Shifting to Cover

Victory Badge

We haven’t had much analysis on Illini Hoops of late – mostly because the results have been disappointing and hard to figure.  When they play better on offense, they can’t seem to sustain their defense.  The shooting is off.  Then Rayvonte Rice broke his hand this week on the heels of a two-game winning streak…

And Illinois responded like they needed to – backs against the wall and a home win against a Top 10 Maryland team.  It was a really nice performance.  Good to see the coaching staff mix up the rotations and the defenses to come up with a plan.  Good to see guys Like Hill, Egwu, and especially Jaylon Tate step up.

My brother, sometimes known as the Rube, pinpointed Tate’s importance right after we heard Ray was hurt and provides a little postgame analysis:

We get, Tate’s best game in an Illini uniform in my opinion.  Got lots of folks involved, was aggressive, got to the FT line, NOT ONE TURNOVER.  The fact that Tate was able to play the 1 so effectively made it so Starks could play a bit of 2 and he seemed MUCH more comfortable there.  Sure we’re undersized in the backcourt with him in there at the 2, but its better than the alternative.  I even thought Tate’s defense was VERY strong as well.

It will be very interesting to see how the Illini play at Nebraska tomorrow.  The Huskers have been dealing with their own injury problems and have dropped some games they maybe should have.  If Tate continues to play better and Illinois can avoid foul trouble, maybe we can steal a road win.

If you look at the schedule, the team can still stay on the tourney track until Rice returns by simply winning those home games (or avoiding a bad loss at home) and stealing one or two on the road.  A floundering Nebraska team as well as the following game against Northwestern will be key road opportunities.  The toughest home game during that stretch is probably against Michigan, but we have to watch for Purdue as well.

With the injuries and inconsistencies, this may not be the season we were hoping for, but the chance to play well into March remains.

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