Illini Find a Way to Close Out Ohio
By Jeff Mayfield
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[January 02, 2017]
To say that Illinois’ 2016-17 Big Ten
opener at Maryland was woeful or dreadful would be like saying that
Custer’s performance at Little Bighorn was a little less than
productive too. In every conceivable way, the Illini were beat down.
It was a true stink fest. We were awful and without belaboring the
point, that kind of basketball is unwatchable.
So, to say that I was apprehensive about the home
opener versus the Ohio State University would be the understatement
of the year. Though the Illini tried to quell my fears with a big
first half run. In fact, the Illini closed the half out-scoring the
Buckeyes 23-10 to take a 40-29 lead at the break.
Unfortunately, the second half did not go as swimmingly for the guys
in the throwback jerseys. Crazily, before five minutes had elapsed,
OSU was back in the game. It would be easy to point to the possible
changing whistles in the contest, especially when its impossible in
the modern version of the game to determine what’s a foul and what
isn’t, but we’ve previously discussed that ad nauseum. The reality
is that Illinois’ defense will have to find ways to buckle down and
make stops especially when they go on the road. When they shut OSU
down in the first half they forced tough shots and let Leron Black
show-off his high-flying Windex skills as he cleaned the glass to
the tune of a career-high 15 rebounds on the night.
There were times in this game where it became a game within a
game…I’m referring to the one-on-one battle between the Illini’s
Malcolm Hill and State’s JaQuan Lyle. Lyle outscored Hill 26-20, but
Hill got the last laugh being unguardable the last two minutes and
finishing off the Bucks at the free throw line. The only thing I
would’ve liked to see differently is why it takes 3 or 4 bumps to
Hill before the call is made…that kid takes a beating!
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Tracy Abrams was a man among boys on several occasions. He
finished a very solid night with 16 points. Michael Finke and
Jalen Coleman-Lands hit some big shots at critical times and
Maverick Morgan continued his reliable play off the bench with
11 points and 6 rebounds.
And speaking of rebounds, since the Illini have been criticized
for poor rebounding in the past, let the record show that
Illinois out-rebounded OSU 42-35 by outhustling them and
establishing firm positioning in spite of the before mentioned
pushing and bumping.
The Illini are now 11-4, 1-1 and the Buckeyes fell to 10-4, 0-1.
Illinois now leads the all-time series against Ohio State 105-76
and 62-27 in Champaign. It’s always great to beat Ohio State and
it doesn’t get much sweeter than to start the New Year doing it!
Happy New Year to all our loyal LDN readers!
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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