Dubious start to the Brad Underwood era at Illinois

Dubious start to the Brad Underwood era at Illinois

CHARLESTON — Brad Underwood stalked the Lantz Arena sideline on Friday night.

It might have been a charity exhibition — a third preseason opportunity added to the schedule just a week prior — but Underwood's demeanor proved just how much the game against Eastern Illinois meant.

Not in a win-loss column sort of a way because it didn't count, but for what it might mean to his first Illini team just a week removed from the official start of the 2017-18 season. That it was an 80-67 Eastern Illinois win and how that Panthers' victory happened raised some concern.

"Biggest thing I'm probably the most upset with, I take a lot of pride in our teams playing hard," Underwood said. "We got totally, totally outplayed and out-hustled. We played pretty. We played like a finesse, pretty team, and that's not one thing I'm about. That's on me. I'll get it corrected."

Underwood said he wasn't surprised by the exhibition loss based on how Illinois practiced this week. He's still looking for leadership.

"Where's it coming?" Underwood said. "Who's going to provide it? You get a packed house, a noisy crowd, a little adversity (and) we couldn't run anything."

Illinois pushed the ball after every change of possession in the first half. Snappy passes on the offensive end led to multiple open looks. Kipper Nichols and Mark Smith made strong drives to the basket and finished.

Underwood was on his feet for those — he rarely sat throughout the game — but he wasn't as demonstrative in his actions. That came later.

Defensive lapses, turnovers, some questionable shot selection and Eastern Illinois out-hustling and out-toughing the Illini at several junctures were all second-half trends.

"There's a lot of things I was disappointed in because I thought we'd grown in some areas," Underwood said. "The good thing is it doesn't count. We've got a lot of film to watch and a lot of things to improve."

Illinois committed 15 turnovers in the second half after turning the ball over just four times in the first 20 minutes. That came with the Illini facing nearly the exact defensive principles Underwood stresses.

"Coach just told us get back on defense, play hard and get in the passing lanes," Eastern Illinois guard Montell Goodwin said. "The key was ball pressure and then just deny passes. ... We fed off the fans. The fans gave us a bunch of energy."

"Here's the last thing I told them before the game. I said, 'Fellas you better go out and play them tonight because they ain't coming back next week,' " Eastern Illinois coach Jay Spoonhour added. "Nobody does what Brad Underwood did (Friday). We've been here 100 years. This is the first time there's been more than three people in (the postgame media) room."

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Moonpie wrote on November 04, 2017 at 10:11 am

Quck--time for the LazyGazoo Cheerleaders to create an alibi for the hoopsters, too!

The Fighting Creampuffs!

Tyronius P HoggLegg wrote on November 04, 2017 at 11:11 am

Wow, pathetic...maybe some karma mixed in there for the nice handling of Horton-Tucker

Illini '73 wrote on November 04, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I didn’t expect overnight miracles just because we got a new coach, but losing to EIU - sheesh 

BruckJr wrote on November 04, 2017 at 4:11 pm

EIU finished 10th in a weak 12 team Ohio Valley Conference last year.  They are likely the worst team that we will see this year.