8th Grade Basketball
Well that sucked.
The energy was high. The crowd was rabid. The game starts so strong (with Indiana looking incredibly lost) that Mike Woodson takes a timeout not even two minutes into the game. The crowd is going nuts, we're dreaming about getting back into the top-25, and then... that.
Here's probably the best way to frame this one. I should probably just write out these stats and then go to bed. Illinois was 24 for 62 (38.7%) and Indiana was 34-55 (61.8%). But Illinois was 8-19 from three and Indiana was only 3-9, so that means on two pointers...
Indiana: 31-46 (67.3%)
Illinois: 16-43 (37.2%)
When one team shoots 67.3% inside the arc and the other team shoots 37.2% inside the arc, that first team is going to win that game 99% of the time. When one team has a guy go 15-19 from the field, that team is going to win the game. This was basketball simplicity. Make your layups, make your free throws, win the game. Miss your layups, miss your free throws, lose the game.
This one just felt like an 8th grade basketball game where the visiting team had That One Really Good Kid. The kid who looks like he's 17 in eighth grade. Parents get frustrated and scream "somebody stop him" as he puts in his 10th consecutive layup. There's just nothing anyone can do to stop him.
And then the refs start to feel bad and call fouls on the other team because it only seems fair. But the home team only hits 9 of 23 free throws. 9-23 at the line is absolutely an 8th grade basketball game.
The crowd cheers a lot just before halftime when the home team hits a bunch of shots. But then at the very start of the second half, That One Really Good Kid makes layup after layup and you resign yourself to knowing that you have no chance. The eighth graders at the game all go to the snack bar for some Fun Dip and the parents put their phones away and stop filming. Everyone just slowly gives up on the game.
I'm not saying it was impossible to stop That One Really Good Kid tonight. Kofi stopped him 4-5 times. This one felt like a game plan clinic for Mike Woodson. We have a roster that should be able to stop TJD (I mean, Indiana is missing two starters so we could pretty much just focus on him). Calling this 8th grade basketball is not me saying "we're the nobody team and they have a really great player."
I'm saying that the vibe in the State Farm Center flipped to "8th grade game" very quickly. One team has one player who can do the same thing over and over and over and over and over. The refs try to help the home team with fouls but the home team goes 9-23 from the line. Everyone in the stands is eventually overcome by this feeling of complete resignation.
Somebody go to the snack bar and get me some Fun Dip.
+ We were just dominated in every single statistical category.
FG percentage? 62% to 39%. Free throws? 69% to 39%. Rebounds? 39-27 (to be fair, they only missed 21 shots while we missed 38). Points in the paint? 54-32. Assists? 13-7.
And fouls were 20-9 (only nine fouls called on Illinois the entire game!), so the refs did their best to help us. We didn't want the help, though.
+ I wanted to make sure everyone saw this stat that @nmartin4 shared with me:
There’s the stat.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) January 20, 2023
Second time an opponent has had 15 field goals against the Illini since 1980. Big Dog 1994, TJD tonight. https://t.co/vBBqDfC1fG
Crazy, right? Second time since I've been a fan (1983 season) that an opposing player hit 15 field goals. And I remember the first one, too (Big Dog in 1994). A very similar "are we even trying to stop him?" game. Season finale at Purdue, we've gotten to 10-7 in the Big Ten and are thinking we're maybe climbing up to a 6 or 7 seed, we're trying to spoil Purdue's senior day and prevent them from winning the Big Ten outright, and then Glenn Robinson scores 49 to wrap it up. We end up getting an 8-seed (across from eventual champion Arkansas) but we don't even get a game with Arkansas. We lose in the first round to 9-seed Georgetown.
I also remember being so mad that UAB got a 7-seed and we were the 8-seed. The third place team in the Great Midwest Conference is seeded higher than the team that tied for 4th in the Big Ten? UAB couldn't even beat George Washington in the first round. An injustice, I tell you.
Anyway, that 1994 Purdue game was the only other time since 1980 where an opponent made 15 field goals against us. TJD's performance tonight was probably a top-10 opposing player performance in State Farm Center history.
I hate it.
+ A real quick check on my "when it's just Shannon scoring and no one else, we rarely win" double figures stat. Number of players in double figures tonight: two. Terrence Shannon (26 points) and RJ Melendez (10 points). RJ was at five points with 90 seconds remaining but he made a layup with 1:22 left and hit a three with 57 seconds left to get to double figures. Otherwise it would have just been Shannon.
Four or five guys in double figures on Tuesday, please.
I don't really have much else to say. Such a disappointing night. Four incremental steps forward the last few weeks, one big step back tonight.
I hate it.