Illini Basketball

The Invisible Game

Obviously you didn’t see it.

Reading the internet’s Sky Is Falling crowd right now, it occurs to me that no one actually watched the RGV game. It helps that a lot of you began your observations by saying “I didn’t watch it, but …”

It was a fun game. The Illini had the troubles you’d expect from a team without its point guard, back-up point guard, and third-string point guard.

Two wings and a center manned the point. The center tallied six assists. The wing dished a game-high eight. (RGV managed nine total).

The other wing notched an 0/5 assist-to-turnover ratio. Considering he’s a wing who was forced to play point … well, it’s still a bad night. But Hutch is just getting his legs back, you’ll remember.

People Who Didn’t Watch also missed a fundamental point. RGV was really great at both ends of the court. On offense, their guards and wings utilized angles that Ayo Dosunmu and Rayvonte Rice would appreciate. They knew when to employ a floater, and the backboard. They used the rim as a screen. It was gorgeous.

On defense, they executed a plan that proved immediately effective, and then adjusted when Illinois coaches figured out how to attack it.

Eventually, playing a 7-man rotation while also defending the bejesus out of two unstoppable forces proved fatal. Two of the 7-men fouled out. Another two garnered four fouls. Eliminating Kofi’s touches worked in the opening minutes, but Kofi has a certain inevitability about him.

The Vaqueros deserved to win, and that’s no slight to a team that was favored by 26 because no one in Las Vegas knew three starters were unavailable. They just played really well. They pentrated well. They rebounded well.

They adjusted well.

Alfonso Plummer, seemingly perturbed to learn that he hadn’t set a record the other night, was determined to claim it against RGV. But after 5-of-8 arc shots in the first half, he managed only 1-of-3 in the second.

They wouldn’t let him see the rim.

Kofi should have challenged Dave Downey’s all-time single-game scoring record. But RGV employed the right combination of fronting, denying, doubling, switching and hacking. His 38 points were a bit of a disappointment, frankly.

But then, when your point, back-up point, and back-up point’s back-up are all sidelined with various maladies, it’s hard to expect a great post-feeding experience.