Wisconsin 74, UI men 68: 'You have to trust the system'

Wisconsin 74, UI men 68: 'You have to trust the system'

CHAMPAIGN — Maybe they had plans for an epic Super Bowl party. Maybe they wanted to beat the traffic. Or maybe they just lost hope.

Whatever the reason, a good chunk of the 15,073 who made their way to the Assembly Hall on Sunday for Illinois’ game against Wisconsin decided to hit the exits with 8 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the second half.

The Badgers led by 14 at the time.

By the time the horn sounded on Wisconsin’s 74-68 win, the sea of orange had pretty much faded. All that remained were empty gray seats.

Halfway through the conference season, the Illini (15-8, 2-7 Big Ten) are in a position few envisioned when they were 12-0 and ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in six years.

“They went from semi-confidently in to squarely on the (NCAA) bubble,” Yahoo! Sports bracketologist Brad Evans said after Sunday’s loss, Illinois’ eighth in its last 11 games.

The fans were leaving to watch the Super Bowl. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan asked for the score at the end of his news conference that ended a half hour before kickoff.

Illinois coach John Groce had no interest in the 49ers or the Ravens.

“We’ll watch (game) tape,” he said.

What he’ll see, once again, is another lackluster performance on the defensive end of the floor from his team.

After allowing Michigan State to shoot 87.5 percent in the second half of Thursday’s loss, the Illini offered little resistance against the Badgers (15-7, 6-3), who shot 55.6 percent in the second half and got 20 points and 19 points, respectively, from Chicago-area products Ben Brust and Frank Kaminsky on Sunday.

And for the second straight game, Illinois’ opponent shot 30 or more free throws in the second half.

“We’ve been doing this since Oct. 12. At some point we have to execute the simple things that we ask our guys to do on a more consistent basis and that’ll allow us to be better defensively,” Groce said after his team allowed 74 or more points for the third straight game. “To do that, you have to trust the system and you have to trust one another at a really high level.”

How serious is Groce about shoring things up on the defensive end? Leading scorer Brandon Paul, who has struggled defensively lately, came off the bench for just the third time in the last two seasons.

Paul ended up as one of five Illini in double figures with 13 points, but the message has been sent.

“It’s more about the defensive side right now, that was the bottom line,” Groce said.

Joseph Bertrand replaced Paul in the starting lineup and finished with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds.

The bubble might be shrinking for the Illini, but they’re still keeping the faith, even if some outside the program are losing theirs.

“We’re fine, we’ve known each other for a long time,” said Nnanna Egwu, who filled the stat sheet with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. “It’s a matter of getting back on the court, keep on practicing. We’ve just got to play harder, that’s the main thing.”


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JimOATSfan wrote on February 04, 2013 at 12:02 am

While I agree it is about DEFENSE right now, I find myself grateful there are no SPECIAL TEAMS in basketball. Sheesh. 

It really should be all about playing SMART.  Defend like you have been taught, take the HIGH PERCENTAGE shot.

Settle for a layup to get your timing and rhythm going, then a 5 footer, then a 10 footer until your stroke is back.  Pass the ball inside to the bigs!  Screw the 3 point shot. Every 3 point clang you make this season takes you one step closer to NO pro ball in your future.

Glad to see Bertrand starting.  He and Egwu must lead the Illini into the future: which starts NOW. Go Illini!

IlliniAggie wrote on February 04, 2013 at 9:02 am

Thanks for the update.  I turned off the game (again) and watched "Frazier" reruns.  It was MUCH more entertaining.

scottymoore wrote on February 04, 2013 at 9:02 am

These guys are mentally weak. Look at how they ended the first half:

- travel call.

- a foul out past the top of the key.

- a forced shot outside of offense when the success was driving to the hole.

They totaly fold when the preasure goes up. I feel for Groce. You can teach a system but you can't teach heart or smarts. High character kids who have little to no basketball IQ and when they get punched in the mouth by their opponent, they hang their heads and give up. 

