Illini have another winnable game stolen away from them

Illini have another winnable game stolen away from them

CHICAGO — Double-digit halftime deficits shouldn't faze Illinois at this point. They've been more commonplace than ideal through the first third of the season.

And trailing New Mexico State by 15 points Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago ultimately wasn't an issue. Illinois put together a strong start to the second half — the type of play at both ends they're looking for when the games tip — and erased the entirety of their deficit.

Having to make a play to win a game in the closing seconds? That's still an issue.

Illinois ended up in familiar territory in the defining moments against the Aggies. An inbounds pass became a turnover. Shots to still tie the game didn't fall.

The result? A 74-69 New Mexico State victory in front of a subdued crowd of 5,695 in a game between the two teams former Illini and Aggies coach Lou Henson is synonymous with.

"I'd like to sit up here and say I saw something new (Saturday night)," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "Unfortunately it's the same chapter. We shot ourselves in the foot again. I'm really disappointed because we had a good week of practice, and we made some strides defensively. "

Another slow start forced Illinois (8-5) into an early hole. The Illini struggled both getting stops and making shots, and New Mexico State (9-2) raced out to a 38-26 halftime lead.

Te'Jon Lucas and Leron Black sparked Illinois' comeback. Lucas provided the type of aggressive attacks on the basket Underwood wants and put up 14 points.

Black, back after missing Wednesday's blowout win against Longwood with an elbow injury, scored all 17 of his points after halftime. His last basket tied the game at 69 with a little more than a minute left, but a late Illinois turnover off an out-of-bounds play netted a traditional three-point play by A.J. Harris and a 72-69 lead with 30 seconds left.

A three-pointer from Trent Frazier (13 points) missed long with four seconds left and Illinois trailing 72-69, allowing the Aggies to ice the game at the free-throw line. Zach Lofton's game-high 23 points led New Mexico State.

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roach wrote on December 17, 2017 at 12:12 am

Underwood said in the post game presser that he had been running that inbouds play for years.  Coach maybe you ought to think about coming up with another play.   I think people have figured it out.

Sad to see such a critical failure for the second time this season, particularly on Lou's night.  He was a true master of the in bounds play particularly after a stoppage of play.

Moonpie wrote on December 17, 2017 at 8:12 am

Stolen? Really? Are the Fighting Creampuffs now victims of a conspiracy -- and the lack of lockstep fans a la Tate doing them in?

Horsepucky. It's merely a mediocre program at best, with an average coach hired by an average AD. At best.

But because Gazoo sportywriters link their professional identities to the success of the teams, they must issue alibis. And the alibis aren't so much for the teams as they are for the sportywriters who believe they should be covering Ohio Sate in football and Michigan State in hoops. That's how we get Tate elbowing fans because they won't buy a miserable product. 

Like the rest of us, the sportywriters are stuck with the Fighting Creampuffs at a backwater school. If sportywriters want to write about winners, there's newspapers in Columbus and East Lansing.

znelson2 wrote on December 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm

If that is true, why didn't you cover Ohio State or Michigan State after the News-Gazette got rid of you? It sounds like you are the one trying to link your professional identity to Illinois. Seriously, do you really think anyone besides yourself enjoys reading your comments?

BruckJr wrote on December 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Here's an idea, Josh.  Why not play home games at HOME?  5695 in attendance?  I assume you padded those numbers by including tickets for this game in the student season pass again?  The attendance at these United Center games is an embarrassment and has been for years.  So too, the home football games that were moved to Chicago.  Forget trying to suck up to the Chicago crowd and treat your home fans with respect.

Bwp 5P wrote on December 17, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I keep wondering if we ignore Moonbeam, will he/she/it....GO AWAY

We know who he is..........Gruntled EX employee of the N-G, that obviously had a man crush on Loren but was rebuked!

Get a life Man. Your drivel is tiring. You don't attend games......and probably don't even watch!