Jan 26, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT
During non-conference play Illinois had the look of a team capable of returning to the NCAA tournament despite the graduation of Tyler Griffey, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice took over the role of primary scoring option, with players such as Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand being productive options as well.
But after beginning Big Ten play with wins over Indiana and Penn State the Fighting Illini have struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor, and that was the case in their 56-46 loss at Indiana on Sunday. As a team Illinois shot just 33.3% from the field and 5-for-23 from beyond the arc, and players other than Rice (7-for-11 FG, 20 points) managed to shoot a combined 11-for-43 from the field.
Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 17 points, scoring 15 in the second half, and the Hoosiers also received valuable contributions from Stanford Robinson (ten points), Noah Vonleh (14 rebounds) and Austin Etherington (seven first-half points). Ferrell was the difference-maker as Indiana ended a two-game losing streak, but even with that being the case the game was there for Illinois to take.
Unfortunately for the Fighting Illini they couldn’t due to their struggles on the offensive end.
Illinois has shot no better than 41.2% (at Ohio State) from the field in any game during this six-game losing streak, and they’ve attempted an average of 20.5 three-pointers per game. That figure may be a bit high for a group that shoots just 31% from deep on the season, and they have the talent to attack the basket via dribble penetration.
The good news for Illinois is that they won’t play again until Saturday when No. 10 Iowa visits Champaign, and that time off may be what this group needs.
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