The line-up is now complete, minus its star. But Rayvonte’s absence is providing extra touches for everyone. If this team makes a late run, that might be important.
Anyway, Illini basketball 2014-15 began Wednesday night, after way too long in the cocoon.
Leron Black is the butterfly, and he stings like a bee. His 13 rebounds were the difference against Purdue. Full stop.
Illinois’s eleven consecutive free-throws to close the game …. closed the game. But it was Leron Black’s 13 rebounds that won it.
The point that’s been obvious since the O & B scrimmage, and much stated on these pages, is that this Illini basketball team must rely on
3 – Hill
4 – Black
5 – Egwu
and that means Rayvonte Rice plays the point.
Because Ray broke his hand, we get to see Jaylon Tate at the point. That’s entertaining, and offers ball-movement that you don’t get without Tate — although Kendrick Nunn has become one hell of a passer, did you notice?
The Illini train got on track Wednesday because Aaron Cosby was unavailable to stand in Leron Black’s way. Now conversant with John Groce’s schemes — or at least sufficiently conversant to merit a start when everyone else is injured — Leron proved that he’s assimilated enough data to not embarrass himself.
From now on, we can expect the team we expected.
It’s nothing personal against Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby. Not at all. In very different ways, they are good lads. But ever since they donned the orange & blue, it’s been clear (eye test, stats) that neither of them resembled the dead-eye sharp-shooter that John Groce imagined.
Cosby has transformed his game recently, emphasizing defense and rebounding, and not shooting a lot from the arc. Starks attempted only two treys against Purdue. Still, he managed 1-of-9 from the field. An assist, a turnover, a rebound. He’s a pesky sonofabitch to play against, from an offensive standpoint. He brings that value to the team.
Nevertheless, the data pool is too large for a mathematician like John Groce to ignore. The reports will continue to buttress earlier reports, making trends where once there were mere samples.
2 – Nunn
3 – Hill
4 – Black
5 – Egwu
This is a short-bench team.
If you’re wondering where Leron Black has been this whole time, don’t. The answer is not as negative as “lost,” but could certainly be expressed as “finding his way.”
Leron said as much after the game. He also noted that his momma didn’t raise no quitter.
Matt Painter said it perfectly, while laying praise at Leron’s feet. He recalled his teammate Steve Scheffler, who felt lost as an underclassman, but also knew he could make impact if he tried harder than everyone else.