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The Human Pogo stick tallied another 20 points Sunday in Illinois’ 78–64 win against Jackson State.

Yawn.

Mike Davis is automatic, so there’s really no excitement in his statistics. He gets the ball, and then it’s in the basket. It’s like an assembly line. Besides, he didn’t even tally a double-double this time.

Boooor-ing.

The excitement came from Dominique Keller, who enjoyed his coming out party with flash, dash, a splash of panache and other things rhyming with ash. Eight shot attempts, eight buckets, 16 points. Old school.


Most of his 8 shots came from 0 to 20 inches out. And yet, each one was a little different. A light english off the glass here, a finger roll there. He even used his left hand.

Bruce Weber addressed Keller’s shot development and personal development (through an extremely hot audio feed, monitored by ex-Rectangle bassist Victor Cortez, who loves all things loud and distorted).

While watching these performances from the bigs, I wondered again about hands. Mike Davis’ hands have an electrical reverse polarity which bounces the ball away from his hands as soon as it touches them, yet somehow magnetizes the ball to the bottom of the net.

Dominique Keller’s hands benefit from his shoulders, which have the kind of musculature that prevents others from coming close to him. But seriously, he squares up really well, and fast. Like Davis, he gets rid of the ball quickly.

When the other bigs get the hot potato, they begin to think “What should I do with this hot potato?” It’s at this point when even fans in the lower bowl start yelling for MOTION. (Which is stupid. Bruce Weber gets paid a million dollars to yell that word. And that other guy is giving it away for free. Idiot.)

As Keller plays his way into more floor time, keep an eye on what the other bigs are doing with their hands.

MIKE TISDALE’S HANDS

Where are they? Where are his arms, extended or bent at the elbow?

It wasn’t an issue Sunday, because no one threw him the ball in the low post. They’ve learned, I guess. Tisdale’s minimal scoring came from 15 feet.

RICHARD SEMRAU’S HANDS

What can he do with them? Two years and a week ago, Richard Semrau nailed a three-pointer against Jackson State as time expired. Illinois beat the Tigers by 21, despite a feisty Chihuahua named Trey Johnson lighting us up for 27. People in the crowd were heard to smirk, “Oh, I don’t know — maybe try guarding him, I guess. Put a hand in his face or something.”

Back then, Semrau was thin and tall. He could shoot the ball, but there was little to suggest he’d be a banger. Still, it was all very exciting — a guy who can shoot.

Now, he’s a banger. We know that he has shooting ability somewhere in that hulking frame. It has not manifested itself this season. Maybe Semrau gets a bit panicked underneath. On Sunday, it happened to the cooler Tisdale, too. They were thinking? They were scared? They were flustered?

Well, it turns out the “hands” guy, to this point, is Dominique Keller. No mind, Dominique Keller was a machine. His job was to put a ball through a hoop, and he did it. He even led point on a fast break. He was also the trailer, and the guy who dunked to finish it, proving he has that rare talent of being everywhere at once.

SUPERTRENT, OR CLARK KENT?

The shooting has been awesome, but frankly, you expect that from your white guy. That’s why his dad paid for all those shooting camps. That’s why he spent all those evenings in the driveway.

The thing we don’t expect is the gutsy, scrappy stuff. Pugilism in basketball goes only so far. Mostly, it’s taking the punches. Trent took another charge today. He hit his shots. And most importantly, he drove the lane for buckets twice — Twice! — as the shot clock expired. That’s the kind of take-charge attitude and leadership that any team needs.

So he gets a buckeye sticker on his helmet, or whatever.

MIKE DAVIS, MIKE DAVIS, MIKE DAVIS

If you get the ball to him, there’s a strong likelihood of a basket, posthaste. Why spend a lot of time thinking about it? Why give the opponent time to steal it, or even react to it? Why bother even landing on the ground, in fact, when that would just require jumping up again? No, instead, Mike Davis shoots the ball just about a thirtieth of a second before he catches it.

It doesn’t really matter where Mike Davis catches the ball. Wherever he is on the floor, that’s where he shoots it from. And then it goes in.

But Davis was an underwhelming 9 of 10 from the floor, which is going to be hard to explain to his dad.

“I understand Keller made all his shots?” you can just hear the elder Davis querying.

McCAMEY DISTRIBUTION CO.

The fastbreak has returned to Champaign.

Whereas Illini guards since Deron Williams were content to calmly dribble towards the offensive frontcourt, McCamey seems nearly allergic to the ball. When it touches his hands, he thrusts it away, downcourt, at speed. The hardest worker is there already, and catches it in stride for a lay-in or a dunk. Sunday, that guy was Calvin Brock as often as not.

At times Demetri McCamey is said to be a bit slow of foot. I continue to think it’s his grace of movement, lulling observers to complacency.

WHAT THEY DID RIGHT

Jackson State displayed excellent interior passing and a consistent ability to kick out from deep post to wing. If they’d hit more of their open threes, they might have won.

Their 2–3 zone stonewalled the Illini motion until Weber explained, during the under-8 timeout, that dribbling into the lane might create a dish. Chester Frazier served that dish, warm, as soon as the teams returned to live action. Mike Davis ate it up.

Then the Tigers switched to a bit of 3–2, which shifted into man-to-man. I don’t know that it confused anybody but me. The Illini, by that time, were in 5th gear. Jackson State head coach Tevester Anderson explained that the Tigers only threw the zone because they were in foul trouble. But it must be said that it did momentarily flummox the Illini.

Center Jeremy Caldwell (6-foot-8, 251 pounds) made Mike Tisdale his bitch for much of the game (see photo below of Caldwell boxing out Tisdale). Caldwell tallied 17 points, 6 rebounds and two steals. But he also disrupted, which doesn’t show up in any column (except this one). When Semrau played post, Caldwell made him less effective. And in truth, much of Dominique Keller’s offense came with Caldwell in foul trouble.

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I report this because I believe it all to be factual. Mike Tisdale is not the villain of his own drama. But he must overcome his tendencies. It’s easy for me to say, and it’s easy for anyone to say. We expect him to be perfect, determined and resolute, even as we loosen our belts, sink into the couch and fail to prevent ourselves from stuffing those fries into our mouths.

But them’s the breaks. You got a scholarship Mike. And we believe in you. The talent is apparent. Now pick it up.

LOOKS GOOD IN ORANGE

Roberta Flack must invariably play in the head of anyone regarding Kimberly Daniels’ smashing turtleneck pullover (New York & Co). It’s good to see the better aspects of the ’70s making a comeback. Neither Ms. Daniels, nor Sabrina Watson, wore bell-bottomed jeans.

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Kimberly Lane got the scarf and jacket from The Gap. She thanks a friend for the handmade orange & blue bag. When we come up with an accessorizing trophy, we’ll think of her.

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