Just for fun, let’s pretend Illinois beat top-ranked Ohio State.
That fantasy will cheer us all up, and allow me to dump The McDade’s myriad JPEGs of Jared Sullinger’s 16 rebounds and 27 points.
Instead, I can make it seem as if Illinois kicked the Buckeyes ass in a festival of dunks, and general lane domination.
That was fun, no?
In truth, there are a lot of positives to take away from Saturday’s game. Heck, until that 14–0 run midway through the second half, Illinois did win.
And to pile easily manipulable stats on fantasy, the Illinois sports information staff pointed out that our guys outscored the Buckeyes 34 to 18 in the paint.
Sometimes our offensive schemes worked well.
When the motion failed, it failed for the same reason it fails in any game.
In motion offense, several components must come together in quick succession, or the play never develops. If one of those events fails to materialize, the motion stutters, or halts.
There might be two great cuts, and two great passes. But without the third piece — a dump-down, a back-door cut, or whatever — the flow stops abruptly.
Because there’s no script for that third event, it must happen of its own genesis. Five guys must see the whole floor and immediately intuit how to flow into each other. Five other guys must fail to see it, or not see it as quickly.
In the second half, Ohio State spotted all the openings before the Illini did. Rather than being a step behind, which is what you’d expect from the reacting team, they were right up Illinois’ ass.
Don’t blame Demetri McCamey.
The lack of offensive dynamism made it easy for OSU to concentrate on him. Way easy, in fact.
Jereme Richmond kept Illinois in the game, because Jereme Richmond doesn’t require the assistance of others to get his points.
Unlike McCamey, he starts from the block. Like Sullinger, he creates his own offense.
Sometimes its cleaning up on the boards, sometimes its basic low-block pivot play. If one or two defenders gets in his way, he moves around them. Or if they’re moving, he waits for them to pass.
It’s so simple.
Jereme can react quickly to openings in a defense. But the fundamental quality that sets him apart is patience.
Jereme doesn’t panic.
But not panicking doesn’t mean Jereme’s head is always in the game. Jereme’s composure continues to affect his performance.
In the first half, he missed a bunny, and shook his head in disappointment as his man skated down the court for a lay up.
In the second half, Jereme made a show of not arguing with referee John Higgins. He folded his hands behind his back, and clenched his fists. Higgins nodded appreciatively.
But again, in the ensuing play, Jereme got lost. He was still putting on the show.
So Jereme still has work to do, but he uses the word “focus” a lot. That’s a good sign.
In a bizarre turn of events, the guy who hit the game-icing free throws was asked to take a picture, not pose for one. The fan wanted Jereme. Aaron Craft was nice enough to oblige.
URGE AND SEE
The phrase “a sense of urgency” gets more plays than Justin Bieber. Like “upside,” it’s way worn out. Unlike “hook shot,” its definition changes from person to person.
What does Bruce Weber mean when he says “a sense of urgency?”
I don’t know.
But I’ll tell you who had a sense of urgency Saturday. 16,618 orange-clad fans. I know who didn’t share that urgency. Five guys in white.
In the last two minutes, down seven, the Illini continued to run their leisurely passing game. 16,618 people nearly passed a collective kidney stone.
Illinois got within three, and ended within five. Maybe they should have, I don’t know, shot the ball more times or something.
It was neat to have an elite team in the Assembly Hall again. Like the Carolina Tarheels, Ohio State brought an aura of excitement, and a crush of media attention.
I imagine it must have been like that all the time a few years ago, before I started this gig.
ICY ROADS AND NO SHOWS
Not all the expected recruits showed up. It might have been the weather. Cliff Paul told me the southbound drive was pure hell, three hours of fishtailing. Cliff is a cop. He knows about this stuff.
Mike Shaw made it down in one piece. He’s already signed up to play for Illinois.
Malik Yarbrough speaks to secretive recruiting analysts.
Zion-Benton freshman Malik Yarbrough hasn’t signed with anybody, but if Jim Boeheim comes calling …
Malik wants to play zone D and run a lot. But he’ll play half-court motion and man-to-man if necessary.
WHAT IT WAS WAS FOOTBALL
A couple of former Illini gridiron greats joined a bevy of prospects in da house.
Mikel LeShoure received an award, and smiled a lot. Jeff George just sat, stunned.
I think he was trying to figure out what the fuck that last play was supposed to be.