Illini Fall on the Road to #4 Purdue, Damage NCAA Hopes?

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By Paul Schmidt

Was the game a must win for the Illini?  A road game against the number four team in the country? Probably not.

That’s what would have made winning the game all the more impressive.

The Illini hung tough, even leading for much of the game but fell short against Purdue at Mackey Arena, losing 75-65.

The loss drops the Illini to 17-10 overall and 9-5 in the Big Ten, and probably ends all talk of the Illini winning the regular season Big Ten title. They are in a tie for fourth with Wisconsin, and with three teams in front of them to pass, including Purdue (who holds all of the tie-breakers), it would seem like a pipe dream to wish for that title.

The Illini were led by Demetri McCamey, which you can file under business as usual for the Illini.  He finished with an unbelievably impressive 16 assists — tying the best mark in the nation this season —  dishing out an almost impossible 11 in the first half alone. Somehow, the Illini got no points from McCamey in the first half, instead getting points from literally everyone else on the court, with Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, DJ Richardson and even Brandon Paul all stepping up and hitting big shots.

As it turned out, the key play in the game for the Boilermakers was a simple mistake by freshman DJ Richardson. He overplayed an inbounds pass to E’Twaun Moore, who then drove by him and kicked to a wide-open Keaton Grant, who drained the three and gave the Boilers a 59-56 lead and the momentum they would need to bring home the win. They would never trail again.

It is also necessary to mention that, as Steve Lavin stated with two minutes left in the game, ‘Home court advantage was in effect,’ with the officials. Two awful calls went against the Illini with about three minutes left — a phantom moving screen call against Mike Davis where Chris Kramer flopped, and Bill Cole’s fifth foul, a block that was called a charge when Kramer did it twice earlier in the game.

What does this mean for the Illini’s tourney hopes?  Again, it wasn’t a win-or-go-home game for the Illini, as winning in a venue of this magnitude can’t honestly be expected of most teams. However, at some point, they have to earn some wins to offset those terrible early losses.

The losses to Georgia, Bradley and Utah, though all close games, were inexcusable — a good team has to eventually win those games in order to be a tourney team.  Since the Illini didn’t do it then, they have to — HAVE TO — find some quality wins now to offset those losses. The Wisconsin win was great, the Michigan State win good, but that probably, in the end, won’t be enough. The game at Value City Arena against Ohio State became all the more important as their last chance to put up an unexpected victory.

11-7 in the Big Ten is still easily possible, which would put them at 19-11 overall.  Enough to get in?  Hard to say. They would certainly be in the conversation for a berth, but that’s all that could be said for sure.

The problem is, can we expect anything of the Illini? All we know for sure is to expect the unexpected.

Comments

  1. Paul Schmidt says

    I know Banks is going to slam me for saying something about the two calls, but it took every bit of wind out of Illinois’ sails and ended any chance of a comeback. It was, in the flow of the game, two really important bang-bang calls, and since Lavin even mentioned it, well…I think I’m in the clear doing it. Right?

  2. yeah- I have to agree on those two calls- they were pretty shitty, and after it happened I just got this ugly feeling in my stomach that the game was over, I just knew.

  3. McCamey- SCHOOL RECORD FOR ASSISTS!!! Tying Tony Wysinger, who I have never heard of! surprised the school record doesn’t belong to one of the following Deron, Dee, Bruce Douglas, Frank Williams or Derek Harper

  4. Enjoyed Lav’s “Demetri McCamey, wheeling and dealing like a dealer in Vegas” comment today.

    I don’t know what to make of Minnesota blowing out Wisconsin at home on Thursday, even though they have Leuer back now. Does this mean the Minn game at home will be harder, or the senior day game vs. wisco much easier?

    How hard would it be to win 3/4?

  5. Paul Schmidt says

    I don’t know, honestly…that game was really weird. Minnesota frightens me now because of Tubby, more than anything, and I think that any game against them will be tough. I also don’t think any game against Wisconsin could be termed as easy. We could be in a position to actually lose out, though, and that would DEFINITELY keep the Illini out of the tournament. We wouldn’t have to sweat out selection Sunday then, lol.

  6. that Minnesota game is HUGE now…. not a must-win either, but pretty damn close… the Illini need to find another option on offense besides the McCamey/Tisdale pick and pop they run EVERY time down the floor…

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