Minnesota 84, UI 67: 'They got us'

Minnesota 84, UI 67: 'They got us'

CHAMPAIGN — Early in the second half with eighth-ranked Minnesota leading No. 12 Illinois 39-30, the Gophers’ Andre Hollins fired up a desperation shot from just inside half court against an expiring shot clock.

It went off the glass and in the basket. He smiled, knowing he caught a break. John Groce scowled. He knew it couldn’t be his team’s night.
It wasn’t. Despite a 10-0 run in the second half spearheaded by Tracy Abrams (14 points, four rebounds) that cut a 12-point Minnesota lead to two, the Gophers ran away late to earn an 84-67 win in front 16,618 at a sold-out Assembly Hall.

Joe Coleman had made five three-pointers in his career before Wednesday. He added two more to that total against the Illini en route to scoring a career-high 29 points.

“Joe Coleman, when he had the ball in his hands, good things were happening for us tonight,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.

Sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe recorded a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds). Andre Hollins added 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Minnesota (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten)

“They made play after play after play,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they got us, they’re a good basketball team. Coleman and Hollins and Mbakwe, I thought they made a lot of plays.”

Wednesday’s loss was yet another indication for Illinois (14-3, 1-2) of how tough life will be in the Big Ten this season, home or on the road.
The physical nature wore down the Illini.

It’s particularly difficult when the shots are falling as infrequently as they were for the Illini against the Gophers. Groce’s club made 35.4 percent of its shots (23 for 65) including a season-worst 3 for 24 (12.5 percent) from behind the three-point line.

“I think shot selection, you take bad shots consistently, it’s like turnover,” Groce said. “Our execution was awful and when you play a team as good as them, that’s what’s going to happen.”

On the flipside, Minnesota had its best night shooting from long range Wednesday.

“Did I anticipate them going 9 of 15 from three? No. We played a couple of those guys based on the stat sheet certain ways and they made them tonight,” Groce said. “They made them, so I’ve got to give them credit.”

Brandon Paul scored a team-high 21 points for the Illini. The senior left the game in the first half after suffering a bloody nose but returned before halftime.

D.J. Richardson added 14 points, while Nnanna Egwu chipped in eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

“This league’s a monster, it’s a grind,” Groce said. “It is what it is, the next one’s coming at you at 1:15 on Saturday.”

What happened
Illinois battled foul trouble and cold shooting while the Gophers shot a season-high 60 percent from beyond the arc (9 for 15) in moving to 3-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1974-75.

What the Gophers said
“It was a good win for us. I thought certainly Illinois had the right game plan. They were physical with us early on.” — coach Tubby Smith

What the Illini said
“I thought they played hard. I’m just disappointed in the way they executed. That’s on me; I’ve got to figure that out.” — coach John Groce

What it means
John Groce will have to wait a few more days for another crack at his 100th win as the Illini lost for the first time in nine home games this season. The first-year Illinois skipper entered with a 99-58 mark in his fifth year overall.

What’s next
The Illini will look to end a three-game losing streak to Wisconsin on Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison, where they have won just once in the last five trips there against Bo Ryan’s club.

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Bwp 5P wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 am

Well.......it might have been a sellout..........but until I see a butt in every seat.........ESPECIALLY the 37 EMPTY in "A" section across from the team.......I won't consider it a sellout! I don't care if the seats were paid for or not!

Somehow....SOMEBODY has to find a way to get FANS in those close seats to SUPPORT this team!


What a shame.........Huge game and we have empty seats!

oandb wrote on January 10, 2013 at 6:01 am

Minnesota is a better team and could make a deep run in March. Mbwake has to be 26.

Illinix4 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

Mbakwe is 24.  And I agree, Minny will make a deep run in March if they keep up how they are currently playing.

LoyalIllini wrote on January 10, 2013 at 7:01 am

Orange Krush should count empty sec A seats every game and publicize the numbers.  Without data everywhere this issue just stays unattended by our University of East Central Illinois mindset administrators.  Not interested in best of class -- too much work and risk.

Do you see empty seats like this with any other B10 team?  No.

nndsmom wrote on January 10, 2013 at 9:01 am

I totally agree.  It is a disgrace that A section seats sit empty when there are real fans who would be thrilled to have them.

big10bum wrote on January 10, 2013 at 7:01 am

I am a lifelong C section "resident", who cares how many seats were empty in A? If the 37 seats in A we were filled, would that had made us shot better last night? I wish Illinois the best of luck the rest of the way, but we are NOT the 13th or 14th best team in the country. Groce has the team playing with 100% more passion than last year, but we have got to make shots in front of the 3 point line. Better team won last night, let's hope they have a couple good days of practice & can go get a road win against a mediocre Wisconsin team. I have been going to UI Games since 1973, if we lose at Madison Saturday, there will be more than 37 empties the next home date.

Bwp 5P wrote on January 10, 2013 at 9:01 am

Well.....I guess if you don't care, that's fine.......but it's called "atmosphere"....and most of the other arena's in the B1G have a better atmosphere than The Assembly Hall.

As far as going since 1973....that's great.........me.....I've been to games @ Huff, and to The Hall since the mid 60's.....so I'm no virgin to sparse crowds. Extra people probably wouldn't have made us play better......however......it just might impact a young mans decision whether to become an Illini or go somewhere else.

If you were a "stud" and had choices where to play.....would you rather play in front of an enthusiastic full house........or a 1/2 empty, lethargic crowd?

