With a roster with five veteran starters and a bench comprised of five freshmen and walk-on Mike LaTulip, there can be no off night for any of the elder players in the huddle.
That's been the problem for much of Illinois' current six-game losing streak.
Rice went cold on offense because of an adductor strain. Nnanna Egwu is slowly coming back around after failing to score double figures in seven of eight Big Ten games. Bertrand scored 19 against the Buckeyes but only six combined against the Hoosiers and Michigan State. And on down the list you can go.
You could drive yourself crazy talking about the hits accompanied by the misses. Point is, the margin for error is too slim for any of the veterans to have an off night.
It starts with Rice, who is sixth in the Big Ten with 16.7 points per game.
"I thought he was more aggressive certainly than he was in the Ohio State game," Groce said of Rice's performance at Indiana. "I thought he imposed his will a little bit more. He's got to give us more. It's just who we are in this particular year. We ask him to do an awful lot and he' s playing a lot of minutes for us. We ask him to do an awful lot on the offensive end. A lot of nights he's guarding the other team's best perimeter player, certainly for portions of the game for sure, sometimes for more than portions. We need him to rebound. We've got a lot on his shoulders and he can handle it."
Rice is trending back upward. But as the loss in Bloomington proved, he can't do it all by himself.
"We need some other guys to step up and alleviate that pressure off him in ore consistent fashion," Groce said. "We've had guys step up, but the one thing about us is we have to have everybody hitting on all cylinders. As our freshmen have come along, we are basically playing four or five veterans. We need to bat about 80 percent there to be good. It can't be two guys played well for us and three didn't' That ratio is not going to work in this league, not right now where we are."