Well, it seemed kind of warm outside Sunday. So I guess that’s something.
But then, the warmth was to blame for the falling icebergs which forced 16,618 people through one set of doors. What a hassle that must have been. After the afternoon’s display of quasi-basketball related mishmash, I poked my head out of the Important Persons Quarters every 15 minutes or so, to see how the crowd was moving. It took about an hour to get everyone out of the Assembly Hall.
That’s especially tough, because few of them likely brought along the kind of mind-numbing chemicals required to erase the memory of the debacleball (that’s a hybrid of basketball and debacle) seen yesterday.
Yes, Illinois won Sunday, 62–54. But they barely put away the tenth-best team in the Big Ten. And that tenth-best team was without two of its best players.
Ideally, the Super Bowl’s excess of beer, microwavable pepperoni doo-dads and cheeze curlzz will allow observers to utterly forget what they witnessed. The game was not as exciting as the walk to the parking lot.
Demetri McCamey missed the rejection, so Coach Bruce Weber (far left) was forced to put a curse on this shot by Iowa’s Matt Gatens.
No makes, and few rebounds. That’s how you get blown out by a good team on the road. It’s also how you fall behind a crap team at home.
Illinois came out sluggish and weak, and merely stayed with Iowa throughout the first half. The McCamey Game-Opening Three missed again. The team looked constipated on offense.
Dominique Keller’s entry came early. Coach Bruce Weber did not wait for a media time-out to send Keller in for Mike Tisdale. The Keller substitution opened up the lane and provided different looks. After the game, Weber said Keller probably saved the game.
Among Weber’s other postgame observations:
1. Keller got faked out by the Orange Krush’s hurried shot clock count. The Krush trys to fool opponents into rushing shots. Weber thinks Keller was fooled into letting up on D. Whatever the reason, Keller let his man drive for a dunk with two seconds remaining on the shot clock.
2. Keller has to slow down. In high school and junior college, you can shoot whenever you get the ball. Now, people are scouting him, guarding him.
3. Calvin Brock’s versatility and production off the bench are a great boost to the team. Calvin is probably the top 6th man in the Big Ten. (He’s the 7th man for Illinois, but who’s counting?)
4. After the Minnesota beatdown, Weber was hoping for a good two days of practice. He got one. Saturday, he canceled practice midway, for lack of player effort.
5. We’re at the halfway point of the Big Ten season. Weber hopes the team will start to take practice seriously, because they’ve only got nine games left. For the seniors, that’s it.
6. Weber worries about the upcoming Wisconsin Badgers game. Growing up in Wisconsin, so he says, he encountered cornered badgers. When questioned where in the north side of Milwaukee one finds a cornered badger, he responded: even city badgers are dangerous.
7. McCamey must drive. (He did drive in the second half, and that’s a reason Illinois put up 40 points in the second stanza.)
8. It’s midway through the conference schedule, and the team barely cares. They’d better start caring, because it’s going to be over soon. For the seniors, it’s going to be OVER.
Calvin Brock prepares to take flight as Mike Davis makes Iowa’s Jake Kelly a nice cup of tea.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: TALOR BATTLE
The loudest cheer of the day came at Mike Cation’s announcement of the Penn State/Michigan State score. The other loud cheer came for Chet Frazier’s steal and trey at the end of the first half. That shot, and all of Battle’s 29 points, had zero statistical significance in the game.
Calvin Brock has not yet let me down. I continue to ponder the under-utilization of Calvin Brock. I love Calvin Brock, and I want to marry Calvin Brock. Sunday, Brock collected eight and eight. Five of his rebounds were on offense. Even when he’s not doing anything statistically chartable, he’s doing Matto chartable work. And I suspect he bugs the shit out of other teams.
Between Jarryd Cole’s go-ahead and go-ahead-more baskets in the first half, Calvin got whistled for a moving screen. From my angle, it looked like he was moving forward, not side to side. That’s not a moving screen. That’s hustle.
At the end of the first half, Illinois finally made a shot. But it didn’t count.
Todd Lickliter’s offensive is COOL. The movement, the passes, the open looks … it all made the Weber motion look like a pretense for not diagramming plays. When Lickliter starts paying his players better, he’s going to have one hell of a team.
Tisdale’s tip-off trick got called this time. You may have noticed lately he’s been grabbing the ball from the referee’s hand. That’s a no-no. If you missed it while the Big Ten Network showed PSU/MSU, the opening tip was awarded to Iowa following Tisdale’s petty misdemeanor. He’ll have to try something else, now that his bluff has been called. Unlike Efrem Winters (who always won the tip) or James Augustine (who usually won the tip), Tisdale rarely gets the tip. On the other hand, it’s the age of the idiotic Alternate Possession Rule, so who gives a shit?
Chester pulled a muscle on the play that resulted in Keller’s first lay-up. He grimaced and walked toward the defensive end. He didn’t get back on D, which is stunningly rare. There was no mention of it later. It didn’t seem to affect him for the rest of the game. So we might assume that, whatever the problem was, it would have merely killed a mortal.
Physically, Tisdale was no match for Cole or ex-Illini recruit David Palmer. Again, that’s no surprise, and it’s not Tisdale’s “fault.” It is what it is.
Mike Davis scored six points, which doesn’t seem that great. But he speared ten boards. He handed out three assists and collected a steal. McCamey shot 3-for-9 from the field and a pathetic 1-for-4 from the line, but he dished a game-high seven assists, and coughed up zero turnovers. These are the little things that are actually not little things at all but are big things.
How long was the score stuck at 52–47? From about 6:00 remaining to about 1:00, maybe? Iowa could have won this thing, and that’s embarrassing and frustrating. But for some missed open looks, they win.
Coaches versus Cancer had Bruce Weber and Todd Lickliter in suits and sneakers. The purpose is to remind everyone: don’t get cancer.
Nick and Molly were the contestants for the under-12 audience participation contest. Contestants had to run from half court, make a lay-up, run back to half court and be the first to sit in a chair. Nick got there first, knocking Molly on the floor in the process.
The audience booed Nick’s victory. It may have been a chivalry issue. But also, his pants were at half mast. The elderly, white, small town conservatives who attend Illini games do not much care for beltless dirty hippies.
OTHER GAMES’ NOTES
Ed Hightower could not accept a Jamelle Cornley basket at the PSU/MSU game. Cornley made the basket, then had the audacity to follow it with a verbal eructation. “Yay,” said Cornley. That was it for Hightower, who has already had enough of basketball players and their stinkin’ attitudes. Fortunately, it was not Ted Valentine, who might have banned Cornley for life.
The Manny Harris ejection and suspension (arrest, imprisonment, etc.) is a travesty. And it’s bad for basketball. When Harris was kicked out, an exciting basketball game became a blowout. When Vincent Brooks punched Bryan Leonard, that was a worthwhile ejection. When Kermit Washington broke off the top of Rudy Tomjanovich’s head, that was a big deal.
What league is this anyway? Just because there’s blood doesn’t mean there’s a foul.
LOOKS GOOD IN ORANGE
ABOVE: By February of a grueling Big Ten season, the coaches’ wives come to games to remind
themselves what their husbands look like.
BELOW: Sally Steffens wore an exceptionally awesome hat.