Iowa 63, UI men 55: 'We can't dwell on it'

Iowa 63, UI men 55: 'We can't dwell on it'

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Whether it was the first half at Wisconsin, the second half at Michigan State or the first half at home against Northwestern, Illinois has displayed a penchant for coming out of the locker room sluggish.

It happened not once but twice in Tuesday’s 63-55 loss to Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with the Illini starting each half colder than the winter storm that brought freezing temperatures and dumped 5 inches of snow on eastern Iowa the last two days.

“I’m disappointed in the way we came out both halves, especially with older guys out there. Very disappointed,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “We’ve got to get that corrected. It shouldn’t happen. I’ve got 21-, 22-plus-year-old senior guys that have been doing this for a while, and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

For whatever reason, they weren’t. Illinois (21-10, 8-9 Big Ten) started the first half 1 for 16 from the floor. The Illini didn’t fare better in the second half against the Hawkeyes (19-11, 8-9), missing 11 of their first 12 shots en route to shooting a season-low 28.6 percent from the floor.

Figures like that, coupled with the effort, can be troubling at any point in the season, but they’re especially alarming with one game left in the regular season while teams are jockeying for position in the Big Ten tournament, which begins next week in Chicago.

“It’s easy to fix. We’ve just got to execute better,” team captain D.J. Richardson (13 points) said. “We missed a lot of shots. We had a lot of good looks. It could have been a crazy game if we would have made shots. At the same time, they made some plays down the stretch, and we missed some shots as well down the stretch.”

It got so bad for the Illini in the second half that Richardson drove down the left side of the lane for an uncontested dunk. His attempt was blocked — by the rim.

Iowa’s students laughed. Groce threw his arms out, palms up, wondering what happened.

“My legs weren’t tired at all. I actually didn’t know if I wanted to lay it in or dunk it, that’s what it was,” Richardson said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Josh Oglesby broke out of a 2-for-19 shooting slump from three-point range to score 10 points for Iowa, including two threes during a decisive 9-0 run when Illinois trailed by two in the second half. Roy Devyn Marble scored a game-high 21.

“In February and March, toughness is important, especially in a league where everybody knows each other well and there’s familiarity with scouting and personnel and tendencies offensively and defensively,” Groce said. “Toughness is a big factor and players making plays. Tonight, their players made more plays than we did.”

With one game remaining — Sunday at No. 14 Ohio State — the Illini aren’t pressing the panic button. It’s not something that’s been their style all season, even when they were 2-7 in conference play.

“It’s really disappointing, but we can’t dwell on it. We can’t get it back. We can’t go back in time. Obviously, we’ve got to figure out what it is we need to do better,” said Brandon Paul (18 points, nine rebounds). “Nothing’s handed to us. We know going into the next game Sunday that’s going to be an even tougher assignment, so we’ve got to come prepared.”

What happened
Iowa tied a program record by blocking 12 shots as the Illini shot a season-low 28.6 percent from the floor, ending a three-game win streak at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

What the Hawkeyes said
“If you know Josh (Oglesby), he’s a phenomenally likable person. He’s tried so hard to do what he did tonight all the time. It would be different if he wasn’t putting in the time, if he wasn’t a great teammate.” — coach Fran McCaffery

What the Illini said
“I kind of feel like the last two games we played were sloppy. Tonight was sloppy. They plain and simple out-toughed us. They played better, got on a run and we’ve got to do a better job.” — guard D.J. Richardson

What it means
Illinois blew a chance to guarantee a .500 finish in Big Ten play, and the possibility remains that it could play in the 8-9 game to open the Big Ten tournament next week.

What’s next
Ohio State will be riding high on Senior Day after knocking off No. 2 Indiana on Tuesday, and the Buckeyes, who have won three straight against the Illini in Columbus, will be looking to avenge a 74-55 January loss to the Illini.

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JimOATSfan wrote on March 06, 2013 at 2:03 am

On the positive side Coach Gross, this is why you have a job in the B1G today, and Coach Weber winters in Manhattan, KS these days. 

Whatever you call it, however you describe it, these guys have mastered it.  Hopefully this is the last year of it. Cheers

JamesB wrote on March 06, 2013 at 6:03 am

I agree, whatever "it" is, it really is hard to watch.  I'm not going to really miss any of these seniors.  I wish them all well in their future endeavors, but I will not miss watching them play.  I'm hopeful the incoming players are mentally tougher and will become more consistent.


LoyalIllini wrote on March 06, 2013 at 6:03 am

 ..." but we can’t dwell on it".  At this point in the season the fans deserve so much more.  This team doesn't have much time left to dwell on anything.  Groce accomplished alot with what BW left him.

SwifferFan wrote on March 06, 2013 at 6:03 am

Such a painful game to watch.  Iowa wasn't much better or we'd have lost by 40.  Really glad Groce is here.  Love the seniors, but....mental toughness hasn't been their strength....hoping for another victory over OSU....with the right mindset, the Illini can win.

