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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:
A baseline out of bounds play that ended in a contested corner three-pointer for Terrence Shannon Jr. had Illinois coach Brad Underwood turning to the bench during the second half of Thursday’s first round NCAA tournament game against Arkansas with a plaintive plea.
“Execute the play; execute the play,” Underwood said.
Lack of execution was a recurring theme throughout the 2022-23 season. The Illini players admitted as much after the 73-63 loss to the Razorbacks.
“Make sure we listen to coach and everything he says because he has a purpose for every single play, and we didn't run the first three plays like he says,” Illinois sophomore guard RJ Melendez said. “It's our fault, kind of because he's calling them and we're not listening to him or we're not doing them. So we’ve got to be better, listen better and be mentally tougher.”
“Something we can learn as a team is probably doing a better job of following coach's game plan. Throughout the year we had a lot of games where coach would tell us what the other team would do, and they would do it and it would be because of our mistakes.”