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Failure to close could be fatal for Brad Underwood

Blown leads don’t bode well for teams with daunting goals.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Tom Izzo showed up on Saturday.

Unfortunately, he was accompanied by his biggest fan: Tournament Brad Underwood.

High basketball IQ Luke Goode fouled out on a senseless hack of Malik Hall that neither saved valuable clock time nor prevented an easy score.

With just over eight seconds left in an eight-point game, Brad Underwood implored his team not to foul. Freshman Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn immediately committed a foul.

Both Ty Rodgers and Coleman Hawkins threw second-half passes whose clear intended target was the sidelines. I don’t mean passes that were tipped and therefore errant. I mean Nathan Peterman levels of inaccurate passes.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois handed Michigan State a Quad 1 win.

This was not a game to be blamed on the refs. It wasn’t even the fault of poor shot selection.

Illinois got good shots in the second half, but it didn’t matter. Those shots didn’t fall, but the Illini sure did.

Breslin was rocking for the Spartans, who shot 52% from the field against an Illinois team that allegedly prides itself on defense.

Yes, this was Tournament Brad. For you NBA fans, that’s similar to “Playoff P” Paul George.

One team in East Lansing looked like a tough, resilient, tournament-ready team. The other was the road team.

There is no excusing this loss. There is no surviving when your veteran leaders (Marcus Domask and Quincy Guerrier) put up duds in the same game.

Steve Lappas was an…interesting choice for color commentator. He truly “put over” Coleman Hawkins’ versatility and talent, which were both on display. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Illinois has been outscored 35-7 in regulation to end its past two games.

For a team built for games like this, the previous two performances are rather unbecoming of a team with tournament-run aspirations. Especially at this juncture of the season when teams round into form.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully, this team hasn’t peaked. That’s a more legitimate concern after the near gag against Fred Hoiberg and Saturday’s early Valentine’s Day gift to St. Thomas of East Lansing.

Terrence Shannon is good enough to carry this team. Or at least his play should warrant favorite status. But at this moment, he is being failed by teammates and coaching.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Coleman Hawkins looked gassed in the second half. I doubt that’s the result of poor conditioning. Perhaps it’s the result of indefensible rotations.

In Glengarry/Glenross, Alec Baldwin famously says ABC=Always Be Closing.

Illinois is showing deficiencies in its ability to put teams away.

Perhaps it’s time for Underwood to forcefully put the coffee down and not pick it up again until the team is ready.