And that's why it matters to many of us! Buy the tickets, use them, or maybe donate them to the Boy's & Girl's club or someone that would love to be there but can't afford the $$ to buy those tickets!


Illinix4 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

I completely agree.  Those who do not use their tickets should donate or find someone who will go. I know I am one of many that cannot afford tickets, especially premium, A section tickets.

By the way, where was the Orange Krush?  I thought they sit court side.  I believe that makes a huge difference in games, especially in a game atmosphere like last night.

Boardshorts85 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

The Krush is still on break.

It was a rough game that fortunely shouldn't come back to bite us on Selection Sunday.  Losses are going to happen at home in the league.  Too many top-level teams.  Michigan and maybe Indiana are really the only teams with a shot to go undefeated at home, and even that will be a stretch.

On to the next one.

tonyjb37 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am
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Bottom line! We are soft and got out toughed by a better than us Minnesota team. We are not as good as our ranking suggests we do have a great coach in John Groce but these are still Webers soft serve from dairy queen recruits. The players need to step up and toughen up  and stop playing like scared little girls. Get in there and bang every single game and knock the other team around a bit and let them know that they are in a war. don't be dippers, BE DUNKERS! dippers are sissified.

tonyjb37 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am
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Bwp 5P wrote on January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

After being there last night and up in "C".......you can't really tell what all happens.

I just watched the game.

1. 1st, 3rd, and 4th fouls on Tracy were absolute BS calls. Think that might not affect a players physche?

2. 1st foul on Tyler was another phantom call.

3. Our transistion "D" might not have been so bad if we'd made a few baskets!

4. There was a LOT of grabbing, pushing and outright shoving. They didn't really play that much more physical.....we just didn't make shots....and a lot of them were WIDE OPEN!

AlD5862 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I agree wholeheartedly witn Bwp 5P's comments.  I was there in the B section looking directly down the endline when the ref said that Tracy stepped out of bounds.  The ref anticpated the call as Tracy's foot was 3-4 inches in bounds.  The refs started out letting them play a physcial game and then they decided to get ticky-tacky with calls.  All said, I thought the crowd was into the game most of the time, but I agree with some of the posters that we need to be "into the game" for the whole game;  this also includes the "Orange Krush"--tho I realize that the students were on break--I thought the "OK" was very docile the whole night.  I consider that progress is being made with Coach Groce at the helm and I think that things will get better!!  One of the highlights of the evening was Manny Jackson's jersey displayed in the rafters; he played when I was at UIUC; he and Govenor Vaugh were a pleasure to watch.  The students only got 3 tickets to BB games then; so I became an usher at Huff Gym so that I could watch all the BB games.

billyh23 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

PURDUE !!!!!

IlliniGator14 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm
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some very insightful comments:  YES - ALL losses go to Weber for recruting soft, unskilled players.  ALL Wins get credited to Groce for his uptempo, enthusiactic coaching style.  Ideally we could make this analysis within each game:  turnovers, missed defensive assignments, lack of hustle are on Weber; assists, steals, floor burns go to Groce.  I feel better already !

illinibball1 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

It's sad to see fairweather fans leave with 6 minutes left in the game...especially watching it on tv here in Colorado....actually quite embarrassing as an alumnus and fan. Somehow, someway there needs to be a change in seating assignments. Assembly Hall is quite possibly the only arena where old people are seen on tv sitting there doing nothing. No disrespect to my elders, but please give up your seats!

Bwp 5P wrote on January 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

We noticed and said the same thing! It wasn't likely the way we were shooting.......but even at the 2:30 mark.......we were down about 9 with the ball........and the people were pouring out.

I guess they'd never seen a comback? They probably wanted to hurry to their car to wait in traffic!


houstonillini84 wrote on January 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Its especially Weber's fault when we miss shots. Its credit to Groce when we make shots. Of course its Weber's fault when we make ridiculously careless turnovers, because clearly coaching couldnt change that. Likewise, when our offense consists of passing the ball around the perimeter and taking shots a couple feet outside the pro 3 point line, well thats Weber's fault too.

/sarcasm off

Seriously, I will say that in Groce's offense we drive to the hoop more, and look to run more. Thats good, I like it a lot. But its also true that Groce's offense is very one-on-one focused; very little is created from the flow of the offense. If you cant create your own good shot, you arent getting a good shot. The assist to points ratio is very low. Likewise, our shot selection is terrible; we were very lucky in the Ohio St game that they kept missing shots because after we got that lead, our ball management and shot selection was just awful. I also dont like how Groce's team fails to block out on D, repeatedly. That comes down to coaching.

I dont agree with all the pseudo-psychologists who harp about how the team is soft. This team isnt soft. Its small, and not especially strong. Grif has never been very effective in the B10, he is just not athletic enough, and when we replace him with a smaller guy, we are basically running a 4 guard offense, and jeeze its no surprise we will get outrebounded. I think people are way too quick to talk about 'heart' - which they have no way of assessing or knowing - instead of looking at the obvious, a small-ish team with 4 guards is not going to outrebound and out-tough big strong B10 teams. If we dont hit our shots, we probably are not going to win, because we just cant rebound and defend in the paint very well against most B10 teams.


HoosierIllinois wrote on January 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Exactly.  If you were a 5 star recruit and had a choice to go to Illinois or play in front of the crowds at Indiana, Kentucky, Duke or Kansas, where would you go?