The Illinois Fighting Illini went duck hunting in Portland, Oregon tonight, but are coming home empty handed as they lost their second game of the season to fall to 9-2. Oregon improved to 9-0 with their victory.
The Illini were game throughout much of this contest, and Oregon knew they were in for a fight as the Illinois defense held the Ducks to their second lowest output of the season. The Ducks came in averaging 91 points through 8 games, but they didn’t even come close to sniffing those totals tonight.
Illinois held Oregon to 26.7% from 3 tonight, and that’s one of the biggest reasons they took this one all the way down to the wire. Oregon came in shooting 48.6% from 3 point range.
From Oregon’s perspective, they did what they have done all season. Five different players scored in double digits with Mike Moser and Joseph Young leading the way with 14 apiece.
Illinois had 3 different players hit double digits. Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams led the way with 16 apiece.
The Illini once again lost the battle of the boards, falling 30-27. Jon Ekey paced the Illini with 8 rebounds. No one else broke 5. Simply put, Illinois can not afford to lose the rebounding battle and expect to be successful. There is no true glass cleaner on this team, and every player is going to have to go as hard as they can after every possible rebound.
The other major area of weakness tonight was the bench play for Illinois. The freshmen guards took a step backwards tonight. Jaylon Tate had a game to forget, shooting 0-4 from the floor and turning the ball over twice. Kendrick Nunn played solid defense, but only managed 2 points on 1-3 shooting. Malcolm Hill did not register a point following his 10 point outburst against Dartmouth. Tonight’s partial bright spots from the bench were Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert who combined to shoot 3-3 for 7 points, but they only managed to pull in 1 total rebound between the two of them. Bottom line, they collectively have to be better for Illinois to succeed.
As a team, Illinois only registered 8 assists. We learned in Atlanta that this team can be highly effective when they move the basketball. When they don’t convert, things like tonight happen. Yes, it was a close game, and you have to respect the Illini keeping it close with the number 15 team in the nation, but this game was clearly there for the taking and Illinois flat out dropped the ball by missing bunnies all night long. Illinois has got to convert those layup chances, and the multiple misses from point blank range came back to cost them tonight.
The Illini will now get to take the next 7 days to reflect on what they can do better before resuming play in St. Louis in the annual Braggin’ Rights game against Missouri on December 21st.