Winner By Submission
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I tweeted at halftime that I really wanted us to put the game away in the first 10 minutes of the second half. I still think we're a Final Four contender, and Final Four contenders don't let weaker opponents back in the game when leading by 11 at the half. They step on their throat.
Halftime score: Illinois 40, Minnesota 29
Score with 9:00 remaining: Illinois 72, Minnesota 43
Let's be clear here. Minnesota isn't very good. They started out shooting 5 for 8 tonight, grabbed a quick 16-8 lead, and then went 14 for 61 the rest of the game. That's disastrously bad. If the officials didn't call 27 fouls on Illinois and send Minnesota to the line 32 times, this one might have been in the 90-something to 40-something range. They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
Some of these Minnesota stats are crazy-bad. Utah transfer Both Gach: 0-9. Brandon Johnson: 1-9. Star guard Marcus Carr 3-13. Jamal Mashburn Jr 1-7. Isaiah Ihnen 1-7. They were bad bad bad. Yes, our defense was solid, especially Trent on Carr, but their shooting was atrocious.
Still, last year at home we needed Da'Monte to block the possible game-tying shot in the final minute to beat Minnesota at home. So to go from that to "can we push the lead to 40?" is quite impressive. We needed to have a dominating win after Saturday night's debacle and that's exactly what we saw.
And our stats were just as impressive as Minnesota's were unimpressive. When you win by 27 the first thought is "hot night from three?" but nope - only 7 for 19. This was just a good old-fashioned "get the ball to the big guy" game. Once Drake-transfer Liam Robbins had two fouls, the game was over. No one else on Minnesota could come anywhere close to guarding Kofi (and once Robbins came back in, he couldn't either). Kofi's very impressive numbers:
33 points on 12-15 shooting, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks in 25 minutes.
This was just one of those games where once the one guy who could kinda guard Kofi was on the bench with two fouls (he only played 16 minutes before fouling out), we were going to put them in a chokehold and they were going to tap out. They would have needed to shoot lights-out to win when we were scoring at will in the paint and they did the exact opposite with their worst shooting percentage in several years.
So this was just a simple win by submission. Minnesota starts out shooting 5 of 8 and takes a quick 18-10 lead. They then shoot 14-61 the rest of the way and from that moment on we outscore them 82-47 with Kofi leading the way. Points in the paint: 48-14.
~places Minnesota in chokehold, waits for the tap~
+ I'm trying to think of the best passers in modern Illini history. I'm trying to do this so I can then try to place Andre Curbelo somewhere on that list already even though he's only played seven games.
I'm defining "modern" Illini history as the beginning of the Lou Henson era until now. So basically the last 45 years. Off the top of my head, here's how I'd rank the "best passers" in that era:
- Bruce Douglas
- Frank Williams
- Deron Williams
- Richard Keene
- Demetri McCamey
Keene should probably be higher. Nobody remembers what a great passer he was. When your shooting guard consistently has more assists than your point guard, he might be a great passer.
Two guys from the current team - Ayo and Belo - have a chance to end up on this list after their careers are over. And if the first seven games from Belo are any indication, he has a very good chance to end up #1. Just insane feel and vision. 9 assists in 22 minutes tonight.
+ My question in the postgame presser was about the rotation. We're up 30 in the second half with five minutes left and Kofi, Ayo, and Trent are still in the game. So I asked Underwood what was the reason for leaving the starters in so long.
"Bodies" was his simple answer. He talked about how they don't really have many guys they can sub in off the bench right now with Hutcherson and BBV currently injured. Even Tyler Underwood isn't currently available.
He did have Jacob Grandison available, and he chose not to play him until the 4:11 mark of the second half, so I think we're maybe seeing the final rotation right now. It's eight guys: the five main returnees (Ayo, Trent, Da'Monte, Giorgi, and Kofi) plus the three freshmen (Belo, Ace, and Hawkins). Seems like that will be it - with maybe Grandison grabbing "9th-man" minutes - for the rest of the year.
+ I feel like this is how Adam Miller's three-point shooting has gone this season (warning: exaggeration).
Made 7 in a row.
Missed 9 in a row.
Made 7 of 9.
Then missed 11 of next 12.
Suddenly made 8 in a row.
Then missed 6 of 8.
If he makes one, I feel like he's going to make six straight. If he misses one, I feel like he's going to miss nine more. This isn't a complaint. Freshmen are streaky. I'm just saying... it feels like there's a switch and he's either on or off.
+ There's not much more to write about this one. And that's a good thing. We're favored by 8.5, we win by nearly 30, they had no answer for Kofi, and our #13 team played like a #13 team should play at home. Minnesota hadn't played anyone yet and we provided a giant dose of reality.
1 down, 19 to go.