The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

January 14, 2014

Illini don't shoot straight, fall to 'Cats

Northwestern's Chris Collins gets first Big Ten victory

EVANSTON — Basketball is a simple game.

Typically, the team that puts the ball through the hoop the most is the winner.

But, that’s been a problem for the Illinois Fighting Illini in Big Ten Conference play and on Sunday evening, a horrific shooting performance allowed the Northwestern Wildcats to snap a four-game losing streak with a 49-43 victory before 8,117 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“I felt like we did not make enough plays on offense. I didn’t feel like we were nearly aggressive enough. I thought we were way too tentative offensively,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “We’re going to have to figure that out pretty quickly. I feel like it’s been that way now for a couple games.”

The Illini shot just 28.1 percent (18-of-64) from the field and that included a first half where they made just 6 of 31 shots (19.4 percent).

“Shots didn’t fall that the guys normally make and we can fix that,’’ said Illinois junior guard Tracy Abrams, who was the only Illini player in double figures with 13 points. “It’s not like it’s something that we can’t do.’’

But, it’s something that Illinois (13-4 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten) has not done well since the victory over Indiana (83-80 in overtime) on Dec. 31.

In the past three league games, the Illini are shooting a dismal 31.7 percent from the field (63-of-199) and the team is 16-of-61 from 3-point range.

“You have to stay aggressive. We can’t get passive because the shots aren’t falling,’’ said Illinois junior center Nnanna Egwu, who had six points and seven rebounds. It’s the seventh consecutive game that Egwu has failed to reach double digits.

Also failing to score 10 or more points on Sunday was junior guard Rayvonte Rice, who had just 8 points on 2-of-11 shooting. The former Champaign Centennial standout, who was the Big Ten leader in scoring at 18.8 points per game, didn’t make his first field goal until there was 8 minutes, 39 seconds left in the contest.

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Check out the action at the NJCAA Division II National Men's Basketball Tournament March 18-22 at DACC. Buy photos from the Commercial-News here: http://smu.gs/1iCWKnP

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