Record number fouls sink Illini

Record number fouls sink Illini

LAS VEGAS — The frustration emanating from Brad Underwood was palpable during Saturday night’s game. Every foul Illinois committed — and there were a lot of them — hit the first-year coach a little bit harder.

The frustration came out from Underwood and the Illini after they dropped the 89-82 road game to UNLV played at MGM Grand Garden Arena with the rodeo in town taking over the Runnin’ Rebels’ home at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Frustration more of what could have been.

Illinois’ 36 fouls tied the program record set in the 2001 Elite Eight game against Arizona. Those fouls sent UNLV to the free throw line 48 times, and the Runnin’ Rebels converted 33 to Illinois’ 11 — in what was only a seven-point win.

The fouls overshadowed some of the positives Underwood saw from his team. Like freshmen guards Mark Smith and Trent Frazier getting on track offensively and leading the team with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Or the fact the Illini out-rebounded UNLV with a clear edge in offensive rebounds.

“I’m frustrated more than anything, but I saw a lot of encouraging things tonight that I have not seen,” Underwood said. “I’ll take the fight that our guys had. Now we need to start playing a little smarter.”

The eight fouls in the backcourt — yes, Underwood had the count — clearly stuck with him the most. He called them “senseless.”

“I don’t have a reason for that,” Underwood continued. “I don’t have an excuse for that. I feel handcuffed sometimes when you commit those. I want everybody to face our defense. I don’t know if our guys understand that’s advantage us if they have to face our defense. But we just bail them out because we’re committing fouls we can’t commit.”

The Illinois players were just as frustrated as their coach after losing to UNLV. The Illini rallied after another slow start, but they were done in by their record number of fouls.

“It’s inexcusable,” redshirt junior forward Michael Finke said. He also finished in double figures with 12 points. “If they shoot half of (the 48 free throws they attempted), we’re right there and it’s our game to take. We’ve got to be smarter.

“We’re right there. We’re so close to being such a good team. It’s dumb plays at times. It’s fouling. It’s not even just fouls that are aggressive fouls. It’s in the backcourt when they’re not even a threat.”

Junior guard Aaron Jordan called Saturday’s loss a learning experience. The lesson learned? The Illini are doing themselves zero favors by not being able to stop fouling in winnable games.

“When it comes to being aggressive, you’ve got to be smart with it,” said Jordan, who had 10 points. “I don’t think we’re really smart with our aggressiveness. Once we get the smart part about it, we’ll be better.

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BruckJr wrote on December 10, 2017 at 8:12 am

"We’re so close to being such a good team."  Wow!!

Moonpie wrote on December 10, 2017 at 8:12 am

And -- yet again -- another one bites the dust! Just remember it was the Lazy Gazoo cheerleading when the Fighting Creampuffs beat up on the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But of course, we'll soon learn from Prehistoric Tate that the fans somehow are to blame for all those fouls. Or maybe the Creampuffs will start winning if we could only get that Dancin' Injun back on the court. Maybe the Gazoo can get TrumpTwit to tweet about it.

Moonpie wrote on December 10, 2017 at 8:12 am

"Frustration more of what could have been."

Really? Has Mr. Richey become Yoda?

JimOATSfan wrote on December 10, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Only the refs can beat the Illini. 

Keep Calm and Carry On