Illini basketball: offensive improvement, but ways to go yet


rayvonte-rice illini basketball

Illini basketball entered yesterday as the number one scoring team in all of college basketball (97.1 points per game). They got off a ridiculously fast start and crusied off the first five minutes to finish off a 88-62 drubbing of Indiana State. The Sycamores were arguably the second best team in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. This year, ISU is kind of rebuilding so no one really knows what they are.

By the time Illini basketball tipped off versus Baylor, they had slipped slightly to third nationally at 95.6 ppg. Then they took on a Baylor defense allowing just 33% field goal and 48.4 points per game allowed for the season.

rayvonte-rice illini basketball

The result was expected. And it’s what we predicted. As we pointed out, Illini basketball is a much improved team this year. Especially on offense. However, “a correction,” to use a Wall Street term, was coming. We didn’t think it was coming right away; and in such dramatic fashion. Illinois grinded out a very ugly, but also very important and possibly later quite meaningful win over a Big 12 opponent that couldn’t shoot the ball into the ocean.

The Bears left the lid on the bucket, and the Illini rode their own defense to victory. It’s fine for winning the Las Vegas Invitational Championship, but the Illini basketball pre-conference schedule has two games on it that should be a real challenge. At #17 Miami on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and #12 Villanova in Madison Square Garden next month.

If Illinois shoots free throws and three-pointers like last night; you can forget about having a chance in either of those two contests.


Still, you should expect them to be 11-2 heading into Big ten play, and that’s solid and exciting. Last night may have given you some unpleasant flashbacks to last year, but make no mistake, this is not last year’s team. Watching them play offense last year was often as entertaining as going over health care plans and comparing health insurance options.

Said Illini basketball Coach John Groce: “This is a different team than the first two years because we have multiple scorers and shot-makers.”


It starts with the alpha dog Rayvonte Rice. He’s the go-to scorer.

“Ray’s getting what he deserves and earns,” said Groce. “Ray shoots every morning 35-40 minutes, in a sweat.”

Said Rice: “We don’t care who’s going to be the leading scorer. We’re all bought in as a team.”

Paul M. Banks owns, operates and writes The Sports ,which is partners with Fox Sports. Read his feature stories in the Chicago Tribune RedEye edition. Listen to him on KOZN 1620 The Zone. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks). His work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets including The Washington Post and ESPN 2

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