Before we get to the breakdown of what happened in the Illinois Fighting Illini first loss, (Illinois was one of the last 6 unbeaten teams remaining in the nation) suffered at the hands of the Missouri Tigers 82-73, a few observations and notes on this series and rivalry overall, with updated stats.
-Why is this even called the Braggin’ Rights game? I mean seriously, how many of you Illini people actually have Mizzou people to tell how much they suck? (after Illinois wins of course)
–Illini 8-1 in Braggin‘Rights when ranked in Top 10. Both teams ranked in Top 25 for 3rd straight year. Illinois won 8 straight before, Mizzou took the last four.
-Finally, why not have the game in Chicago at the United Center in alternate years? If it’s allegedly a neutral court then why is it always in Missouri?
For the first 15 minutes, I wondered why UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi had any NBA draft stock at all. During the final four minutes he showed me. And before I even knew it, he had a double double. This went down just as expected, the Tigers owned the glass as the nation’s second best rebounding team held a 47-31 advantage on the boards.
And the Illini lived and died by the three, just as they kind of have all season. It’s amazing they were even in this game when you consider they shot 8-32 (25%) from distance. It’s also a good sign they were actually competitive against a ranked team when the team’s best player, Brandon Paul shot just 5-18 (2-8 from distance). On the flip side, Mizzou’s top gun Phil Pressey started 0-15 from the floor and finished 3-19.
All in all, if the Illini could beat Gonzaga, a team with a much bigger advantage up front, they should have been able to handle Mizzou. And if you believe in validity of the national rankings, with Illinois seven spots higher, then victory should have been there’s. Nanna Egwu had arguably his best game of the season, finishing with 12 points and 9 boards.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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