Well, it was a tough day at the Assembly Hall. And to think the day had started out so promising. There was a buzz in the air as I walked from the parking lot to the stadium. It felt good to see the legions of orange clad fans moving toward the Hall. Yep, everything was going to be okay. Sure, the Illini were coming off two very poor performances in Cincinnatti and Ann Arbor. But now we were back home, in the friendly confines so to speak. The Illini can beat anybody at home, right? A big win over Ohio St. would get everything right in the world again.
Well, that's not what happened. Instead, the team suffered its worst loss in the Assembly Hall since 1976, when Indiana blew the Illini out during that magical undefeated season they had. Worst defeat in 30 years at home. It was a tough one to watch.
I'm not going to go through a blow by blow dissection of the game. The bottom line is that our shots just didn't fall. We played okay defense, and moved around on offense enough to get some real good open looks at the basket. But they just weren't dropping. But the shots not falling were just a symptom of something else at work with this team. What is that?
To be honest, I'm not sure what is going on with this team. Here's a short list of some ideas that I have about the team's struggles:
1. The biggest problem right now is a lack of confidence on the team. We've had three bad outings in a row, and momentum is building in the wrong direction at this point. We're accelerating into a downward spiral right now.
2. Brian Randle and Jamar Smith are not playing anywhere near the level expected of them entering into this season. Randle has not mentally overcome his injury. He just looks fragile out there, doesn't he? He's kind of playing like he's walking on egg shells, waiting for his injury to rear its ugly head again. And Jamar has lost all confidence in his shot. He's not just missing his shot. He's missing it BADLY.
3. Weber can't seem to find a rotation that will allow the team to gain some stability and rhythm during games. The reason for this goes back to all the injuries that stunted the team's growth as a cohesive unit during the pre-season.
Well, anyways, I'm confident in Weber's ability to get the team back on track. He's going to shake them out of this funk, and we'll be playing well again soon. Thankfully, the next game is a home game, against Iowa. It won't be an easy game, but winning and playing solid basketball against the Hawkeyes would be a good first step towards snapping out of this malaise that has invaded the Illini lockerroom.