(Un)Just Win, Baby

Jan 24, 2018

This felt like Purdue 2013. The football game. We had lost 20 conference games in a row, we're crumbling at the end, Steve Hull has to run around in the endzone and then take a safety to run out the clock, everything went wrong, but... a win. A desperately-needed win.

As I recall, I was curled up on the floor of my bedroom between the bed and the wall during that Purdue football game. I don't think I believed the game was over for a good 10 minutes. I was convinced that the rules stated that a game can't end on a safety so we'd have to kick it away and then Purdue would run it back for the win.

Much like I felt tonight when Mark Alstork inexplicably ran after the ball after missing the free throw, opening up the chance for a foul on a full-court shot with 0.1 on the clock and three free throws for Indiana. I don't know if he fouled him (I don't think he really even touched him), but I heard a whistle and froze for a moment, thinking that we still hadn't won the game.

Can you blame me? It's been 330 days since we won a conference game in either sport. Even when we win I'm still left to wonder if the clock is really at 0:00. We did absolutely everything we could to lose this game, yet, somehow, came away with a win. You know, things like:

  • Made one shot - Kipper's three pointer - in the final 11 minutes. Really, without the officials calling every ticky-tack everything on Indiana we lose this game by 8-10.
  • Had an eight point lead with 50 seconds remaining and somehow let that lead slip to two with eight seconds left.
  • After IU only made one of two free throws with eight seconds left (that was such a huge miss, because then they had to foul and we could hit two free throws to ice the game), we then missed both free throws giving them a chance to hit a two to send it to overtime or a three to win. AFTER WE LED BY EIGHT WITH 50 SECONDS LEFT.
  • They turn it over, Alstork grabs it, there's 0.1 on the clock, he misses the free throw and Underwood smartly tells him to miss the second, and then Alstork inexplicably goes after the ball. The game is over - just miss the free throw and then lay down on the ground because the rules state that you need, what, 0.4 to even attempt a shot, and yet Alstork went after the ball and the IU guy tried to fake a foul.

We did nearly everything someone can do to blow an eight point lead with 50 seconds left. And yet, somehow, we held on for the win. Which means we're now in "a win is a win" territory, which is, like, the saddest place for any fan to be.

Does any of this matter? No. The season is already over, the new coach is finding out who is a good fit for his system and who is not, we return nearly everyone next year and can start to think about the postseason, he now knows his exact recruiting needs and will spend the summer trying to patch every hole - this is and always has been about the future, not the present.

But let's be honest - we didn't deserve to win that game. We hit one shot the final 11 minutes. When Kipper lost the ball driving to the hoop with the shot clock expiring and the official bailed him out with a whistle, I'm pretty sure Archie Miller lost his damn mind. We had some help - Indiana couldn't hit a free throw to save their lives - and despite our lack of defense allowing IU to shoot 56% and our complete meltdown blowing an eight point lead with 50 seconds left... we won.

~takes win, puts it in pocket, feels a little better driving home~

+ I don't want to look it up but I'm pretty sure opposing big guys are something like 25 for 28 the last few games. Morgan was 12 for 14 tonight and Justin Smith was 3 for 3. I don't know enough about defense or rotations but I know that we're getting layup-lined. It's probably not getting fixed this year, but, uh, let's go recruit four athletic bigs this summer, please.

+ That said, I feel like the difference in the game was our "two point guards and three bigs" lineup to start the second half with Kipper at the three. Indiana seemed confused, and we quickly turned a six-point deficit into a lead. We started grabbing rebounds, we started getting to the line, and that run (up until Leron picked up his third and fourth foul back-to-back and had to come out of the game) was probably the reason we won.

Like, we complained so much the last few years about coming out of halftime and failing to show up, so to see us aggressively take the lead from a fairly stunned Indiana was great to see. That's one constant we've seen from this team over and over this season. Out-matched, out-athleted all over the court, but fight and fight and fight some more. Something to build on.

+ Interesting box score tonight. Here's the guard minutes:

  • Frazier 34
  • Lucas 30
  • Alstork 21
  • Jordan 17
  • Williams 7
  • Smith 4

We had all but counted Te'Jon out and then he gets 30 minutes. Underwood praised Mark Smith as "one of the top freshmen in the country" back in November and now he gets four minutes. Da'Monte had been this staple on defense at the end of close games but tonight I think he sat the entire second half.

Could mean nothing, but I feel like my understanding of next year's guard rotations once we add Ayo changes day by day. No idea what it looks like going forward.

+ OK, so now after three games in six days, finally, some rest. Rutgers comes in next Tuesday and, hey, how about a winning streak? On the road to Ohio State after that but then right back here for Wisconsin and Penn State. Now that we've finally broken the losing streak, there are more wins to be had.

And hopefully we can, you know, put the game away when we have an eight point lead with 50 seconds left.


Sweetchuck13 on January 25 @ 08:09 AM CST

Te'Jon really impressed me tonight - both on offense and defense. He and Frazier made a really good pairing - and they both do slightly different things. Nice switch there by Underwood.

And I'm hoping the 5 day break gives us a little time to work on that switching and interior defense. Wow are we bad at giving up layups/dunks.

HiggsBoson on January 25 @ 11:03 AM CST

Any season with wins against Mizzou and IU isn't a total loss. This team is young and has some holes, but I see plenty of things to like for the future. Aside from the Wisconsin game, these guys keep fighting. If it weren't for that unfortunate tendency to give away games at the end, the record would be much more respectable. Hopefully they realized last night that it's ok to just go ahead and win.

Lou-a-villini on January 25 @ 11:24 AM CST

Teams make up 8 point deficits in the last minute of the game all of the time, (especially when the free throws don’t go down).

Under your rationale, the team should get bonus points for the admirable comeback against MSU at the end of the game. It happens. It’s basketball.

bkenny on January 25 @ 07:18 PM CST

It happens once in a while, but it’s not a frequent occurrence. What’s the win probability when up 8 with a minute left? At least 95%, no?

AHSIllini32 on January 26 @ 11:53 AM CST

Probably, and we won so we followed along with that probability.

Bear8287 on January 27 @ 12:04 AM CST

Hey, that’s a pretty good guess. ESPN tracks likely percentage to win and you can find that for this game here:


At the 0:50 mark? 95%

Illiniiniowa on January 25 @ 12:46 PM CST

First off, I don't feel fortunate we got this win. We were due for some breaks to bounce our way. Second, I thought Williams was limping when he came out in the first half so I'm not sure that Underwood didn't want him out there, maybe he wasn't available or at least not 100%?

DB50 on January 25 @ 04:48 PM CST

A win is a win & the 800 lbs. gorilla is off their back.

Illinimac68 on January 27 @ 06:11 PM CST

It' about time someone else frittered away their chance to win. A better team would have hit 3 on IU's last possession but they threw the ball to us.

Bear8287 on January 27 @ 10:06 PM CST

Illini basektball IQ falls off of a cliff in the last 50 seconds of a game. A lot of that has to do with the relative youth and inexperience of this team.

Regarding the most experienced player on the floor for the Illini though, I could see BU screaming at Alstork as Mark was coming off of the floor and knew what that was all about. I was also able to lip-read BU saying "you could've gotten a foul!".

As Chester Karrass says, "You Don't Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate". Well the Illini happened to come out slightly on top of an ugly negotiation with Indiana.

Love the fight. Still plenty of work to do.

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