After the first five minutes, the Illini were on cruise control, but at a high pace throughout the first half. This was the second consecutive game the Illini have scored at least fifty points in one half, a feat they only accomplished twice all of last season. The Illini headed into the break up 58-29, and were lead by Dee Brown's torrid shooting and 20 points.
The second half was a different half for the first seven minutes. The Illini only scored two points while the Rattlers went on a 15-2 run during that time period. Jack Ingram's dunk with 13:14 left in the game started the Illini offense going again, and they did not look back after that. The Illini on seven of their next eight possessions, and were never challenged by Florida A & M again.
ILLINI OFFENSE & DEFENSE BY THE NUMBERS
After Friday's game, many Illini fans were upset with the way the defense played, and so was Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber. Sunday, the Illini took their defense to heart, and it showed. The Illini forced Florida A & M into 25 turnovers, and held them to shooting just 37.3% from the floor on the afternoon.
Offensive Efficiency: 111.9
Defensive Efficiency: 74.0
Points per Possession (Offensive): 1.12
Points per Possession (Defensive): 0.74
When you compare those with the numbers from last night, you can see a drastic difference. The Illini were not as good on offense as they were against Delaware State (they had an offensive efficiency of 149.8), which can easily be tied to the Illini's 21 turnovers on Sunday afternoon. Defensively, the Illini were a completely different team than they were on Friday night. They were more active on the ball, they were using better help side defensive practices, and they were jumping into passing lanes. The Illini had a change in defensive efficiency of over forty between the two games.
PLAYER BY PLAYER ANALYSIS
Luther was one of only two Illini players that played for more than thirty minutes on Sunday afternoon. Defensively, Luther was really active both on and off the ball. He was playing with much better positioning than he had on Friday night, and he was even sliding down to protect the blocks from the weak side on the defensive rotation. All of his effort on the defensive end lead to the four steals that you see on the stat sheet.
Offensively, Luther was much more aggressive going to the basket on Sunday than he had been in the exhibition games, or against Delaware State. Luther's aggressiveness on defense, also allowed him to have a couple easy lay up opportunities on the offensive end of the court. A few times in the half court set, Luther took the ball on the baseline and finished with reverse lay ups.
Roger Powell, Jr.
Roger Powell, Jr. played a typical Roger Powell, Jr. game. He is much more in the flow of the offense this year, and he is being played as a combo forward more than he was last season due to the injury of Brian Randle. Roger was aggressive on the glass, and he showed some good post moves on Sunday afternoon.
Unlike Friday night, Roger was setting himself up to be a threat to score in the low block on Sunday afternoon. He was sealing off his man, and giving the guards a target to get him the ball. He made a few post moves that showed he can be an offensive threat on the inside, and he got to the free throw line. For Illinois to be as good as it can be, Roger Powell, Jr. will need to get to the free throw line for about six to eight attempts a game, and that is what he did against Florida A & M.
There is one number that is telling about James' performance today: zero fouls. At first inclination, you may think that is a good thing, but it is not. It shows James was not aggressive on either side of the court, because if you are aggressive, you will probably pick up three fouls in a game when you are a big man. There is some anecdotal evidence that most big men have their best games when they have three or four fouls at the end of the game because they pick up that many fouls in being aggressive on both sides of the court.
The one good thing I saw about James' game on Sunday night was that he got to the free throw line seven times. The problem was when you combine the seven free throws that most likely came from three shots; he only had six on Sunday afternoon. Florida A & M's starting center Glen Elliott scored 15 points on 6-9 shooting from the floor, and he was mainly guarded by Augustine when he was in the game.
For the second straight game, Deron let the action come to him, instead of forcing himself into the Illini offense. The best thing about Deron's game is that he does not have to force himself into the offense, and he can be just as effective finding the hot man and getting him the ball. That was what Deron did on Sunday afternoon. He knew Dee Brown was hot, so he fed Dee the ball and let the Illini run off Dee's emotion. He did not insert himself into the game until after Dee cooled off in the second half.
Yes, the field goal percentage numbers were poor for the second straight game, and Deron once again was in love with the three point shot (of his twenty four shots this season, fifteen of them have been from behind the arc). Deron needs to take the ball to the basket more, but in these games he has not had to. Would I like to see him do it even in games when he does not need to? Yes. Do I think it is a time to be concerned? No.
Again, I have to point out Deron Williams had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists in a game that I thought he did not play too well. Now, imagine if he just has an average game? Now, imagine if he has a great game?
Dee Brown energized Illinois in the first half. He was on fire offensively, and he was a defensive spark. He was playing at a very high pace and pushing the ball at all times. In the first half Dee did not miss a shot, and he scored all twenty of his points as the Illini ran out to their 29 point lead heading into the break. Like most of his teammates, Dee let up in the second half, but he knew the game was already decided.
If you had to point to one thing that was bad about Dee's performance, you would point to the six turnovers from the Illini point guard. Normally when he is playing at the fast pace he is much more careful with the ball, but tonight he was a little aloof handling the ball, and it showed in his turnover numbers.
My biggest fears with Rich McBride are starting to come true, but I do realize this is only through two games this season. I know he has more of an offensive arsenal in his pocket, but he has become a spot up three point shooter, and nothing more. He seems content through the first two games to be a Sean Harrington like player for this years team (like he was last season), and nothing more. This is a disappointing development, because Rich could offer Illinois a lot on the offensive end of the court if he would use the shot fake and dribble drive like he did in high school. I hope to see that this season, but I am resigned to the fact that Rich may be no more than what Sean was for Illinois, and that is disappointing.
Put me down in the category of "Impressed by Warren Carter" through the first two games of the season. For the second straight game Warren came in and played the combo forward role with hustle and enthusiasm. Instead of hitting two fifteen foot jumpers like he did on Friday night, Warren did his work in the paint and the offensive glass on Sunday. He was aggressive going after offensive rebounds and taking the ball to the basket (which was evident by his seven free throw attempts).
If Warren can continue to play like this and improve, the loss of Brian Randle will be much easier for this Illinois team to swallow. The first big test to see what Warren can do against top notch competition will come next Saturday against Gonzaga. I am interested to see how things turn out.
There are certain games when Nick is just not playing well, and Sunday afternoon was one of those days. He was not shooting particularly well, and he did not seem to be in the flow of the game. He still did pull down six rebounds, but he just did not seem to be in the game. Nick seems to have games like this every once in a while against weaker competition, so this is not surprising.
Like fellow senior Nick Smith, Jack did not play that well on Sunday afternoon. He just did not seem to be in the flow of the game. He was less aggressive on the boards than he was against Delaware State, and his shot was a little off.
I am starting to like Shaun Pruitt more and more. He got seven minutes of action, including two minutes in the first half. I tried to watch him closely when he was in the game, and the thing I noticed was that he was a bulldog on the offensive backboard. If a shot was taken when he was in the game, he was the player that was jumping up to either tip the ball back into the basket, or make a quick turn around for the score. If Shaun can continue to play like he has in the first two games, he could be taking minutes away from other big men rather quickly.
- The Illini were quick to figure out the pattern to the Rattlers' defensive switching. The Rattlers were switching between man-to-man and a pressuring zone defense based on in game situations. The Rattlers were playing zone after the Illini in bounded the ball on the offensive end of the court, and they played man-to-man in all other situations.
- The focus on defense in practice on Saturday worked wonders for Sunday's game. I don't think there was any one doubting that Illinois would refocus in on their defense based on the performance on Friday night, but it was still good to see them holding Florida A & M down to 0.75 points per possession after Friday night's performance.