Moonpie wrote on March 06, 2013 at 7:03 am

More proof this team lives and dies by shooting and has no inside game. A one and done in the Big Dance. Getting some beef inside is what they need. Won't miss Griffey or McLaurin. Egwu looks like he can be effective even more next year and Morgan needs to be able to give some quality minutes and they must find a big body forward who can go inside. 

tntsher wrote on March 06, 2013 at 7:03 am

Painful to watch is right!! A root canal would have been less painful! In a lot of ways this game was as ugly as the PSU game a couple years ago. If the term "ugly basketball" was in the dictionary, it would have this senior class picture on it. I agree with above comments...I cannot figure out the mindset of these guys......and ....I wish them well in the future (none will play BB much longer so I hope they have good degrees) but won't miss this bunch when they are gone.  

jgrout wrote on March 06, 2013 at 8:03 am

Anyone who picks this bunch to get into the B1G semi-finals or the Sweet 16 is nuts.  The seniors are destined for careers in third-tier basketball leagues and won't be missed.

jmilo37 wrote on March 06, 2013 at 8:03 am

I have followed the Illini all year and still wonder about their' offense they are trying to run ? It appears that many of their' shots are just screening beyond the 3pt line and then many times forcing up a shot to beat the clock. We have proven after 29 games that we can't live or die by the 3 pt play. We have some good one on one players and need to attack the lane and the basket more in my opinion.


DaisyJ wrote on March 06, 2013 at 8:03 am

Sports fans, do you enjoy watching a three ball contest now?? Do you? The Iowa game perhaps shows how the three ball has ruined the game. How many post passes were made to Egwu. Wel not very many because he is out picking guys for a three ball shot. ha ha. How many passes to cutters in the lane did you see. NONE, becasue no one cuts because they all stand and pass real fast like zippy split one side to the other to teammates hugging the three line. ha ha.

Is this the game we saw years ago, with kids that could fade, go up and under, fake, stop and pop, baby hooks, catch and shoot...those days are over so the fans can have a game where a team that gets hot can come back and win , or upset,,all for the fans... But this fan knows better, and what you saw last night was nothing more than mis informed players thinking they took good shots. I blame Groce for some of this. Other than defense which was fine, I would have sat the kids and put in 5 new ones, Told them to pass the ball inside the arch. How stupid are we to think the three ball is a good thing. Or, am I wrong and Illinios did win.

mom watrz wrote on March 06, 2013 at 1:03 pm

The same thing with this group..... you always wonder which team is going to show up.  Even the commentators commented on it last night.  I will always be an Illini fan and as painful as the last couple of seasons have been I am confident that John Groce can turn this around.  I will follow this team through to the end of the season but will be happy to have a new group in next season.   My hope is that they will play every game with a lot of heart and pride so what we saw last night will not happen again!

Not matter what I will always love my ILLINI!!


dljonesz wrote on March 06, 2013 at 9:03 am

Regardless of this year, as we move to Groce getting his style of player in the program the future is bright. I still feel the lack of player development over the last few years, combined with residual impact of the brow beating that players like BP,DJ, and TG  use to take in the press from Weber, is glaring as we look to them to be leaders on this team...we don't have them and it's not going to happen.

Moonpie wrote on March 06, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Not ready to play is right -- I just assumed Lovie Smith had taken over.

FloridaIllini wrote on March 06, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Bet Groce would give up just about anything (or everything) to have been able to bring D.J. Cooper with him.  I'm sure that is the model he is trying to find in a point guard but I doubt there are that many like him out there.  He just set an NCAA record.

Cooper became the first player in NCAA history on Tuesday to record 2,000 points, 900 assists, 600 rebounds and 300 steals in his outstanding career.

We want one of those Coach!


crackerman wrote on March 06, 2013 at 4:03 pm

DJ did'nt now what to do!? 4 yrs of not driving to the hoop, I believe you did'nt know what to do!

geriatricillini wrote on March 06, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I must say I agree with DaisyJ about the three pointer. In my view it takes away from the game more than adds to it. Teams, including ours, seem to pass the ball inside once or even twice and if nothing is there, kick it back out front for three ball. Now if they would move the damn thing back to the pro range that might help somewhat, but I'm not even sure on that either.

The shot clock is fine as it eliminated the 4 corners stall of Dean Smith's and the weave stall that Oregon State used in the late 60s and early 70s by Ralph Miller to try and beat those "pro" teams at UCLA back then. But the three pointer seems to be addictive to players now. I don't blame the coaches for using it or the players for launching them. I put the blame on the NCAA for instituting this thing.

I know. I'm old school on that, but it's difficult to watch the games sometimes. I saw Nana open underneath several times this season, waving his arms for a two footer and was ignored by the back court guys just to launch a three. This is wrong and it's going to get worse due to it being used in high school nowadays. I'm not going to quit watching  the games or anything drastic like that, I'm just disappointed that it's going this way. I apologize for the rant and I'll stop now.

tntsher wrote on March 07, 2013 at 8:03 am

I can understand the feelings about the 3pt shot and I partially agree it has changed the game for the worse, but only because many coaches allow it to. There have been many very solid teams in this era of the 3 ptr and still programs where solid fundamental bb is played. A team like the 04-05 Illini come to mind right off the bat. Bruce Weber, for all of his later deficiencies, had that group playing at a level that was as much fun to watch as any team in any era. Almost every basket came from an assist, usually a great pass. Players cut and moved and screened. Backdoor cuts, in & out movement, seldom even dribbling and hardly ever 1 on 1 "watch me" plays like this years version. I can remember posessions (04-05) when there would be 10-12 passes for an open dunk or layup and the ball never touch the ground once!! The game can be played the right way with the 3 ptr, it's just that kids aren't being brought up to do it and there are few college coaches that force it, although the most successful still do. Watch a game like the Minn-IU game last week or Mich-MSU and you still see what is true college BB. It's still there, and my hope is that when our current 1 on 1 "stars" are gone, Coach Groce will recruit AND coach players to play sound, fundamental BB.