwood has been especially pressing the issue with Goode.
“He hasn’t had a very pleasant week listening to me talk about his rebounding total the other night,” Underwood said, smiling. “But Luke will do that because he cares.”
Goode was also available to the media on Wednesday and recognized his underperformance on the boards last week.
“To play 35 minutes and have 0 rebounds is not something that should happen at all,” the Indiana native said. “Coach leans on me a lot to rebound and my teammates lean on me a lot to go and get some rebounds. Against Purdue was not one of my better rebounding nights, per se.”
“It’s a team rebound concept,” Underwood described.
“If we can go and get the offensive rebounds that we do and the defensive rebounds, it just adds so much more,” Goode said. “You could shoot bad from the field and still have 15 to 20 offensive rebounds and win the game like Purdue did against us.”
Purdue shot the ball well at a 45 percent clip, but their 18 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points gave them the upper hand down the stretch.
“We found some lineups, especially in the second half, that we felt really, really good with,” Underwood said of his team’s comeback attempt against Purdue.
“We kind of went to our five-out package. It changed the momentum. We kind of got away from the ‘booty ball’ stuff a little bit, and that really got us back into it as well.”
“Booty ball” is a term that originated last year when Underwood spoke about Penn State guard Jalen Pickett’s ability to back down opponents. Last season, the Nittany Lions went 3-0 against Underwood’s Illinois team.
The Fighting Illini have found some success weaponizing booty ball of their own, but it was the five-out approach that got them back into the game late at the Mackey Center.
When asked if he’s ever played in an Illinois team that can change their offensive approach mid-game, Goode gave a clear answer with a callback to a former Illinois fan-favorite.
“Freshman year, no, because we had Kofi,” Goode chuckled. “It’s a little different when you’ve got seven-foot in the paint. This year it is nice to have that five-out aspect, especially when you’ve got five shooters out there. I mean, who are you gonna guard? Honestly.”
Alongside Goode, Justin Harmon, Marcus Domask, Quincy Guerrier and Coleman Hawkins have proven to be capable threats from deep this season, with all five players averaging above .300 from beyond the arc.
“You can’t help. You can’t double. What are you gonna do? It’s like, pick your poison.”
Next Team Up
After the tight loss, No. 10 Illinois (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten) looks to bounce back with a win, hosting the Michigan State Spartans (9-6, 1-3 Big Ten).
The Spartans are coming off an 88-74 loss at Northwestern, a team that Illinois beat by 30 just five days earlier.
Longtime Spartans head coach Tom Izzo has been a vocal critic of many of college basketball’s modern developments from the transfer portal to NIL but took to the mic after the Northwestern loss to criticize analytics.
“I hate analytics because they’re phony,” he said to the media. “Everyone in the NBA and college now, they want analytics. Analytics, what does analytics mean here? Does that mean we won the game? Analytics are crap.”
One of Izzo’s most insane rants yet. The losses are causing him to spiral. pic.twitter.com/76KCXVlB48— Bobby Reagan (@BarstoolReags) January 8, 2024
“I think there’s value in them [analytics] but I also think that he and I think alike in one area,” Underwood said in response to Izzo’s comments. “What it takes to win.”
“Winning is competing. Winning is fighting. It’s usually the team that plays the hardest. It’s the team that’s the most connected. It’s the grit, it’s who’s gonna find the loose possession, who’s gonna get an extra rebound. Ultimately, that wins,” Underwood said.
“There’s no analytics to that. I just choose to use analytics in a way to help teach and coach and motivate.”
The similarities between the two coaches don’t stop at analytics, at least according to Luke Goode.
“Tom Izzo and coach Brad are very similar in the way that they get their message across, the way they coach and push their players,” he said and recognized that the Spartans will also be looking to bounce back with a win. “Coming off a loss like that, I can only imagine what coach Brad would be saying.”
“We know it’s gonna be a battle like it is every time,” Goode said. “Coming off a loss for them, [it’s] a must-win game for them, honestly. We’re excited for the challenge and we know what they’re gonna do.”
Tipoff against the Spartans at State Farm Center is at 8 p.m., and the game can be streamed on FS1.