Smile Politely

Illini take Sparty; Dmac claims: “I’ll be back”

Decibels returned to the Assembly Hall Saturday night. It hasn’t been so loud in five years.

Demetri McCamey dominated another game on Saturday night, and it was a doozy. Illinois beat #5 Michigan State for the first time in six tries. The Illini hadn’t beat a Top 5 team since April of 2005.

McCamey’s 22 points included six daggers from deep (in nine attempts). He dished 11 dimes. It was his third career double-double.

Mike Davis added 16, and a game-saving blocked shot with 5 seconds left. To cap off the night, Davis slammed home the game’s final basket.

Pandemonium ensued.

Asked whether the significance of this victory was diminished by the absence of MSU star Kalin Lucas, Davis said “no.”

DEMETRI TO RETURN?

DMac seems the last to know.

While Illini observers debate how high he’ll go in this summer’s NBA Draft, McCamey thinks he’ll be returning for his senior year.

So let’s all hush up about how great he’s been these last few games, okay? The trick now is to keep him playing at professional caliber without letting him in on the secret.

Maybe Bruce Weber should bench him again. MSU coach Tom Izzo thinks the hard love is a great tool. He wondered whether benching McCamey and Mike Davis was the key to Illini success.

But then, he also called his best player a jackass — in a good way.

DRAYMOND GREEN EATS ILLINOIS FOR BREAKFAST

The Spartans never gave up. Without their best player, they battled until the last possession. For every dagger trey DMac drained, MSU’s Lisa Bonet drained one of her own.

The Spartans’ game plan involved the same basic strategy so effectively employed three weeks ago in East Lansing: Beat Mike Tisdale to a bloody pulp.

It didn’t work as well in Champaign, because the Orange Krush and about 15,000 other people started screaming bloody murder when Spartan henchman Garrick Sherman entered the game and began committing bloody murder. Given this cue, the officiating crew was able to spot Sherman’s clenched fist boring into Tisdale’s abdomen, grasping at Tisdale’s liver.

Denied this stratagem, the Spartans were forced to employ legal tactics. Plan B: Have Draymond Green go apeshit.

Green showed Illinois exactly what it is missing: A bouncy big who can clear people out, cut hard, run the lane, whip interior passes and even hit his free throws. Green finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

He also demonstrated the proper technique for defending Tisdale without breaking the rules. Green rejected Tisdale’s “unblockable” jump hook.

I visited the Spartan locker room after the game, and asked Draymond about the Illini Thins. Although he dominated them all afternoon, he was actually quite complimentary.

Tisdale managed eight rebounds for the game, and was able to convert three of his six shots. That statistic may come as a surprise to those who simply can’t believe Tisdale got a whole six touches.

At one point in the first half, Bruce Weber screamed “Get it to Tisdale! Move the ball! Get the ball to Tisdale!” At which point McCamey launched from distance.

“That’s three in a row!” Weber fumed.

The Illinois offense is getting better, but it has a long way to go.

The coaching staff has incorporated a few nice plays into the motion, but they still need to run more sets if they hope to involve the freshmen. Tyler’s Griffey’s high-post pick and roll got the game underway beautifully. It led a charge from the gate which saw Illinois run out to a 14–4 start.

But that was it. Illinois had no more plays, and the motion threw a piston.

By midway through the second half, Illinois offensive engine idled, and nearly ground to a halt.

DMac, evoking the spirit of Dee Brown 2006, became a one-man Spartan wrecking crew. He repeatedly dribbled out the shot clock before bombing from long.

If McCamey made a mistake Saturday, it was giving too much effort rather than not enough. With :28.3 to go in the first half, McCamey grappled with MSU’s Garrick Sherman for a ball already rebounded by Mike Tisdale. Tisdale wrestled the ball free in just a fraction of a second, but a whistle stopped play.

The crowd was confused, expecting a jump ball, or a foul on the Spartans. Referee Mike Sanzere had correctly spotted McCamey’s grappling. He also noticed that Demetri was completely out of bounds. Sanzere awarded possession to MSU.

ABOUT BRANDON PAUL

Brandon may be Illinois’ best player in open court, or in terms of sheer talent. He’s the worst player re: running the system.

That’s not surprising. He’s highly intelligent bordering on dorky intelligent. So he’s a perfect example of how a player can be thoroughly flummoxed by a pure motion offense: You don’t have to go anywhere in particular, but you have to be in the right place all the time.

You can see him thinking out there. (i.e. standing perfectly still, mesmerized by the movements around him).

Bruce Weber can’t wait for the time when it all sinks in, and Brandon quits the headless chicken act.

But for Brandon’s offensive rebounds and hustle, Illinois loses Saturday.

When pondering Brandon’s amazing abilities and occasional fastbreak-cum-fastbroken, keep in mind that he’s still a growing boy.

Dad Cliff Paul says Brandon projects to top out about 6’6″. Little brother Darius, a sophomore at Warren, is already 6’5″ on his way to 6’7″

THE $16,000 DOLLAR MAN

John Chisholm estimates Bubba’s final-semester scholarship will save the family about $16,000. Tuition is now $9,000 a year, and the books in Bubba’s business and finance cirriculum are crazy expensive. (Especially in ECON 283B “How to become a business professor and sell your own textbook for outrageous sums.”)

John Chisholm is a management consultant, while Fran wages the eternal struggle of the domestic warrior. Bubba will be the fourth Chisholm offspring to graduate from Illinois, with two more waiting in the queue. So in this economy, you can see while they’re all smiles for the moment.

Congrats to Bubba. He works his ass off.

BIG RECRUITING DAY

Mike Shaw finally came to Champaign.

Chicago De La Salle’s power forward is a top 50 recruit nationally, and has scholarship offers from the likes of Louisville and Texas as well as Illinois.

He picked a good time for an unofficial visit. He liked Saturday’s atmosphere a lot.

Jereme Richmond joined Crandall Head for another game.

Jereme analyzed the ball movement in the first half, and also anticipated a very loud Assembly Hall next year.

Kenny Battle brought Kenny Battle Jr. and Larry Austin brought Larry Austin Jr. and Scottie Wallace.

Scottie Wallace and Larry Austin Jr (foreground) sat near Kenny Battle and Kenny Battle Jr (in the fly ski cap).

Wallace is a 6’5″ eight grader who plays at Springfield’s Grant Middle School along with the younger Austin, who stands a mere 5’11” (for now).

Niles North’s 6’7″ wing-forward Abdel Nader also attended. He’s pretty confident he’ll be playing under the bright lights soon.

Recruit Abdel Nader talks with Rivals.com recruiting analyst Brad Sturdy. In the foreground, Illini signee Meyers Leonard communicates a vital message.

THIS INTERNET, IT’S THE NEXT BIG THING I TELLS YA

It looks as though you’ll be reading your 8 Observations over by der at Rivals.com.

For the longest time, Doug Bucshon — the artist formerly known among the Scout.com community as craigtucker — shared his insights for free like the cheap whore he is. Just kidding.

Doug will retire soon from military service, and take an equally important job identifying threats within and without Illini Nation. i.e. Doug will be evaluating, interviewing and writing about talent in the metro-East Saint Louis and southern Illinois region for Rivals. They’re even going to pay him money.

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