Who is the leader on the floor for this team? Paul? Richardson? Griffey? why is he even on the floor? 

Bwp 5P wrote on February 04, 2013 at 9:02 am

Bertrand comes down and hits three shots in a row.....next 2-3 trips down the floor.....he doesn't even get to touch the ball before someone jacks up a shot!

Are these guys that selfish that they don't want to feed the hot hand?

illini5 wrote on February 04, 2013 at 9:02 am

It's not about playing harder;it's about playing smarter. Why is it that Illinois doesnt recruit player with basketball savvy. Look at Wisconsin,Indiana. These are teams where there is synergy- five players playing  as a team bigger that the sum of 5 individuals.

Moonpie wrote on February 04, 2013 at 10:02 am

Naturally this Sleepy Gazoo story opens by focusing attention on fans, those hated and traitorous fans, leaving early.

But it was the players who left early -- weeks ago.

Or perhaps never really were here at all.

But Oracle Tate and Bushleague Jackson et al will likely keep elbowing the fans.

Once this team ends this lost season, there's hope because Egwu looks like he's starting to get it and he can pair next year with an actual center in Mav Morgan.

But I'm sure the Sleepy Gazoo will instead obsess over fans.

Hooray for those fans who left early! We don't have to be in TateLockstep.

JDG613 wrote on February 04, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Ya know.....if you have such a distaste for this newspaper and/or its writers....why don't you just (do us a favor, and) stop reading it?!?!?

DaisyJ wrote on February 04, 2013 at 10:02 am

(Here is a thought of the day) "Groce, play a zone if you cannot stop a lay up."

Another thought of the day...play Shaw, Nana, and Henry on the back row, Richardson,

Abrams on the top on a 2-3.  Wisconsin will take different shots, will think twice about trying for a dunk or lay up. duh.

Also,, tell Abrams to not shoot until he has dished out 7 assists.

jjohnson wrote on February 04, 2013 at 11:02 am

Moonpie, cowpie, whatever your name is, your buddy Loren Tate did not write this item. READ and maybe, if you are able, stop to THINK before making your comments

Bear8287 wrote on February 04, 2013 at 11:02 am

Photo caption on this webpage:

Nnanna Egwu and Tracy Abrams talk as the (sic) leave the court after the Wisconsin-Michigan men's college basketball game in Champaign, Il on Sunday, February 3, 2013.

Maybe that's the problem.  The Illini were expecting Michigan to show up to play Wisconsin.




UIUCHoopFan wrote on February 04, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Again with "You have to trust the system"?  If there's a lack of trust let it sit on the bench!  I am numb to the losses and not alone in this respect.  Thursday night will probably be a drumming of epic proportions.  Crean will let the dogs loose and our players will be wearing Milkbone underwear.

This season is lost and we're out of Kool-Aid.

jturner wrote on February 04, 2013 at 1:02 pm

"you have to trust the system".  From reading columns and comments, and listing to podcasts thoughout the season, it seems as if the women do and the men don't.  Is it the players, the coaches or both?

BLMDH wrote on February 04, 2013 at 1:02 pm

"The System" seems to repeatedly end up with our big men switching on the high ball screen with our point guard ending up guarding their big men.  Bad things happen.  Their talented point beats our big to the basket and either makes a layup if no one helps or lays off for a slam dunk if we do help.  If there is a missed shot, their big is being boxed out by our point guard and they get an offensive put back -- and usually a foul, too.  I may not know the game, but it is obvious that game after game opposing coached trust "The System" and their team works until the inevitable mis-match occurs.  What am I missing?

mrseeu2 wrote on February 04, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Give the players and the coaches a break.   Do you think that they like losing.  If you're like me, you didn't have much hope for this team anyway.  When the season first started I thought this team might make the NIT if they were lucky.  Give the Coach a chance, next year will be better.  Let's take a lesson from Indiana, they were terrible but the seats were always full.  Now they're number 1. Our time will come.