UI grade vs. Michigan State: C-

Player of the game: Michigan State’s Gary Harris
Going into Saturday, the Spartans guard had been struggling with his shot. Bad news for the Illini: Harris is cured. At least for one game. He hit 7 of 9 shots from the field and finished with a game-high 23 points. Just to make sure, he added five rebounds and four assists.

Backcourt
Illinois C, Michigan State A

Harris wasn’t the only guard with a big night. Denzel Valentine and Keith Appling each scored 15 points. The Illini starters missed a combined 21 of 31 shots from the floor. Eddie Johnson needs to give these guys some shooting lessons.

Frontcourt
Illinois C-, Michigan State B+

Welcome back to Jon Ekey’s touch. But can you do something about your buddy, Nnanna Egwu? The Illini have a center problem. The Spartans were just fine without Adreian Payne thanks to Matt Costello, who had six blocked shots, eight points and five rebounds. Clutch.

Bench
Illinois B, Michigan State C

Payne’s injury shortens the Spartans bench, which will be better when the star returns.  Malcolm Hill is showing the game the Illini coaches thought they were getting. The rest of the Big Ten is going to start paying attention.

Overall
Illinois C-, Michigan State A

John Groce needs to control his temper. But that’s going to be hard when his guys can’t hit shots or grab rebounds. Probably shouldn’t mention that the Illini have to return the game to East Lansing on March 1.
 

Comments

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LateMoney wrote on January 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Illini are too stagnant on offensive end.  No ball movement.  Too much dribbling and early shot clock jumbpers.  Not enough assists.  Need more movement and more balance.  Need more scoring from wings to open things up and make Illini tougher to defend.  Groce doesn't seem to be making adjustments.  Same things every game.  Less obvious against bad teams or undisciplined teams like Chicago St, Mizzou and Oregon.  Different story against well-coached B1G teams.

jturner wrote on January 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Coach has spent a lot of time yelling at refs in recent games, often taking time during TO's that might be better spent talking to his team.  Fire is nice, but he's pushing the limit.  It's hard to imagine that it really gains anything with the refs when it is so consistent and persistent.  Also wonder how it models for the players from whom he probably expects discipline and composure.

billdave wrote on January 19, 2014 at 12:01 am

Illini seem play hard, but the mental part has went south. Egwu needs to relax and just get into the flow of the game. This team isnt that bad, they just make mistakes and kill their momentum. They actually played Michigan State pretty tough.