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Illini Post-Mortem

My Illini fought hard, and played harder than Carolina, but didn't play smarter. When you build your entire offense around the three-pointer, and have three quick guards who refuse to drive the lane and take the ball to the hole, then you had better hit at least fifty percent of your threes or you don't stand a chance. No matter how hard you play.

It's a real testament to the Illini's tenaciousness and effort--they outrebounded the much taller and stronger Tar Heels, 39-34--to be tied with two-and-a-half minutes left, and end up losing only by five points, despite shooting 39% from the field and going only 12-for-40 from three-point range. (One three-point attempt per minute. Think about that for a moment.) But the Illini lived this entire season by the three, and last night they died by the three. I, for one, will be glad to never again see Luther Head drive into the lane for the sole purpose of throwing a long kickout pass for yet another three attempt, with not a single thought of shooting the short running jumper that was available to him. And the 3-on-1 break in the first half, with Dee Brown kicking the ball back to Head for another missed three instead of attacking the basket, perfectly encapsulated the fallacy of the Illini offensive mindset.

The Illini are to be commended for a great season. They played the game the way it should be played--tenacious on defense, relentless on the boards, and always making the extra pass to get a little bit better shot attempt. It has to be one of the greatest seasons ever by a team that failed to win the championship. The fact that they failed to do so in no way diminishes the greatness of their season. The Illini faced a more talented team, and missed the clutch shots when they needed them the most. 37-2 is an absolutely tremendous season, no matter how the final game turned out.

April 5, 2005 in Sports | Permalink