Illini Nation came away heart-broken by Tuesday's loss to the Providence Friars (70-51), after having watched the team play so well the first five games.
Most Illini basketball fans were upset with the offense that was displayed - no movement, no cutters to the basket. Sometimes a guy would flash to the soft spot of the zone. That happened once and Roger Powell scored. That was a Dickie V. moment when he told the cameraman to freeze it.
Beating a 2-3 match-up zone with guards passing the ball on the perimeter is not going to get it done, I know the players know this. How do I know? I watched these same kids do it against Temple. The Owls are not as good as the Friars, but they still play a similar defense. They beat the Temple zone with guys flashing to the open spots of the zone and they had players on the wing ready to shoot the ball, almost like a 1-3-1 offensive set-up. Because of the lack of penetration, the Illini ran its offense from the NBA three-point line all night long. You bet they were frustrated. You could see it on their faces and at times the players would start to argue with one another.
Richard McBride is suppose to be the team's best outside shooter and for the life of me I can't understand why the kid only received 4 minutes of action. If there was a time to get him more minutes it would have been Tuesday night. Yes, he had a horrible turnover, but Deron Williams had nine of them and his shot was, as they say, "broke".
Trivia time: Name the last Illini basketball player that took the ball to the rack with some authority and dunked it? We have players that are 6'9", 7'2", 6'8" and 6'10" and they get their shots thrown into the next basketball arena because they don't go up strong with the ball every time. Sometimes if you try to dunk it you might make it and get the three-point play. They were intimidated to shoot because a 6'8" shot-blocker was sending it back to them.
It's okay to have a bad game; that's a part of sports. But to not finish the game the way they started it is a real concern for me, though they may have been tired. Now having said that, Weber told the media he didn't like this schedule and he really didn't like the idea of playing this Providence game. So he knew it could be a trap. Coach, it was.
Don't panic. Looking at the Big Ten, Illinois is still one of the teams to beat. They are deep and remember what Weber told us – it would take some time before the kids really understand what he's trying to get accomplished. I don't know how long the method will take, but I do know that what we saw Tuesday night didn't work.
P.S. Coach, it's okay to get after the kids a little during the game. It happens all the time. And one more thing - let the officials know you don't agree with all of their calls. Show the players you will fight for them.