Smile Politely

The new Border order

It was a one point game before Mike Tisdale’s intentional foul gave Missouri a six-point play with :37 remaining; but that’s water under the bridge. Illinois lost 75 to 64. That’s the news.

In recognition of the widening fissure between the Hear No Evil and Speak No Good wings of Illini Nation, I will now divide the rest of this column into good news and… other news. Readers who frequently employ the “Ignore User” button will enjoy the good news.


Bruce Pearl faces a three game losing streak and an NCAA investigation. Jimmy Collins and Deon Thomas are optimistic about the future.

I managed only 90 seconds of Deon Time Wednesday night. Everyone else wanted a piece of him, too.

It figures.

Since his teens, Deon’s borne the burden of the brilliant interviewee — always poised, always eloquent, always in demand. If you want some face time, you gotsta work it. Even before the game, I was on his scent. A well-connected I-Funder helped in the tracking. “He’s in section 104. Find the most beautiful Israeli woman you’ve ever seen. Right next to her.”

Here, far too briefly, is what Deon had to say.

Dafna and Deon Thomas

Brandon Paul looked fine. He played 20 minutes, with no indication of favoring Saturday’s sprained ankle.

Raymond Doby (left) and Darius Austin

Cahokia High freshmen Raymond Doby and Darius Austin are already reaping rewards for being tall and good at basketball. They scored seats directly behind the Illini bench, for themselves and their families.

During a timeout, I was able to catch up with them on the preliminary stages of The Recruitment Drama.

Jereme Richmond earned his first career start. He brought energy and dynamism on offense, keeping the ball alive in numerous non-statistically calculable ways. His interior passing is just plain fun to watch, and desperately needed.

With 3:56 remaining in the game, Bruce Weber drew up — and the Illini players executed — a diagrammed inbounds play.

The Long Bench finally made its appearance against the running, pressing Tigers. Kevin Berardini and Jean Selus joined pine-buttocked Crandall Head and Joseph Bertrand on the floor long enough to be considered (though ultimately denied) a statistical acknowledgement of their existence.

The Mikes bounced back from a maligned performance at UIC. Davis had to hurry his shot, which is good. It goes in more often when he doesn’t have time to think about it.

I enjoyed watching him rebound, too. Whether they’re contested or meaningful, Mike’s rebounds come from good instincts. When a shot goes up, lots of players watch. Mike is already moving in for the rebound.

Tisdale grabbed 13 rebounds, which is great. The speed of the game caused him no problems. That’s notable, too.


The Braggin’ Rights stay in Missouri this year, and maybe for a long time to come.

Losing at St. Louis simply didn’t happen for most of a decade. Now Illinois holds a losing streak — on the season, and to its hated Confederate rival.

It may become a New Illini Tradition. Demetri McCamey won’t be around next year to fight single-handed through a full-court press.

Bruce Weber was pleased about a mere 13 Illini turnovers. But half-court passes to the other team were only one result of Missouri coach Mike Anderson’s 40-minute purgatory. The Illini offense managed nearly 28% accuracy from distance, and almost 39% overall.

I call that flustered.

I also suggest that fatigue cost the Illini at the end. Demetri McCamey gutted out 39 minutes. He didn’t complain.

Missouri didn’t press on every possession, but still, 39 minutes against the Tigers is more physically exhausting than 39 minutes against Wisconsin.

To the extent that Illinois handled the press, they never beat it. We never saw the run-and-gun dunking, ooping onslaught that breaking a press begets. Once Illinois passed the 10-second line, they ran halfcourt offense.

In short, Wayne McClain’s aspirations about tempo and strategy are working, but only in Columbia.

The Illini offense shows no signs of scouting. Its shortcomings manifest against zones and man, at all speeds of play. With the game tied and 6:31 to play, Bruce Weber called timeout. Whatever they talked about in the huddle, I doubt the plan featured McCamey heaving a desperation three-point airball as the shot clock expired.

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