Preps Talk

Illini offense shows improvement in loss

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Illini offense shows improvement in loss

CHAMPAIGN Its easy to play the what if game after aloss like Illinois 31-17 defeat at the hands of Indiana on Saturday.

What if Illinois had not committed two personal fouls?

What if the Illini had recovered those two turnovers,instead of the Hoosiers?

Things like that make you look snake bit, Illinoisoffensive coordinator Chris Beatty said. You cant have turnovers andpenalties keep drives going. Those things are the difference between good teamsand teams trying to get to that level.

Certainly, the game would have been much different if thingshad broken Illinois way more frequently. But the news from Memorial Stadium onSaturday was not all bad.

After one half of play Illinois had 14 first downs doubletheir output in the entire Michigan game. Illinois finished the game with 196yards rushing a new season-high. Sophomore running back Donovonn Young had125 yards on 21 rushes besting his previous career best by 25 yards. DariusMillines had five catches for 80 yards a season best by 26 yards.

Of course, these accomplishments were hard to focus on inthe face of a homecoming loss (and Indianas first road Big Ten win in fouryears). But, mired in a disheartening stretch of five consecutive losses, thepositive offensive output is proof these Illini have the ability to compete inthe Big Ten conference.

We have a lot of young guys on the team and those guys aregetting better every week, Beatty said. At some point those freshmen arejuniors and will be older, as opposed to always being the young team. Thoseguys are getting better and we have to keep developing them.

Prior to the Indiana game, the Illinois coaching staff sawweaknesses in the Hoosiers run defense they felt they could exploit. TheIllini went hard after their opponent early in the game and found success:after the first quarter Illinois had already racked up 74 yards on the ground.

Young made a statement after Illinois loss to Wisconsinthat he wanted to see the running backs getting more touches. On Saturday hegot his wish and made the most of it. He felt good about the teams runningplay as a whole after the game, and believes it can lead to better things downthe road.

We got the ball in the right peoples hands and we movedthe ball. The offensive production looked a lot better than in past weeks, thesophomore running back said. I feel like this is a great stepping stone forus. We see that we can move the ball, so definitely we will come back and workhard.

Illinois early rushing success allowed the team to lookdownfield, as well, with the primary beneficiary being Millines. The juniorcredited his running backs for allowing him to get space to make catches.

The run game was great, and I was doing my best to findareas where I could see Nate Scheelhaase, quarterback and I knew he could seeme, Millines said.

Scheelhaase ended up throwing for 176 yards and onetouchdown, complementing the teams impressive run game. Illinois outgainedIndiana in both rushing and passing.

Still, being unable to match Indiana on the scoreboard stungthe Illini deeply especially on homecoming.

This is very frustrating, Millines said. But werestaying together. Wins are going to come if we just keep fighting. We need tostay together and keep fighting.

If Illinois can continue to produce offensive like they didagainst Indiana, it stand to reason wins will come for the team. But, successis not an overnight phenomenon according to head coach Tim Beckman.

You want success to happen fast, just like everybodyelse. You want to be successful as fast as you possibly can, but right now,were not, Beckman said. Weve got to evaluate things againand create thingsthat can help our players be successful and this program be successful.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”