Lookout! Behind you!
I feel really bad for Chris Lowery. He got his team to play with focus, energy, and intensity.
And they got the shit beat out of them.
The SIU Salukis looked great from the start. They hit their shots. They moved the ball well. They stuck to the Illini like glue.
It’s just not fair that every time an Illini jumped six or eight feet straight into the air, he left his defender prostrate on the ground below — and then sank a perfect arching jumper.
It’s just not fair.
Worse, the Illini never relented. They reloaded. Insert fresh legs, repeat cycle. Illinois led by as much as 30 points.
To me, it seemed SIU suffered the same defensive breakdown Bruce Weber often complains about — that individuals overplay their own man, and fail to switch, hedge, or help effectively.
In the tunnel, after the game, I asked Demetri McCamey if my assessment was apt.
Meechi explained that the major defensive problem for SIU was Illini speed. The Salukis were running traps, but they never had enough time to spring their traps because the Illini moved the ball too quickly, too efficiently. It led to a lot of nifty back-door cuts.
If Illinois continues to run offense at this level of efficiency, you might start making travel plans for spring break.
A POSTER OF CARLTON FAY
It’s tough to pick a player of the game, but the game’s foil is obvious.
Carlton Fay played well, but also played fall guy for the night’s most amusing moments. First, Fay bought the Orange Krush’s dupe — heaving a last-second shot as the Krush counted down the shot clock. When the ball grazed iron, the actual shot clock showed 8 seconds.
Moments later, Fay stood at the foul line for a free throw. In the relative silence, as Fay waited to receive the ball from referee Ted Valentine, a lone Krush member shouted, “Shoot it!”
It was impossible to not feel sorry for the guy, and then laugh.
Brandon Paul was fookin’ breel eeyant.
The sense of pity grew when Brandon Paul deposited a used tea bag in the middle of Fay’s forehead. This posterizing may become an all-time favorite Illini moment. If not, it’s only because no one captured it to best effect.
Cary Frye got a great montage of shots, as usual. But due to fixed camera positions, it’s likely no one caught the consummate angle of Brandon’s jam — mine. From the scorer’s table, Brandon’s wrist action was beautiful to behold.
Superstar recruit Gary Harris enjoyed another Illini visit.
Harris is a 6’4″ combo-guard at Hamilton Southeastern High School in suburban Indianapolis. He’s built like a linebacker, which is not surprising. When he’s not flying through the air, or granting genial interviews, Harris is a linebacker.
Pursued by a bevy of top-notch basketball programs, he’s still wide-open about his college choice.
Were it not for the beguiling lure of the Vatican, Collin Hartman would be Harris’s teammate at Hamilton. He’d like that, too. They are close friends.
But instead, Hartman’s playing for the Pope. Christopher Hitchens was right. That guy has more troops than you think.
Collin is a year younger than Gary, and plays wing-forward. So it’s not out of the question that they’d pick the same school.
Bartlett’s 6’2″ Lance Whitaker, a sophomore combo-guard, also attended. I didn’t get a chance to chat with him.
MIKE MENTORS MEYERS
Meyers Leonard is lucky.
Leonard has something Mike Tisdale never had as a freshman: Mike Tisdale.
Few seven-footers get the luxury of practicing against fellow seven-footers. But Mike helps Meyers with the little things, too. The baby hook is obvious. So is the footwork.
But ref baiting?
It was Dad’s Day at the University of Illinois. Lots of Illini dads were on hand, but not always rooting for the right team.
Professor Harold Bardo and son.
Steve and Tangie Davis made the trip from NoVa. They got to see Mike play a whopping 30 minutes, the most of any Illini player. Mike hit on 6 of 11 FG attempts. That would usually lead the team. But DJ Richardson was 6 of 9, and Meechi dropped 7 of 10.
Again, it’s just not fair.
For the second time in as many games, Mike Davis made consecutive free throws.
The game ended so laughably, fans will likely forget how hard fought it was. But the score was 27–25 before Illinois simply exhausted the Salukis. Four winded Illini asked out during the game. Bruce Weber says that never happens.
I wonder how they felt this morning.