Mistakes, missed opportunities sink Illini

Mistakes, missed opportunities sink Illini

ROSEMONT — Self-inflicted mistakes. Truly an aggravation for Illinois coach Brad Underwood this week concerning his team.

The Illini’s downfall Tuesday at Wake Forest reared its ugly head again in Friday night’s Big Ten opener against Northwestern. Too many turnovers — particularly the unforced kind — and another slog of a game riddled with foul calls sank the Illini for the second time in four days.

Northwestern ultimately did in overtime what Illinois couldn’t do at the end of regulation. The Wildcats coupled defensive stops at one end with points at the other, as two go-ahead free throws by Scottie Lindsey and two more of the insurance kind by Isiah Brown sealed a 72-68 Northwestern victory in front of 10,017 spectators at Allstate Arena.

“We might have set a Guinness Book of World Record for most travel calls tonight — and we’re traveling,” Underwood said. “We can’t have 11 of our turnovers from bigs. Those are self-inflicted. Those are mistakes that you can’t make. … Those are not Northwestern beating us. Those are our mistakes that allow them to have success.”

The little things didn’t get done against Northwestern. Underwood was frustrated with just six offensive rebounds for the Illini after they hauled in 19 against a significantly bigger Wake Forest team. He also took issue with just eight assists on 22 made shots.

What Underwood did like was Illinois’ defense. The Illini constantly hounded Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh, sending a series of defenders — led by Te’Jon Lucas — at the Wildcats’ scoring leader, who committed six turnovers and needed 14 shots to score his 14 points.

“That’s our game plan every game,” said Lucas, who scored a career high 14 points and was one of four Illini in double figures. “We want to pressure the ball and deny the wings. Whether it’s me, Da’Monte (Williams), Trent (Frazier) or Mark Smith, we all want to do the same thing. ... That’s what our identity is.”

That defense helped Illinois force four Northwestern turnovers in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation. But only missed shots followed at the offensive end, as the Illini couldn’t take advantage of the run of miscues by the Wildcats.

It ended in a missed opportunity to bounce back from Tuesday’s loss — the Illini’s first of the season — and open Big Ten play with a win.

“When conference starts, it’s more detailed,” graduate transfer guard Mark Alstork said. He also had 14 points for the Illini, with Leron Black (15 points) and Aaron Jordan (10) rounding out Illinois’ top scorers.
“Every possession matters,” Alstork continued. “With that being said, we can’t afford to have the travels and carries and bad shots down the stretch.”

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Moonpie wrote on December 02, 2017 at 7:12 am

But otherwise, I'm sure it was a moral victory!

Don't worry, the Gazoo Spinmeisters can dress it up in a day or two.

GLG wrote on December 02, 2017 at 8:12 am

Hey Moonpie! Tell us why you were fired from the News-Gazette?

And how many fake names have you used on this forum as well as how many times you have been banned?

Illini '73 wrote on December 02, 2017 at 8:12 am

I don't care what anyone says.  Some of the traveling calls were bogus.   Two on Black in particular in particular.

GLG wrote on December 02, 2017 at 8:12 am

The best parts of the game were when the Big 10 Network showed the fans wearing Chief shirts!  A direct extension of the middle finger to Prof. "You know who"!!

Great work by the Big 10 Network!

Keep it up!!

MasterOfTheObvious wrote on December 02, 2017 at 8:12 am

Sure thing, it was the refs against Iliinois in the Wake Forest game, and the Northwestern game, and in all of the 10 straight football losses in 2017, the 6 straight football losses in 2011, the 2005 NCAA Title Game, and in their support of Bruce Pearl.

If not for the refs we'd be in the College Football Playoff and would have multiple NCAA titles in Hoops.

griff507 wrote on December 02, 2017 at 11:12 am

Glad to see old moonpie back on the site!  Every site needs a bitter old man on it, that has never played any sport, spouting his great knowledge of nothing!

Anybody who had great high hopes for this team, were not living in the real world. This team has several problems that will keep it mid-pack in the big 10.  The biggest problem we have is no size in the middle, why we can never recruit a big, I will never understand! Another big promlem this team has so far, is no real offense against a zone defense!  We have not shot well against the zone, nor have we passed the ball well enough to be effective against it. Until we fix the zone offense, zone defense is about all we will see!

I love the effort of this team, and coach Underwood I am sure will get thing fixed on the offensive end of the floor. The timing of the start of this big 10 season, just really hurts this ILLINI team, as the are a work in progress. 


BruckJr wrote on December 02, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Yup, these guys attack the zone defense about like Groce's guys did.  That is, pass the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock runs down and the poor slug holding it at that time has to chuck up a prayer.  I expect that to be fixed by season end with the coach however.  Groce never did figure it out.

Good to see you back griff.