Full Speed Ahead

The Illini travel to Northwestern with the chance to rinse the bitter taste of the Wisconsin loss.

CHAMPAIGN - What went wrong? What didn't go right?

These were the questions Illinois coach John Groce fielded in the wake of his team's 95-70 loss at No. 4 Wisconsin earlier this week.

With the game of basketball full of give and take, push then pull, win or lose, Groce said first and foremost Wisconsin deserved as much credit as Illinois did the blame.

"Honestly, they played terrific," Groce said. "That was probably the biggest thing. I mean, terrific.

"I felt that way after the game. I felt that way more so after watching the tape. They played really, really well, so my hats off to them."

The Badgers shot 56 percent from the field and committed only four turnovers, using a 20-0 run in the first half to secure their 16th straight win to open the season.

"It was a bad feeling but you know coach talked about it to us," Illini junior guard Tracy Abrams said. "We definitely learned from it."

After giving Wisconsin it's due praise, Groce delved into his own team's mistakes.

The Illini weren't their usual selves on defense. Entering as one of the better squads in the Big Ten, the Illini allowed the most points in Groce's tenure. There were mistakes made defensively, Groce said, but some of the problems began on offense. Poor shot selection and uncharacteristic possessions led to easy baskets on the other end for Wisconsin.

Mix all the good things Wisconsin did with some of the bad the Illini offered and well, that was that.

"We did some decent things, but when you make the mistakes we made in bulk in that span of time and they're at both ends it's a double whammy," Groce said. "When you do that against a team like Wisconsin then obviously you end up paying the piper."

It surely wasn't the easiest game tape to sit down and watch, but that's what had to happen in the days following.

"It was a learning process," senior Joe Bertrand said. "Games like that happen. When you lose like that all you can do is learn from it, go back and watch tape, see what went wrong and try to correct it."

Bertrand and leading scorer Rayvonte Rice both called the game the worst defensive performance of the season. Easily. But they also said the issues were easy to see and the course for correction is now known.

"Being like close and compact and not giving up so many easy buckets," Rice said. "Just challenging more shots."

The Illini have a chance to bounce back tonight at Northwestern. The Wildcats dropped their first three conference games. The focus is full speed ahead. For Rice, the Wisconsin game is already a distant memory.

"Coach says every game counts as one win or one loss, so it's just one game," Rice said. "I mean, we're just going to come back."


Illini Inquirer Top Stories