Oregon 71, UI 64: 'I thought our guys played hard'

Oregon 71, UI 64: 'I thought our guys played hard'

PORTLAND, Ore. — If you didn’t know any better, walking through the Moda Center concourse after the game, you’d have assumed Illinois beat No. 15 Oregon on Saturday night.

Of the 10,043 fans who attended the nonconference clash on the home court of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, about 2,000 were wearing orange. Following the Ducks’ 71-64 win, many of the orange-clad folks made their way to the exits singing their familiar “I-L-L, I-N-I” chant. It was loud and sustained. After a loss. A loss more than 2,000 miles away from the UI campus.

“Obviously, what a big-time environment, big-time college basketball game,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “Two good teams going at it. I thought our guys played very hard. I loved our attitude. I thought we really competed.”

The Illini (9-2) aren’t into moral victories. But after Saturday’s performance against the high-octane Ducks, it’s easy to see why the fans were feeling so good about where its team stands heading into final exams week.

The Ducks (9-0) entered the game averaging 91.4 points per game and the Illini held them 20 points below that figure. And when Nnanna Egwu drilled a three-pointer with 3:33 remaining, Illinois led 59-58 with an upset in the crosshairs.

“I told those guys, ‘We’re awful close. We’re right there against a really, really good ball club,’ ” Groce said. “We’ll take a look at it and see what we can learn from it. I learned a lot about my team tonight. I’m excited about where we’re going.”

Rayvonte Rice continued to be the bell cow for the Illini. The Champaign native tied Tracy Abrams for team-scoring honors, each scoring 16 points and grabbing four rebounds. Abrams also dished out five assists.

Rice became the first player in Illinois history to reach double figures in each of his first 11 games in an Illini uniform.

Jon Ekey added 10 points and eight rebounds while Joseph Bertrand scored eight points, grabbed three boards and had three steals.

For the fourth straight game, the Illini had trouble maintaining a late-game lead. It began in the loss at Georgia Tech when Illinois led by 12 with six minutes to go, only to see the Yellow Jackets come from behind for the win.

A 32-point lead whittled down to 19 in a win against Auburn and a 17-point cushion fell to as little as five in a win at home on Tuesday.

With nine minutes to go Saturday, Illinois led by seven, but the Ducks went on a 26-12 run to close out the Illini.

“We’ve just got to be mature and own up to it and just do what we can to lock down at that time of the game,” Abrams said. “We’ve just got to depend on each other and be there for each other.”

Some of it was on the Illini, and Groce said his team need to be better at imposing its will late in games. But he’s said he isn’t going to wear himself out trying to figure out Saturday’s issue.

“At the end of the day, I’m not going to dissect this one too hard. It’s pretty simple; they’re really good. They’re really, really good. Really good on offense,” Groce said. “And I thought their match-up zone was good tonight; I certainly don’t want to take anything away from their defense. They’re a good team. Great challenge, we need games like this. I thought it was great and showed me a lot of character with our ball club, which I’m excited to build upon.”

Five Oregon players scored in double figures, led by UNLV transfer Mike Moser (nine rebounds) and Joseph Young, who each scored 14 points.

 Elgin Cook scored 12 points, while Johnathan Loyd, who scored the last six points of the game for the Ducks, added 11. Damyean Dotson scored 10 points.


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DaisyJ wrote on December 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

We play the game without any inside post play. NONE> Instead, the post player just picks up fouls 30 feet from the basket. Is this really a game of basketball or a game of pin ball. I hope we all love the three point line now.

As for Abrams, well, he is a talented head case and will be till he leaves here. Tate and Nunn hopefully will cut into his time and next year Starks can take the rest of it.


Look I will say that Groce did a great job of working around the foul troubles and keeping Illinois close. However, he should have went to zone a little in the second half as the shot selection that got them back in the game were mostly drives and dumps for lay ups.

oandb wrote on December 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

Egwu is a bust. No clue what he is doing on floor. have to live with Abrams. Great plays then two huge to's to lose the game. tate is a long way from ready.

Thank goodness we have transfers Rice and Ekey. By far the best two players on the team who will be under pressure once the Big ten season starts. betrand needs to step up.

Other frosh are a long way off. Great to get them experience. Morgan seems to be improving.


DaisyJ wrote on December 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Partly Groce's fault that Egu does what he does. Look, we would be better off having  another 6'5  or 6'7 forward that can score, dribble and run instead of this waste of a talented guy. Does he ever practice other skills than picks, cause if so he sure does not get a chance to use them.

Moonpie wrote on December 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Really? People would somehow assume Illinois won? In what Sleepy Gazoo alternate universe? The Illini were overwhelmed and outrebounded and lost to a team not in the top ten. They won? Really? Nothing like the Sleepy Gazoo to report on things as they want them to be rather than how they really are. That's what happens when you insist for decades that Sir Legend Tate is somehow a great columnist. In his latest piece, The Legend admits to being in a trance. He's been in one for decades. Memo to Loren: get over it -- players transfer, dude! It's not 1915 any more.

arch73 wrote on December 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Wrong column, Mr. Pie.

PortlandIllini wrote on December 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I actually attended yesterday's game,  unlike some posters who like to be hypercritical.   My assessment is that Oregon is an extremely talented and athletic shooting team.  They were making pretty amazing shots against a strong Illini defense.   The encouraging thing to me what that the Illini were effective at driving to the basket for most of the game.   However,  it was very clear from the stands that many of the Illini players were hesitant to take the open jump shot:   they would look at the basket and then pass to someone else.   The reason that Oregon surged in the last 5 minutes was they collapsed their zone defense whenever an Illini player would drive toward the basket.   Multiple times I saw Illini players swarmed by 2- 3 Duck defenders with little or no chance of getting a good shot near the hoop.    So from my perspective,  future opponents will continue to crowd the lanes until the player driving to the hoop kicks the ball back to an open man for a 10-15 foot jump shots.    Expect to see a lot of zone defense against the Illini for the rest of the season.

jdstieg wrote on December 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I thought IDIOT Moonpie had transferred.  Apparently no such luck. Stupid comments continue.

afan wrote on December 16, 2013 at 8:12 am

I still can't believe Ekey turned down a 3 point shot with Illinois down by 5, and 14 seconds left.  

illinifan20 wrote on December 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Watching the game against Oregon, we had our chances but when you have Abrams losing the ball trying to do whatever it is (reminder of last year when Abrams lost the ball at least 90% of the time) and Egwu, who is no where to be found but outside and not rebounding, coach should bench both players, and start our newer players who are eager to prove themselves.  Abrams and Egwu out on the floor is not helping us at all.  Abrams to his credit has good games at times but most of the time he is too busy losing the ball and being fancy.  NBA for Abrams, I do not think so.