CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — WCIA 3’s Annice McEwan discusses Illinois’ 74-69 loss to New Mexico State and the upcoming Braggin’ Rights game with IlliniInquirer.com’s Derek Piper.
“Joined now by Derek Piper from Illiniinquirer.com. Derek, interesting game last night. A lot to discuss there from the loss against New Mexico State. Let’s talk big picture first. What did you take away from that game.”
“Well unfortunately it’s still a team that’s figuring out how to win. You face another Top 100 team, you’re within on possession the last five minutes, and now you’re 0-5 in those games. To have an inbounds play, yet again, cost you another game. It’s a long way to get rid of that losing culture. These guys are still learning, still growing. You’re seeing some bright spots here and there, but it’s still a process for Brad Underwood to change the culture and get this team to win some games.”
“Who would you give your A+ of the game to and who were you hoping to see a little bit more from?”
“I thought Leron (Black) played really well. Especially being a guy who had hyper extended his elbow out in Vegas and was questionable going into the game. He made some big shots down the stretch to put them in the game. I think to play better, Michael Finke still struggles against those high level opponents. He’s asked to do things that he’s not great at, defending the post. I know he had nine rebounds but he just hasn’t scored that reliably against high-quality opponents and only went 2-10 from the field.”
“And lastly, huge game this Saturday, Braggin’ Rights against Missouri. They’re a good team this year. How do you see that playing out?”
“Yeah. It’s going to be a high, emotional game. It’s a big one for both teams, obviously. Missouri without Michael Porter, Jr. has played a little bit better than I thought they would missing him. Down low they’re a big-time challenge with Jeremiah Tilmon, a name Illini fans are familiar with, and Jontay Porter another really talented freshman in their front court. So, Missouri has a lot to play for. They still look like a team that’s going to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Illinois is just going to have to limit mistakes, and they’re going to have to defend without fouling, and then when you get down the stretch in what will probably be another close game, can you close it out in another close game?”