Pentagram: Big Win Over Bulldogs

Illinois’ 82-75 win over Gonzaga yesterday could be one of those signposts for the season.  The Illini played tough and they played well in beating a good opponent at home.  For one day, at least, they looked like the team we hope they can be.  Looking around the country, it would appear Illinois has the talent to play with just about anyone at home.  And just like Coach Weber hoped when bringing in guys like Maniscalco, Egwu, and Abrams, they play hard and as a team.  Of course you can’t look around the country without seeing A-list talent from the state on other teams (Connecticut, Kentucky, Ohio State, Stanford) – the guys we couldn’t get in orange and blue for whatever reason – but maybe that’s the next step in this process.

After the game, Weber told the press he and the coaching staff believed the team could have this kind of a start and play this well.  Gonzaga Coach Mark Few complimented Bruce’s mastery of the motion offense.  The Assembly Hall was loud again.  A couple more wins like this one, and the momentum lost the past few years could start to pick up again.  With all the great high school players in the state’s junior class, this kind of solid team play couldn’t come at a better time.

Five points in the pentagram…

  • Depth Charge.  Illinois played twelve men, and nearly everyone contributed.  Likely Coach would have preferred to stick to a smaller rotation, but foul trouble – particularly in the post – forced his hand.  Maybe now he won’t be as hestitant to use more guys, because they made plays and did not panic.  Djimde and Egwu bodying up Robert Sacre was a key to wearing him down – something the Illini will have to do again when faced with Jared Sullinger (the nation’s premier drawer of phantom fouls).  Crandall Head got a steal and a layup and didn’t turn it over.  Myke Henry and Mike Shaw made tough put-back buckets.  Abrams was solid.  Now if we can just get Joe Bertrand going again…
  • Veteran Guards.  Finally, finally!  DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul played well in the same game.  They, along with Sam the Man, looked like the veteran backcourt this team needs.  College hoops cliche: good guard play give you a chance.  DJ hit big shot after big shot, stamping out Gonzaga runs.  Brandon Paul once again looked to take it to the rim, which is where he is at his best.  BP3 should not be allowed to shoot jumpers in the first minutes of a game.  Maniscalco was heady and controlled once again.  He missed a couple of long jumpers, but his steals at key points in the second half were huge.
  • The Myers project continues.  Leonard could not get it going early, looking tentative and unsure how to match Sacre’s strength.  He was called for one touch foul and one legit foul and his first half was over after a few minutes.  This aspect of his game – knowing the angles, figuring out when to leap and when to just keep the hands up, and where to engage in the bump and grind of post play still needs a lot of work.  But Djimde and Egwu battled on, and Myers was able to show those other aspects of his game in the second half.  He has some skill as a shooter, and his hooks and jumpers always look pretty good.  Once he develops a little better feel for the angles and contact he will be pretty close to unstoppable at this level.  But that takes time and reps…
  • Solid gameplan.  As usual, the coaching staff had an excellent gameplan for the Bulldogs.  I thought maybe they should have doubled Sacre a little more sooner, but I would always rather face a contested shot on the blocks than a wide open three.  Spot pressure troubled the young Zag guards.  The motion sets and few post plays yielded good shots against the man-to-man.  The Illini staff almost always have solid scouting and strategy to win, though you sometimes wonder about the in-game tactical switches.  Not on this day, though.
  • Expect more zone.  No, not from Illinois, although it would present a novel way to protect Myers from early fouls…  Gonzaga’s 2-3 defintely slowed and confused the Illini – especially without Sam on the floor.  Future oponents will certainly look to the zone until the Illini show better.  If DJ and company are hitting from outside this is less of a problem, but you can’t always jump-shoot your way to a win.  Some of the high-low and penetration was effective, but it would be nice to see someone running the baseline a little to take advantage of the seams.  UNLV is one of the better zone teams in the country, and Mizzou employs zones as well, so let’s hope the young guys can catch on quickly.

One thought on “Pentagram: Big Win Over Bulldogs

  1. The Rube enjoyed watching the Illini very much. The Rube has found himself watching Meyers Leonard most of the time, especially on defense. The Rube loves a good “get in the eff out Stan”….and Meyers provides those on a nightly basis. While it would be nice to see the Illini sport a zone of their own some, the man to man is tough and if Egwu and Ibby continue to battle like they did with Sacreboo (you like what I did there don’t you….;^), we just have to find offense in the post somewhere else when Leo is on the bench. Egwu has shown flashes on the offensive end, just needs more reps.

    As for DJ and BP3, this is how The Rube expected them to play. It will be interesting to see if Sammy Ice can continue this type of play once he starts playing some of the more athletic and better guards in our own conference, because lets be honest Stockton isn’t even his dads shadow at this point and wouldn’t be there if not for his Legacy status The Rube is betting.

    Otherwise it was good to see Crandall get his head out of his behind and also to see Myke Henry do something other than chuck! Although, the reports were right about Henry, when he shoots you just feel like its going in and are surprised when it doesn’t!

    Onward and upward so to speak….hopefully to some more victories and a top 25 ranking? When do we get that bestowed on us?!?!?!?

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