Smile Politely

Wisky on the Rocks

I waited in the tunnel after Saturday’s 64–57 Illini win over Wisconsin. I wanted to know how the Badgers’ Marcus Landry felt about Mike Davis’ defensive effort. Davis is not known for his defense, but he stuck with Landry.

Wisconsin basketball Sports Information Director Patrick Herb had indicated that Landry would be available for a few words. But by the time Landry made it out of the locker room, he could barely speak. His heart had sunk so low in his chest, it seemed to smother his diaphragm. It was all he could do to breathe, much less gab.

(Listen to Rob interview Marcus Landry.)

What’s more, he didn’t really understand the significance of my question. I wanted to know whether he was surprised that Davis got the assignment. He said they play the same position, so it’s only natural.

Marcus Landry takes one on the chin.

But that’s not the whole story. Because of the match-ups, Illini guard Trent Meacham was destined to defend someone bigger than himself. I would have thought Meacham would get Landry, considered a more dynamic scorer than Joe Krabbenhoft. But it was Davis who got Landry. And he stuck right with him. What’s more, Landry himself is reputed to be a great defender, a complete player. At halftime, Davis had outscored and outrebounded Landry. For the game, Davis beat Landry on the boards eight to one.

In all, Landry scored 13, but six of them came in a spurt at the 12-minute mark of the second half. During that minute, Landry was defended by Dominique Keller, Mike Tisdale and Davis. Three different defenders, and three different exploited weaknesses. It shows that Landry is smart, but it also shows that Illinois was in the middle of making some adjustments. For the rest of the game, the Illini pretty much shut Landry down. Krabbenhoft, not surprisingly, wound up leading the Badgers with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Someone should point this out to the coaching staff, because in the postgame, it seemed as though Bruce Weber thought Tisdale had drawn the Landry assignment.


Bo Ryan got a technical foul based on merit alone. I heard nothing leading up to the whistle.

”I have no idea why,” he said. “I was applauding Joe for taking the charge. I think there were some other people that thought he might be taking the charge on that, too. But there’s only one opinion that matters.”

Big-bottomed Big Ten referee Ted Valentine sees red when he sees coaches wearing red. Valentine was the ref who ejected Bobby Knight in that highly satisfying Illini road victory, at Bloomington, in 1998.


Ted Valentine moves like a full-figured ballerina.

Like other showboating referees, Valentine has his own series of dance steps. In fact, I would even say “prance” steps. It’s charmingly effeminate for a guy who’s repeatedly shown willingness to take on bullies.

Bo was fairly low key throughout the actual contest, whatever his reputation. In his press conference, he displayed some umbrage towards Herb Gould for asking trite questions. But he maintained his characterisitc wit. Frankly, I like Bo Ryan. I like Wisky. And although I’m not so keen on the brutish, alcohol-drenched Kevin Gullickson, I like whisky, too.

As Marcus Landry moped off toward the waiting team bus, I told him I thought they’d be fine. Keep his head up, and bad luck on February 5 — that got a smile out of him.


Contrast that to the vibe at Illinois. The mood is light around the Ubben these days. At Thursday’s pre-Wisconsin media availability, a handful of news guys waited around for boring sports quotes. Illini press corps doyen Loren Tate gripped his voice recorder and told Illinois basketball Sports Information Director Derrick Burson, “I just need to get one of these guys alone, by himself, just for a couple of minutes.”

Burson deadpanned: “You know, if I tell them that, it’s going to make them very uncomfortable.”

Everyone burst out laughing.


ABOVE: I wonder whether Cory Holding has ever seen the Mary Tyler Moore show.

BELOW: Ann Swearingen received the scarf from her daughter-in-law, Julie.

BELOW: Damon and Darla Hackleman got team bench tickets, as part of a charity package during last year’s American Heart Association Ball. Unfortunately, snacks were not included in the deal. So Damon had to fend for himself.

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