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Men's basketball: Illini lose for sixth game in row

Illinois' Rayvonte Rice guards Indiana's Yogi Ferrell during Sunday's game in Bloomington, Ind. The Illini lost 56-46 to drop their sixth game in a row.
Illinois' Rayvonte Rice guards Indiana's Yogi Ferrell during Sunday's game in Bloomington, Ind. The Illini lost 56-46 to drop their sixth game in a row.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Rayvonte Rice bounced back from a scoreless game to put up 20 points. Joseph Bertrand sunk from a 19-point game to score only two points.

Such is life for Illinois basketball these days.

When one player clicks, another collapses.

"We're not good enough to not have everybody hitting on all cylinders," coach John Groce said. "I've known that from the jump. We have to get everyone in sync."

With a 56-46 loss at Indiana on Sunday, the Illini dropped their sixth straight game for their longest drought since the end of the Bruce Weber era in 2012, and the longest losing streak in Groce's six seasons as a head coach.

Rice shot 7 of 11 from the floor, hitting 4 of 7 3-pointers, after recording his first scoreless game Thursday at Ohio State. But as the only player in double figures, he didn't get enough help to pull out a victory. Bertrand missed 10 of his 11 shots from the field.

Point guard Tracy Abrams scored two points in only 13 minutes, leaving the game twice with back spasms.

In his absence, freshman reserve Jaylon Tate scored six points, tying his second-most productive outing, to go with five assists. He was the only Illini player who recorded an assist.

"Jaylon was ready to go," Groce said. "He took 'the next man up' to another level."

Through a string of losses dating to Jan. 8 at Wisconsin, the Illini (13-8, 2-6 Big Ten) have shot at least 40 percent from the field only once.

Their point total against Indiana was their second lowest in the span behind their total from a 49-43 loss to Northwestern. It looked especially low compared with their 83-80 overtime victory against the Hoosiers in Champaign on New Year's Eve.

"I would say the common denominator is probably offense," Groce said. "We have to find a way to score. We have to find a way to make more shots. As coaches we have to look at the quality of shot."

Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. He contributed nine points during a 12-0 run as the Hoosiers (13-7, 3-4) built a 40-29 lead.

The Illini answered with a 10-2 run to pull within 42-39 with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left, but the Hoosiers never gave up their lead.

Despite the loss, Groce praised his players' work ethic.

"The effort and the fight and attitude is not negotiable," he said. "That's who we are, and who we're going to be."

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