Tate: Sinking Illini have sprung leak on defense
College basketball leftovers ... the game never lets up.
It can’t be overstated how field goal percentages are impacted by the ability to get quality shots.
In Sunday’s 74-60 win at Illinois, a recheck shows Michigan acquired 19 of 31 baskets on layups, rebound putbacks and dunks. There were other close-in shots, but these 19 were virtually unguarded. That’s why they’re shooting over 50 percent from the field through 20 games.
Illinois had 13 point-blank baskets, but four of them came on layups in the last five minutes after the Wolverines relaxed with a healthy lead.
After going 6 for 26 on treys, the Illini have fallen to last in three-point accuracy (24.5 percent) in conference games. That is a sharp dropoff from the pre-Christmas period when the hot-shooting Illini were topping 40 percent and leading the nation in treys.
Pinpointing turnaround plays in Sunday’s game, Michigan coach John Beilein said: “A steal and a runout dunk can change the momentum on the road. Those plays often provide a huge emotional lift. We had several Sunday.”
Michigan continues to offer hope for those who believe the next freshman class will uplift their team. Glenn Robinson III may never be as good as his dad — Purdue’s Big Dog averaged 30.3 points in 1994 — but he appears to be moving ahead of teammate Nik Stauskas and Michigan State’s
Gary Harris for Big Ten freshman honors. Robinson went 6 for 8 against Illinois and is shooting over 60 percent in league games and over 58 percent in all games. In addition, he is averaging seven rebounds and 12 points.
“Glenn’s defense and instincts are so good,” Beilein said, “and he has settled in with a consistent outside game. He grows every day.”
— Saturday will be a madhouse at Indiana when Michigan arrives for ESPN’s College GameDay. But first the Hoosiers must travel on Wednesday to Purdue, where eight of the game’s starters are likely to be prep products of that state.
“These young players know each other from an early age in AAU ball. They travel and see everything,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
— Best comment by Indiana’s Tom Crean: “Our expectation as a team is to live up to the excitement of our fans.”
Another good comment: “There were people picking us No. 1 after the NCAA tournament last year. We have to stay in the moment because so much is expected.”
Those fans set the bar mighty high. And they fell off only slightly when Crean’s first three teams went 8-46 in the Big Ten.
— Both Painter and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo praised Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, a 6-foot-5 junior from Maryland, on Monday after he accumulated 21 points, seven rebounds and six steals in the 75-70 win against the Spartans. It appears Oladipo has drawn alongside preseason Player of the Year Cody Zeller as the most valuable Hoosier.
“Oladipo affects the game even when he doesn’t score,” Painter said. “Among guards, he may be the best offensive rebounder, and he is one of the best perimeter defenders.”
Said Izzo: “Oladipo does so much on both ends that you could argue he’s in the running for conference MVP.”
— Izzo emphasized that the Spartans “didn’t play smart” — specifically, Keith Appling fouled out — in Sunday’s loss at Indiana.
“Appling is our main guy and he has won games for us,” Izzo said. “But he was frustrated and barely played after the 12-minute mark. He has to be smart and learn to live with bad decisions.”
In hosting Illinois on Thursday, the Spartans have won 8 of 12 in the recent series but dropped a 42-41 decision in Champaign last season. In that one, Illinois shot 32.6 percent and Michigan State shot 24.1.
— Aaron Craft’s offense has slipped somewhat, but he’s second in the conference (behind Trey Burke) in assists, and already holds the Ohio State career record for steals with more than 200. And he’s only a junior.
Craft and the Buckeyes are laying in the weeds and could reach 7-2 this week as they host Wisconsin and travel to Nebraska.
— John Giannini, a sports psychologist who served as Lou Henson’s grad assistant here in 1988, just knocked off two of the nation’s hotshot coaches. Giannini’s La Salle team defeated Brad Stevens’ Butler club 54-53, and then beat Shaka Smart’s Virginia Commonwealth squad 69-61.
This is Giannini’s ninth year at La Salle after eight years as head coach at Maine.
— Scott Nagy, whose father Dick Nagy assisted Henson, has South Dakota State on a five-game streak that includes a 59-53 win against Western Illinois. The Jackrabbits are 7-2 in the Summit, while Western is 8-2.
Any way you view it, this state continues to struggle in college basketball, a fact emphasized by NIU, now 4-14, scoring an NCAA record-low four points in the first half against Eastern Michigan. DePaul is 1-5 in the Big East, Illinois and Northwestern are a combined 5-10 in the Big Ten, Eastern Illinois has recovered to 6-16 overall after losing 12 straight, and the trio of SIU, Bradley and Illinois State are a combined 8-19 in the Missouri Valley.
Can we consider it a source of state pride to see UIC climb to 4-4 (sixth place) in the Horizon?
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.