ILLINOIS COACH JOHN GROCE’s OPENING COMMENTS AFTER 56-46 LOSS TO INDIANA SUNDAY:
GROCE: “I told our guys that I really appreciated their fight. We defended pretty well, when you look at percentages and what they shot from the field, to give us a good shot to win the game; we just didn’t get it done offensively. I thought our execution against the zone wasn’t great. We did much better at it the first time that we played them. We have executed really well against the zone all year but tonight we didn’t do so great against it. I thought a key moment was when it was 50-44 and we had six straight possessions where we came up empty. There was a great window for us to make up ground, but we just didn’t do it. I give our guys credit though, they were down six-plus points several times and they were able to cut it to one possession every time until the very end. I thought it was encouraging that Rayvonte (Rice) had a great first-back game. I thought that Egwu was really good offensively, he rebounded the ball, and he looked great on defense. That’s two games in a row that he did some really good things for us. I thought (Jaylon) Tate played really well. Tracy Abrams got dinged up a little bit and Tate took the whole `Next Man Up’ mentality and did a great job being ready. He made some good plays for us and learned a few freshman lessons there late in the game. I thought we had some encouraging things for sure this game, just not enough to beat them.
ON THE PLAY OF INDIANA’S YOGI FERRELL, WHO HAD 15 OF HIS 17 POINTS IN SECOND HALF
GROCE: “I thought Yogi Ferrell imposed his will against us in the second half, but to me the guy that stood out was Stanford Robinson. The improvement he’s made from game one against us to game two in just a month was very noticeable today. I thought he defended well and I thought he made big plays for them late. We let him get to the rim too easy, but he made the plays. I think he’s really getting better very, very quickly. We have some time off now to regroup. We will blend in some mental and physical freshness days with some heavy days of practice. We play again Saturday and we obviously have a lot to work on.”
WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO TO STOP NOAH VONLEH OFFENSIVELY?
GROCE: “Nnanna (Egwu) is a terrific defender. Vonleh is such a great player. He’s a great rebounder, great athlete, and has such a good skill set. Nnanna just did a good job. He made it hard on him to do things in the post. He battled him enough that Vonleh had to earn everything he got. I also thought that our team did a good job that when the ball went into him, they were very conscious that they all needed to help. I thought our post defense was another encouraging area for us.”
ON TRACY ABRAMS’ HEALTH:
GROCE: “He had some back spasms. He’s had them throughout the year here and there. He’s struggled with them in practices and some in games but he has been able to snap out of it. Early on our trainer told me that he wasn’t able to get him feeling as good as he normally does so Tate got ready to go and he did a good job for us.”
CAN YOU PINPOINT ANY ONE OR TWO ISSUES DURING THIS LOSING STREAK?
GROCE: “I think it’s different each time, but I would say the common denominator is our offense. We have got to score. We need to make a few more plays and get in a few more shots. As coaches we have to look at the quality of shot we get. I think there are some games that we’ve had some good looks, but tonight I thought our quality of shot was not great, especially late in the game, Joseph Bertand had some really great looks early and then went 0-for-5. We just have to make a few more of those. The one thing about bad shooting, I mean it’s not like they’re trying to miss them, they just have to figure out how to get them in the hoop. Our margin for error is so small. We are not good enough to not have everybody hitting on all cylinders for us to beat quality basketball teams. I’ve known that from the jump. We have to get to where we can get everybody in sync and everybody playing well simultaneously.”