Illini's woeful post presence remains a liability

Illini's woeful post presence remains a liability

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kaleb Wesson took just six shots Sunday afternoon against Illinois. When it came to limiting post touches, the Illini defense was successful.

What Wesson did with those opportunities — some of which he created for himself — was the crux of the issue.

The Ohio State freshman finished Sunday's 75-67 Buckeyes' victory with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the first double-double of his still short career. Seven offensive rebounds fueled much of his production.

"His IQ, you can tell, is extremely high," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said.

"I'm a huge fan of that and his ability to pass and make plays. He's a good player, and he's in the right mix because he's playing with a lot of veterans that can make baskets and have been around.

"He's transformed his body a great deal already. As that continues to develop even further you'll see a young man become a better athlete. He's a good athlete already."

At 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Wesson isn't the first big man to give Illinois trouble this season from a physicality standpoint, both offensively and on the boards.

He also won't be the last with a rematch coming Thursday against Ethan Happ at State Farm Center, Penn State's Mike Watkins coming to Champaign on Sunday night, another round with the loaded Michigan State frontcourt on Feb. 20 and Purdue's 7-2, 290-pound Isaac Haas looming on Feb. 22.

"Grow. Eat. Drink more milk. Jeez, I don't know," Underwood said about what it would take to ramp up the Illini's post defense. "Our best post defense has to be our perimeter defense, and we can't allow easy touches into the post. When those happen, then you're forced to double. You create rotations and create matchups."

Leron Black put up nine points and four rebounds against the Buckeyes. Michael Finke had eight points and three rebounds. Greg Eboigbodin was held scoreless and without a rebound for the first time in a game he's played since the Illini's Nov. 28 loss at Wake Forest.

With Kipper Nichols playing more on the wing the last few games — including Sunday — that was the whole of the production for the Illini bigs. That was also not what Underwood wanted.

"We forgot who Leron is," Underwood said.

The redshirt junior forward and Illini leading scorer took just one shot during Illinois' lengthy scoring drought that spanned a little more than 10 minutes to end the first half against the Buckeyes.

"When we play the right way — play our way — we're really a good basketball team," Underwood said. "To get away from that ... we've got to get Leron the ball. We've got to get the ball where we want it, and we've go to fight to do that. We didn't. We settled."

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Moonpie wrote on February 06, 2018 at 10:02 am

Finally, an actual tidbit of critcism of this inept team from Dr. Richey. But it's sort of buried among the cheerleading statements from The Latest Coaching Installment.

We. Will. Win.