By Paul M. Banks
When you read your recaps of and opinion columns relating to Illinois’ disappointing 73-68 loss to Northwestern, you might notice that all of them will be missing one thing: postgame reaction from the Illini players. Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber decided his players are not allowed to talk to the media for the time being and here’s why:
“The decision for the players not to talk to the media is mine. Because they don’t talk to each other. And there’s no way they should talk to you guys if they don’t talk to each other. I went into the locker room, and no one said a word. So until they start talking and taking leadership, they’re not talking to anyone else. I don’t know when it will end, I hope it will end soon. Somebody’s got to take this team and go with it, but right now it’s not happening,” Weber said.
Who knew that the loss of Chester Frazier to graduation would have such a negative impact on team chemistry and cohesion?
It was hard to think of a postgame press conference where Coach Weber appeared as upset as he did tonight during his 7 year tenure at UI. And for good reason, his Illini have been wildly erratic at best this season, seriously regressing at worst. And their third straight loss, a game in which they held an eight point lead at the gym of one of their conference rivals, SEVERELY damaged their NCAA chances. This was the first time this season (or in any season of recent memory) that players were explicitly made unavailable to the media.
So this is a big deal. There is some serious discontent in the Illini locker room right now. There is currently no bubbly in Champaign, IL.
So although there were no new quotes to be recorded for the purposes of publishing a new story, one could write a game recap from Evanston quite easily; by copying and pasting from numerous Illini games earlier this season.
“You can write the same story you guys have written countless times this season. We don’t get stops in the second half. I think they scored 14/16 times in one stretch. We don’t have a go-to-guy when it gets tough, and we don’t have the leadership we need.”
Time is running out to find answers to all three of those critical questions. Penn St. is up next, and they are a team that has truly had the Illini’s number in recent years.