Illini Basketball Weaknesses on Full Display in Disaster at Marquette

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“A win is a win” might be one of the most worthless cliches in all of sport. It’s right up there with “control their own destiny.” (If it’s already predestined, then not a single one of us, has control over it.) Had Illini basketball actually sealed the deal, and won their first road game of the season, without the services of their best player (Kofi Cockburn, who has now finished serving his silly, ridiculously unnecessary suspension), this is what we would be talking about right now.

The positive spin you could put on an ugly win for a basketball team that could somehow achieve victory in a hostile environment, despite playing so wretchedly awful.

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After all, you had a first half in which Illinois somehow, at one point, had an 8-pt lead at Marquette, despite shooting under 33% from the field, under 25% from 3 and having committed 15 turnovers. And yet they still came out of halftime roaring!

It wasn’t long until Illinois found itself with a 12 point second half lead. However, they couldn’t close the deal, and that means it is definitely time to pump the brakes on the Illini basketball early season hype train right now.

It’s hard to decide what the biggest issue was tonight, because, good Lord there were oh so many with this team, once that’s currently ranked #11 in the AP poll.

There were major issues in finishing, even on bunnies and gimmees. There was no sense of being clinical, at all, as Brad Underwood’s team just could not kill off this Golden Eagles squad, once that is widely expected to finish either second from last, or perhaps third from the bottom in the Big East.

Said Underwood in his opening statement: “really alarming, the turnovers and the lack of ball movement.” Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

“It was an interesting night,” Underwood later added, providing a euphemism to the extreme. The word “interesting” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.

With no Cockburn, Andre Curbelo has to be this team’s alpha, and right now, it seems like the sophomore point guard is simply not ready.

Underwood was asked about what Curbelo could learn from this night, one that saw him shoot 4-18 from the field, 0-3 from three, commit 7 turnovers (including the one that sealed the win for the hosts) and commit four fouls, including the one that gave MU the final go ahead.

“There are a ton of learning points,” Underwood said. “When things aren’t going your way, you got to learn to trust your teammates, and he will, because he cares about winning.”

He also provided his preseason award candidate with a vote of confidence:

“Belo is our guy, we’re gonna live with him, but again tough sledding.”

Shaka Smart discussed how his defense rattled the guard-oriented offense of Illini basketball.

“IlIinois is one of the best pick and roll teams in the country,” Smart said, before praising Curbelo.

“He is one of the best point guards in the country, but we were fortunate Curbelo got in foul trouble in the first half, and anytime a players gets into foul trouble it affects their rhythm.”

He also went on to say how in the second half, his defensive switches, and the bigs shutting down Belo when he was in the lane also contributed.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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