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Illinois coach Brad Underwood laments lack of leadership in ‘unforgivable’ loss to Penn State

CHAMPAGNE — Brad Underwood slammed his water bottle on the table at a press conference after Illinois lost to Penn State.

“Unforgivable. Let’s start there,” said Underwood.

Underwood wasn’t satisfied with his team’s efforts or response after taking their biggest win of the season against Texas II in Madison Square on Tuesday. Nittany Lions on Saturday.

Illinois surrendered a season-high 47 points in the first half and made four field goals in the final nine minutes to put up a one-shot cold offense. That loss is the most lopsided for the Illini this season, and Underwood and team are looking for answers.

pencent illinois basketball

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood yells at chair umpire Brian McNutt during Saturday’s game against Penn State in Champaign, Illinois.

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

“They played like grown-ups, and from the time they landed at Madison Square Garden until now, we’ve been playing very uninspired basketball,” Underwood said. “We’ve had a terrible practice. Probably the worst two days of practice leading up to the game I’ve been in. That’s leadership. That’s leadership.”

Underwood spent the game getting it, shuffling multiple times in a nine-man rotation. Skye Clark, a true freshman guard, led the team in 32 minutes.

Freshman Sencile Harris was the only player to get praise from Underwood, though he used it to point out how poorly the rest of the team were playing.

“We have one guy who consistently plays hard every day,” Underwood said. period. One man: Sencire. He plays hard every day. It doesn’t matter… hockey subs, two subs at once, three. I was trying to find someone who played hard and contributed to the win today and who else actually cares that he doesn’t have a 97 agenda. ”

None of the players appeared in the media after the game.Underwood was the only one in the locker room who spent nearly eight minutes highlighting the need for a change of attitude

pencent illinois basketball

Illinois guard Skye Clarke dunks the ball as Penn State guard Camren Winter looks on during Saturday’s game in Champaign.

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

“From the first play they scored to the two practices before this game, it’s totally unacceptable,” Underwood said. “There is zero lack of leadership on this team. They deserved to win the game.”

Underwood chalked up many struggles on Saturday and in the days leading up to the game to leadership. There was only one.

“Leadership. In bold print,” said Underwood. “Leadership: Lack. And no effort. Without that, that’s what happens in this league.”

Transfer Portal Imports Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer, both involved with teams with deep tournament runs, were brought in to provide it. Underwood praised Shannon’s leadership in the preseason, saying it was part of the reason he was brought here.

When asked about Shannon’s leadership, Underwood mimicked the sound of a fart into the microphone.

“That’s what I thought today,” said Underwood.

Shannon finished with a season-low four points, shooting 2-for-7 from the field in his least productive game of the season. That was days after scoring four points in regulation against the Longhorns before scoring 12 in overtime.

pencent illinois basketball

Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) appeared to pass under pressure from Penn State’s Evan Mahaffey (center) and Kebba Njie during Saturday’s game in Champaign.

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

“For two days of practice, I told the staff that today was going to be terrible,” Underwood said. I know no, but I’m just saying that our approach to this game right now is immature and completely lacking and our leadership is 100% lacking.”

According to Kenpom’s experience ranking, Illinois ranks 300th in the nation and last in the Big Ten. The Illini will face his four freshmen and Dyne’s Dainja transfer, who will be in the first significant college game of the season.

Underwood admitted there are some bumps in the new young team.

pencent illinois basketball

Illinois guard RJ Melendez walked off the court with a bloody cut in his right eye during Saturday’s game against Penn State in Champaign.

Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

“I knew we were going to have nights like this with a very young team,” Underwood said. I can endure them all, except for the lack of strength and the total lack of effort.”

This isn’t the first time Underwood has been upset with the team’s efforts during his tenure. Four days later, there were no stars Kofi Cockburn or Andre Courbero.

Illinois would expect a similar reaction, but Underwood wants it to come from within the locker room.

“If I have to go back to being the leader again, this team is in trouble,” said Underwood. “Someone on this team has to step up.”

Follow Andy Kimball on Twitter at Andy Kimball.

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