Yesterday’s thesis — that only Illinois could beat Illinois in a match-up with Purdue — did not account for the Carstensen-Boroski-Dorsey triumvirate.
They weren’t the only reason Illinois lost, but a series of bizarre calls and non-calls probably made the difference in a game that was tied at the end, twice
Illini Report has no personal enmity for any of these individuals. Boroski is a friendly guy. Carstensen is earnest & nerdy. Dorsey did a good job of ignoring a tirade from Nagash Cockburn.
But officiating really did hurt Illinois and help Purdue yesterday. Even Matt Painter said as much.
A sellout SFC crowd noticed, too. Every time these refs botched a call, the clever SFC production team posted a slow-motion replay on the hall’s giant video screens. Illini fans howled in outrage, their frustration growing louder with each successive injustice.
Maybe the worst calls were non-contact “fouls” that went against Illinois. But Kofi Cockburn might argue that Carstensen’s lenience toward Zach Edey’s elbows was the major problem. Cockburn repeatedly gestured to Carstensen that he’d been hooked. Carstensen offered no response or acknowledgment.
The Illini defensive strategy mirrored its recent experience, in which Big Ten teams opted against double-teaming Kofi. The Illinois coaching staff obviously thought Kofi could guard Edey by himself. Or perhaps the staff was (reasonably) terrified by all the 40% marksmen waiting on the arc if & when the defense collapsed to help in the paint.
When Carstensen decided that Edey would have full use of his elbows, the plan crumbled. On to strategy #2: Deny Edey the ball.
That didn’t work either.
Edey scored against Cockburn at will. He scored behind Omar Payne. If Painter had allowed Edey to keep going, rather than substituting Trevion Williams at regular intervals, Edey would have converted 10 lay-ups by halftime. He made six in eleven minutes.
But the other half of the strategy was working. Purdue missed its first six attempts from the arc, and Sasha Stefanovic finished the half 0-2 on threes. Illinois had picked its poison, and the poison was killing them.
Illinois’s second half poison wasn’t as much of a choice as a necessity. They held Edey to three FGs in 13 minutes, but denying his opportunities allowed Stefanovic to go wild from the arc. Sasha drained 4-of-5 in those 20 minutes.
If Andre Curbelo hadn’t made a surprise comeback, Illinois would have lost by double-digits, in regulation.
Curbelo’s return now forces Brad Underwood to choose which starter won’t get as much tick as he’d been getting. Jacob Grandison sat for almost nine minutes in the first half against Purdue, and more than five of the second.
Da’Monte Williams played about 17:30 for each half, and every minute of overtime. Trent Frazier played even more, including all of both OTs.
Because Alfonso Plummer has been cold in B1G play, and because his defense is regarded as the worst among the starting perimeter players; he seems like the obvious choice to sit more. But he buried 6-of-12 against Purdue and remains Illinois’s second-leading scorer. Without him, Purdue wins in regulation.
It’s always a good problem to have, or so the saying goes. But because Illinois is competing for a championship, this personnel question takes on an importance John Groce never had to contemplate, even when he repeated that a single addition changes the entire team.
Different line-ups might be capable of defeating the B1G’s top 10 teams. But the question now is whether Illinois can beat the Badgers on Groundhog’s Day, or arrive in West Lafayette, on February 10th, with a better plan of action.