The Fighting Illini made the trip to Atlanta, Georgia to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and the results were less than favorable as they fell for the first time this season to the score of 67-64. The Illini held a lead late in teh game, but let the Yellow Jackets steal it away. Senior Joseph Bertrand had a chance to take the lead with a three but missed the open shot.
While the Illini had some success on Tuesday, the overall performance was pretty good. What can we, as Illini fans, take away from this loss?
1. Ray Rice cannot do it alone.
So far this season, Ray Rice has been doing it all for the Fighting Illini. He scores, he rebounds, he assists, and he even doesn’t turn over the ball. However, Illinois cannot keep winning game with Rice alone. It needs to be a team effort. Against the Yellow Jackets, Rice scored a team-high 24 points and was one of just two Illini to score in double figures (Joseph Bertrand was the other). If we look to the bigger wins that Illinois had before the UNLV game, one will see that the Illini had at least three or four players with double figures. That’s how it needs to be! It needs to be a team effort.
Plus, if one guy takes the majority of the shots, other players will not be in rhythm if their number is called upon late in the game. Rice took fiftteen shots in the game (most on the team). Bertrand only took eight shots and Bertrand was the player to miss the open three pointer with seconds left on a kick out from Rice himself.
2. This year’s Illini are NOT about the 3-point shot.
The biggest different seen from this year’s Illini team compared to last year’s team is the three-point shot. Last year, one could assume that there was a high chance that Illinois would make 10+ three pointers and that they would shot at least 40% from beyond the arc. That is not the case in 2013. So far this season, Illinois has only made ten or more three’s in just one game (v.s. Bradley) and has shot 40% from beyond the arc just twice (v.s. Chicago State and v.s Bradley). Against Georgia Tech, the best shooter from beyond the arc was Bertrand who went 2-of-3. Last year, Illinois had Paul (7 attempts per game), Griffey (4-5 attempts per game), and Richardson (7-8 attempts per game). This year, they have Bertrand (2-3 attempts per game), Rice (5 attempts per game), and Ekey (2-3 attempts per game).
3. This team still needs to find it’s identity.
Much like last year in John Groce’s first year as head coach, the Illini still need to find their identity. Illini fans need to remember that seven of the ten players are new to the Illini squad. Rice and Ekey seem to be gelling nicely as they are starting for Coach Groce. However, the bench is completely new. Not one player on the Illini bench has played a second of college basketball before this season began. They are still going to be adjusting to the speed of the college game and the difference of playing on a new team. That is why Illini fans will not see Illinois true identity until those new guys get comfortable with the college game and their role on the team.
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