There was no rust on the engine of the Illini, they cruised out to a 12-5 lead before the first TV timeout, and they never looked back. Illinois lead from start to finish, scoring both the first and last points in their 93-56 win over Homer Drew's Valparaiso Commodores.
For the second straight game, all of Illinois' starters scored in double figures. Dee Brown lead the Illini with 19 points on seven of eight shooting. Dee also added in four assists, two rebounds, and two steals on Sunday evening. Dee's backcourt partners Luther Head and Deron Williams combined to 26 more points on twelve for twenty-seven shooting, including two for twelve from behind the arc (Luther was 1-5 and Deron was 1-7). Luther recorded nine assists with no turnovers, while Deron handed out seven assists with just one turnover. (The Illini starting backcourt combined for 20 assists and two turnovers for the entire game).
Roger Powell and James Augustine also had very solid games. Powell scored 14 points while pulling down 4 rebounds, while Augustine scored 10 points and had 9 rebounds, one short of a double double. The best thing to see on Sunday was Augustine appearing to be more confident in his overall offensive repertoire as he took two or three fifteen foot jump shots in the flow of the Illinois offense.
ILLINI OFFENSE / DEFENSE BY THE NUMBERS
To say Illinois dominated on Sunday would not be right, they completely dominated the game in every aspect. The Illini's offensive precision was so good that they took 68 shots in 68 possessions, averaging out to a shot a possession. Obviously, Illinois did not take a shot every possession because they had five turnovers, and dribbled out the clock as the game ended. I know this season as I followed these numbers closely, I have not seen a shot to possession ratio like this, it is simply amazing.
Offensive Efficiency: 134.63
Defensive Efficiency: 81.07
Illinois' Points per Shot Attempt: 1.37
Valparaiso's Points per Shot Attempt: 0.95
Defensively, Illinois had their way with Homer Drew's Commodores. Valparaiso could not do anything offensively as the Illinois pressure got to the young team. Illinois had six steals, and forced eight other turnovers. When Illinois was not causing turnovers, they had their hands in the faces of every Commodore shooter causing them to shoot 33.9% from the floor for the game. When a shot was missed, Illinois was also clearing off the defensive backboards, as Illinois pulled down 69.2% of defensive rebounding opportunities.
The Illini offense was just as good as their defense on Sunday afternoon. The Illini once again shot at a blistering pace (58.8 from the floor, 38.1 from behind the three point line), and they once again moved the ball like it was a hot potato. The Illini had forty completed field goals, with twenty six assists as a team, meaning the Illini assisted 65% of all made shots in the game. The Illini's ball movement has been a cliché for announcers to latch onto, but that is because this team is so unselfish and will make the extra pass to find the insanely wide open shot instead of just the wide open shot.
- Here is how hard I had to try to find something that was bad today … In the second half on defense I noticed three straight possessions where an Illinois defender (I believe it was James, Dee, and Luther) went for the steal on the perimeter with the wrong hand.
What I mean with this is while the defender was between his man and the ball, when he jumped to try deflect the pass, instead of using the hand on his body closest to the ball (in every case is was the left hand since they were on the right side of the court) the Illini defender would try to commit the steal with their right hand. Attempting to make the steal this way will put a defender out of defensive position, and leave his team susceptible to back doors, and if he misses the pass, a probably lay up by the offensive player since his defender is now out of position.
Yes, I like to nit pick.
- After my praising of Dee Brown for using his left hand on lay ups for the first nine games of the season, Dee reverted back to using his right hand on two breakaway lay ups from the left side of the basket when a Valpo defender was draped all over his back. Dee made both of these shots, but if he used his left hand, the chance for it being blocked would have been diminished greatly because his body would have been between the defender and the ball, which is not the case when he shoots these lay ups with his right hand.
- I listened to the WDWS post game show on the way back up to Chicago, and I wanted to make a comment to every one on the show that called and was the hosts. First, Sergio, as much as I loved your 2001 team, they would have lost to this years team. You may have been deeper on the inside, but I will give the edge on talent (considering Marcus was just a shadow of what he once was by that season) to this year's team.
No, it was not an ESPN East Coast bias. No, it was also not a bias against Illinois. The way the television deals work out are different for every conference. The Big Ten's conference deal is such that they get the most money from ESPN, but ESPN also owns the rights to televise any home game in a Big Ten arena.
When this becomes tricky is where there is another television deal signed by a tournament, like the Las Vegas Invitational that these games were a part of. The tournament itself also has a television deal that covers all games. This deal is with FOX Sports. Notice the conflict right away? The rights to the games are sort of owned by both FOX Sports and ESPN thanks to the interesting way of playing a home game in an exempt tournament. Neither party wanted to buy out the other, because it would have been too expensive, so the games are just not televised.
Other conference's deals with ESPN through ESPN+ are not as lucrative as the Big Ten contract with the network, but they also do not have the exclusivity label applied to their home games. This is why when you see some games on ESPN Full Court they are being broadcast by the Missouri Sports Network (Missouri, obviously) and not ESPN+. You never see that for Big Ten games, because ESPN owns the rights, and they want to use their own announcers. ESPN may air these games from the Missouri Sports Network on ESPN Full Court, but they are not ESPN broadcasts like the Big Ten games.