Tonight’s game wasn’t televised, and while that’s never a great thing, it might be acceptable in this case because Illinois struggled down the stretch, allowing Dartmouth to close the gap down to 5 points with under a minute to play.
However, the Fighting Illini hung on, and closed this out despite some apparent circus three pointers falling for Dartmouth at the end.
The final was 72-65, and that’s much too close for comfort.
First, the positives:
- Illinois displayed complete balance scoring the basketball as 5 players were in double figures and a 6th(Tracy Abrams) had 9 points. Rayvonte Rice led the Illini with 13 points. Jon Ekey, Joseph Bertrand, and Nnanna Egwu each had 11 points, and Malcolm Hill hit double digits for the first time this season with 10 points.
- The bench once again contributed double digits (17 points), although most of it was Hill’s 10 points. Still, it’s nice to see Nunn, Tate, and Hill progress. Productive minutes will be needed during conference play, and if this team is going anywhere they are going to have to get bench production.
- The Illini shot 52% from the floor, and 38.9% from 3 point range. They only registered 10 assists, so it doesn’t look like the ball movement was as crisp as it was against Auburn.
Now, the biggest negative:
- Illinois was out-rebounded in this contest 33-27. Dartmouth had 11 offensive rebounds, and that’s simply unacceptable.
I imagine John Groce will have plenty to say about the rebounding issue, and he is not one to mince words. I’m very intrigued to see what he has to say about what appears to be weak interior post play on the part of the Illini this evening.
Despite that glaring weakness, it should be remembered that Illinois picked up their 29th consecutive home non-conference victory tonight and improved to 9-1 in a season that is going to have some bumps and craters as this team tries to come together and figure out their roles.
Illinois returns to action on Saturday when they travel to Portland to take on the #15 team in the nation, Oregon, in a neutral site game. Until then, enjoy the victory, and GO ILLINI!