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Abrams’ play has been a problem for Fighting Illini

Missing the point

Published: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 12:35 a.m. CDT
Illinois' Tracy Abrams (13) drives against Nebraska's Tai Webster in the first half Wednesday in Lincoln, Neb.

There was little to like about Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams’ game at Nebraska. But the parts coach John Groce picked apart were not the ones he was asked about.

Abrams missed all four shot attempts in the Illini’s 67-58 loss Wednesday, making him 0-for-9 in his last two outings. In seven games since Jan. 18, the junior has shot only 22.9 percent.

When asked about his three-point performance against the Cornhuskers, Groce was less worried about Abrams’ shooting.

“Sometimes shooting is fleeting,” Groce said after the game in Lincoln, Neb. “You can’t control that. What you can control is taking care of the ball a little better, defending the ball probably a little better. I’m not as concerned about his shot.”

Groce ruled out a back problem that has lingered all season as a reason for his offensive struggles.

Abrams picked up four fouls as the Huskers shot 24 of 27 from the free-throw line. Groce mentioned that Abrams was responsible for three of Illinois’ 14 turnovers. Rayvonte Rice turned the ball over another three times.

“They’ll be the first to look at – him and Ray – is they combined for six of our 14 turnovers,” Groce said. “I know they’re making plays and they have the ball in their hands a little more. … [Nebraska] forced some turnovers with their ball pressure. We have to handle the ball a little there.”

Groce also weighed in on veterans Nnanna Egwu and Joseph Bertrand.

Like Abrams, Groce wasn’t concerned about Egwu’s four-point outing. He was encouraged by his 12 rebounds.

“I thought he played really hard,” Groce said. “He really rebounded. I thought he was really active. I thought he screened well. … I thought he did some good things.”

Bertrand played only 12 minutes against Nebraska to score five points, following his scoreless performance at Penn State on Sunday in 13 minutes. The two games are his only off the bench this season for the Illini, after freshman Kendrick Nunn was moved into the starting lineup.

“I thought Joe could’ve guarded a little better,” Groce said of the Nebraska game. “Joe will figure it out. In large part, it’s not necessarily something Joe is doing. I think other guys are making some plays. They certainly did on Sunday.”

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