Monday, January 09, 2006

Not used to having to do this

In more than a year of writing this blog, Chief and I have only had to write about two Illini losses, Ohio State to close out the regular season last year and then North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game in April. This loss was only the Illini's second in 56 regular season games, a run that began back on January 31st of 2004! That blows me away. It also means that we are not used to doing commentary after a loss. Obviously, it's not nearly as much fun as talking about a win.

I am not one of those guys who believes in any loss being a good thing. However, when you do lose, you have to try to learn from it and turn it into a positive. I think that is what Coach Weber, Dee, Augie, and the rest of the Illini will do with the Iowa game. If you didn't see the game, I can tell you that the Illini played poorly in just about every facet imaginable--offense, free throws, shooting, rebounding, even defensive lapses. It just wasn't a pretty sight. No player had a great game, although it was good to see Augie still score and rebound despite his foul trouble, good to see Jamar hit some threes, and good to see Pruitt score or get to the foul line on those times when the team managed to get it inside to him (unfortunately, his free throw shooting remains abysmal). The results of this game and many others around the Big Ten show just how hard it is to win on the road.

I think after watching the Michigan State game and now the Iowa game, it is safe to say that, at the moment, the Illini go as Dee goes. Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald talks about this in today's column. The team now has a week off until their game with Michigan. Hopefully, this will give them a chance for some good practice time in which to work on the offense and on their free throws, as Mark Tupper discusses in his blog. It will be interesting to see how Illinois responds to this loss. The games don't get any easier and their importance increases now that the Illini have suffered their first loss. I am sure they would really like to come out of this 4 game stretch at 3-1, which means they need to defend their home court against Michigan and then take on a tough Indiana team in Bloomington.

In other news, Michigan State lost again, this time at Wisconsin, while Indiana knocked off Ohio State. These teams are all in the hunt for the conference title so we are keeping a close eye on them. Let me also give credit where credit is due--I listed Northwestern as being one of the three worst teams in the conference and while that may still end up being the case, they are now 2-0 in conference play after defeating Minnesota in Minneapolis. Finally, as I mentioned late last week, multiple teams in the Top 10 lost last week, including UConn, Memphis, and Villanova, all of whom were ranked ahead of Illinois. Not sure that makes any of us feel better but thought it was worth a mention.

Until later, Go Illini.

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