By Paul Schmidt
It isn’t like anyone expected the Illini to lose. Still, their 88-53 win over Western Michigan a lot of positives can be taken.
It took forever for the Illini to get going (the teams combined to shoot 1-for-17 over the first 5:30 of the game), but once they got going, Illinois cruised to the easy win over their over-matched MAC opponent. After the slow start, the Illini nearly shot 50% from the field which allowed them to easily put the Broncos and David Kool — the nation’s ninth leading scorer at 23 points a game coming into the contest.
“Offensively we bring a lot to the table,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “We have a lot of people who can contribute offensively and today we saw a lot of those people doing that for us today.”
TSB man-crush Dominique Keller led a diverse Illini attack off the bench with 15 points, proving again why he is the best college basketball player in America today. Or a great contributor off of the bench, one of the two.
But this itself was the reason to be encouraged about the Illini effort. Keller led the Illini in scoring, Mike Davis put up another double-double (12 points and 10 rebounds), Jeff Jordan led the team in assists with 7 and 11 different Illini scored in all.
Most important of all, the Illini got up early, put the boot on the throat of the Broncos, and never let up.
That’s been a problem of the 09-10 Illini thus far, their inability to put an opponent away. Whether it has been a bad half needing a massive comeback, or just letting an inferior opponent hang around like against Northern Illinois, Boise State and even Vanderbilt earlier this week, the Illini had yet to put together a complete game.
With three road games out of the next four — the only home game being against Northwestern, signaling the start of the Big Ten season — it’s important that the Illini finally start playing up to their immense potential.
It seems today is the day it finally has happened. Should the Illini make a run through the Big Ten, and deep into the NCAA tournament, remember Sunday, December 13th, 2009.