What did we learn?
The “better shooting” narrative received some much-needed statistical support. Illinois’ starters hit 69% from three on Sunday. Illinois’ starting guards hit 73%.
Aaron Cosby hit 4-of-5 in the first half, but cooled down to a mere 50% in the second. The frequently bantered aspirational figure for Aaron’s season seems to be 40%, but that’s because no one was paying attention when Loren Tate (still the best Illini reporter) asked, over the summer, about Aaron’s last ten games at Seton Hall.
Aaron says he figures he’s good for about 47%. Illinois hasn’t seen shooting like that since Jamar Smith. It’s in the last minute:
But the most entertaining part of the Illini offense, not surprisingly, was the passing. Illini fans have been starved for thrilling passes since the days when Illini offenses could churn out a hundred points.
The famine is now a feast.
Jaylon Tate throws dimes the like of which we’ve not seen since Frank Williams. Kendrick Nunn’s passes suggest he missed a career as a left-handed shortstop. He fires bullets. Kendrick looked 100% on Sunday which, if I’m not mistaken, surprised everybody, including the coaching staff.
His dad, though, was not surprised. Melvin Nunn is, in many ways, a lighthearted guy. But as a coach, he’s tough as nails.
Melvin Nunn came down with Simeon assistant Corey Bradford, and freshmen Messiah Jones and Kezo Brown. The very first thing Melvin said, whipping out a near tablet-sized smartphone, was that he didn’t miss a minute of the game, thanks to BTN2Go. Next month, I’ll ask about his data plan. (Rob Jordan, the Fiber Guru, usually carries both a tablet and a smartphone. These Illini parents know what’s up.)
Here’s what Kezo said about his whirlwind introduction to college basketball recruiting, and playing for a high school powerhouse.
(Note to those who follow Chicago high school recruiting: Melvin Nunn says the Simeon v. Morgan Park game has been rescheduled from 12/13 to 12/14. That means Illini fans will not be able to trek directly from the win over Oregon to the Marcus LoVett/D.J. Williams showdown.)
The very best part of Sunday’s game, still technically speaking an “offense” statistic, was Malcolm Hill’s offensive rebounding. He kept the ball alive when he didn’t grab it himself, and he grabbed it himself five times. He grabbed nine total rebounds.
Malcolm has always moved with a deliberate speed, so I’m not sure what caused his anomalous Friday. He can’t jump and he’s not fast, so I’ve never been able to figure out why he’s so fun to watch, and so good at outmaneuvering his opponents. Whatever it was, I’m glad it didn’t last. Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s back.
Mike Basgier spent the 2013-14 Illini season as the lone champion in the cause of Austin Colbert. He kept feeding me tidbits about Austin taking on extra workouts, and about Austin’s extraordinary (and diligently documented) strength. At the time, Austin was voluntarily lifting with the transfers. That was double the amount of strength & conditioning required of eligible players.
After Austin body-slammed an Eagle twice his girth on Sunday, I asked Mike if Austin was still doing extra workouts. “He’ll be doing them for three years,” said Basgier.
Mike LaTulip had been contemplating a redshirt this season. Even after Tracy Abrams went down, he was still contemplating a depth chart with Starks, Nunn, Rayvonte Rice, Cosby and Tate in front of him.
I still assume he’ll graduate in three years, and finish his career as Harvard’s starting lead guard, while earning an MBA. Tommy Amaker did recruit LaTulip out of high school, as did Princeton.
Look for Mike’s over-the-top Leron Black impression, in the Newcomer: Leron Black feature. Let’s say Tuesday afternoon, if you’re free.