Losing Streak Swells to Six

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Rayvonte Rice came back. Tracy Abrams went out. And Illinois lost again.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Rayvonte Rice came back. Tracy Abrams went out. And Illinois lost again.

Such is life for the Illini, who dropped their sixth straight game, falling to Indiana 56-46 in front of 17,472 fans at Assembly Hall on Sunday.

Rice returned to his lead-scoring ways, posting 20 points after failing to score against Ohio State. But the absence of Abrams, sidelined for most of the game with back spasms, was too much to overcome.

The Illini played well for stretches, especially on defense. But in the end nobody was there to help Rice put the ball in the basket.

"We just didn't get it done offensively," Coach John Groce said.

Rice posted 12 of the team's first 16 points and went 7-for-11 from the floor, hitting four of his seven tries from behind the arc.

He acknowledged it felt good to bounce back, but there were no smiles on his way to the team bus due to the outcome.

"Losing is not fun," he said. "We're just going to come back and see what we can get better at."

With Rice on the up and up with his strained adductor seemingly on the mend, it was Abrams who sent Illini Nation into a state of worry early in the game. Twice the junior went back to the locker room for treatment. He logged only seven minutes in the opening period, scoring two points while appearing noticeably uncomfortable.

Abrams didn't start the second half and failed to score again. According to Groce, the back spasms have bothered Abrams for some time in both practice and games. In the past the training stuff was successful in readying Abrams to play.

That wasn't the case on Sunday.

"He wants to go obviously, but I played that game before when (Rice) was injured a little bit in the previous game," Groce said. "I kind of made up my mind that Iw as going to play healthy guys."

Jaylon Tate took on Abrams' point guard duties to mixed results. The freshman logged a career-high 27 minutes, including 13 in the first half and was on the court to resume play after halftime. He finished with six points and five assists.

"I just try to read the defense," Tate said. "Playing with my guys for so long, I know where they like to be, where they're comfortable scoring. I just try to read the defense and take what the defense gives me."

There were also three turnovers for Tate and a few obvious instances on defense that showed there's plenty growing up still to do.

"He made some good plays for us," Groce said. "Learned a few freshman lessons there late in the game. Jaylon's a kid who cares a lot so he watches film all the time. He'll have to kind of figure that out."

Groce spoke about his team's margin for error being too slim to not have everything in-sync. With Abrams in-and-mostly-out, Rice returned to the dominant scorer that once led the Big Ten. The rest of the team though: shot 11-for-43. Nobody else scored in double figures and senior Joe Bertrand and Abrams each had a season low two points.

Tate did his best, dishing the five assists. The rest of the team though: Had zero dimes and 10 turnovers and nobody scored a second-chance basket.

So, while the Hoosiers let the Illini hang around by committing 13 turnovers and shooting 3-for-12 on 3-point tries, the Illini couldn't find the answers to end the worst losing streak of Groce's coaching career.

In his post-game press conference, Groce's voice was shot. He lost that a few minutes into the game. But he still expressed pride for his players, a bunch he said played hard throughout and just didn't find a way to win.

"The effort, the fight and the attitude is not negotiable," Groce said. "We don't negotiate that. That's who we are and who we're going to be. We're going to fight and figure out how to play a little bit better. How do we maximize what we have? Players need to do that. Coaches need to do that. We're all in this together."

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