Illinois Basketball: 3 Observations From the Maryland Loss

BY Fansided and Rees Woodcock/FanSided via Writing Illini • December 28, 2016

Dec 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce talks to players in a time out during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Scottrade Center. Illinois won 75-66. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois basketball team opened up the Big Ten Conference season last night against the Maryland Terrapins.

Illinois needed to compete with Maryland in this game to show they have some fight.  That didn’t happen, though, and the Illini fell 84-59.

Here are my three observations from the Maryland loss.

Te’Jon Lucas Needs to Play

Man, I am sick and tired of typing the same thing over and over again after each game this season.

But, the same thing keeps happening week in and week out.  Te’Jon Lucas needs to see more minutes in the game.

Last night in the blowout loss at Maryland, John Groce decided to play Jaylon Tate 18 meaningful minutes and this really put us in the hole early on.

Tate only received 18 minutes on the night, but that was because Illinois was already down 25 points when Groce started putting in the ‘scrubs’.

Throughout the entire first half, Groce continued to play Tate and the same problems kept occurring.  Illinois needed points and they couldn’t score.

But, for some reason, Groce continued to play Tate, who can’t shoot, and not Lucas.

Tate’s stat line showed 0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, and 2 fouls to end the game.  This was all in 18 minutes of play.

Why in the world does Tate continue to see minutes?  It hurts my head to think that Groce sees him as a better option than Lucas.

When Lucas finally got in the game, the Illini were finished.  He still finished with 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, and 2 fouls in the short time he was on the court.

I wish Groce would wake up and play Lucas.  It just doesn’t make sense and it feels like every Illini fan could see this coming.

Dec 27, 2016; College Park, MD, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Jaylon Tate (1) dribbles the ball in the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Stop with the Substitutions

In any sport, if there is a disruption in the game flow it can hurt a player.  In the NFL, if there is a long review or an injured player then the team that was playing well could go cold.

This is the same basic premise of what happens with basketball players as well.

When a player is only seeing three minutes of action at a time and then substituted out of the game, then that player can’t get into a groove.

John Groce is substituting at way too high of a clip and it is something I have complained about the entire season.

To start the game, Tracy Abrams was at point guard and within three minutes he was subbed out for Jaylon Tate.

This happened throughout the entire game with multiple players.  I am just looking at one example with Abrams, though.

Abrams finished the game with 2 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebound.  But, his shooting was off as he was 1-of-10 from the field and 0-of-6 from the three-point line.

It seemed liked Abrams couldn’t get into his groove the entire night and I am going to put blame on the coaching staff for this.

Dec 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce reacts to a call during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Scottrade Center. Illinois won 75-66. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching Is Letting Us Down

What really bothers me the most in life is people not being accountable and taking responsibility for their actions.

Every time after an Illinois loss it seems like John Groce puts all of the blame on the team and none of the blame on the coaching staff.

In the press conference after this most recent loss to Maryland, Groce continued this trend about blaming the team completely.

Groce mentioned the team’s turnovers, their defense, and the shot selection as well.  He said he was really disappointed in the way the team played too.

I think he has this all wrong, though.  I think it is the fan base that should be disappointed in how the team is playing.

The fan base should dictate if the team is disappointing or not.  And, when I mention the team, the coaches are included in that as well.

Night in and night out, the Illinois basketball team looks lost on the floor.  Even in some of the wins the players aren’t quite sure what they are doing and there is no ball movement.

I am putting some of the blame on the players, but it is time for Groce to take the blame as well.  This team was clearly unprepared last night and that falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff.

I hope, moving forward, that the Illini coaches have this team better prepared.  This season isn’t lost, but Groce needs to get his act together.

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