Saturday, December 17, 2011

Out-Run by the Rebels

Fresh off of finals week, Bruce Weber's Illini looked...sluggish, slow, sloppy. The annual United Center game has gotten to be a not-so-fun visit to Chicago for the Illini. I don't think the UC can be considered the home-away-from-home anymore. Although many of the boys were close to home, they didn't have much to show off to family and friends in the 64-48 loss.

The UNLV Running Rebels have had a great season so far, knocking off then-#1 North Carolina a few weeks ago. And although they lost to Wisconsin last week, they bring a tough, fast-paced game. Saturday afternoon, they got unexpected contributions from Mike Moser and Quintrell Thomas down low, and almost nothing from leading scorer Chace Stanback. They ran, pounded the ball in the paint, overplayed passing lane and forced plenty of Illini turnovers.

The Illini, on the other hand, struggled. Lots. In unexpected areas. They shot just 50 percent from the free throw line, which is very uncharacteristic for this season. Three-point shooting was also tough. And even in the paint the Illini didn't shoot well. Despite efforts by Sam Maniscalco, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson both driving and behind the 3-point line, the Illini couldn't find a spark. And after making a run to get within 8 points in the final minutes, the Rebels went on a run and the Illini appeared to give up. That's not cool.

Highlights were few, but Tyler Griffey fought hard and got some tough points. Richardson led the team with 19 points. And rebounding looked ok.

Overall, though the Illini need to make dramatic improvements in their game to be able to fight with Mizzou in the annual Braggin' Rights game next week. So pick yourselves up, boys. Shake it off. Refocus. And get ready for one last push before Christmas -- and conference play. After cheering on the volleyball team tonight, of course.


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