Illinois Wins ‘Typical Big Ten Game’ Against Wisconsin



“I thought it was a typical Big Ten Game against Wisconsin,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “You have to have the right mindset and understand your opponent and understand they are going to keep playing and they don’t get rattled. We’d go on a run and they would calmly walk to the huddle. They come out, they make plays…You’re not going to put a Bo Ryan team away.”

That was how Weber succinctly wrapped up the Illini’s 69-61 win against the Badgers on Sunday night in front of a sometimes-lackluster sell out crowd at Assembly Hall in Champaign.

Though the Illini at times dominated the game, it was their inability to put their opponents away that again dominated the thoughts of many after the game — even if Weber would like to say that it was the talent and poise of the Badgers that allowed that to happen.

By Paul Schmidt

It is always an adventure for the Illini against Wisconsin and their “Swing” offense, but they were really in full effect on Sunday night, launching up an uncharacteristic 35-three pointers and only sinking 10 of them, but still showing good patience with the basketball as well as taking care of it (the Badgers only turned it over an absurd 3 times).

However, there were a couple of things to take away from the post-game presser, and those came courtesy of Bruce Weber.

If it looked as though the Illini were getting to the hole more in the game, and specifically Demetri McCamey, that’s because they were.

It seemed like they were all able to get by any of the Badgers defenders, but Bruce had a great story as to why McCamey in particular was looking for the drive.

“He came back from Christmas, and he announced to the team that he’s got to get to the basket and the free throw line more, that someone at Christmas dinner had told him that,” Weber said.

“Well, I’ve been telling him that for three years, three and a half years, you guys have been telling him, the fans have been telling him, and someone at Christmas dinner finally got to him.”

After the laughter in the room subsided, Bruce added a fairly salient point.

“If he starts doing that, it will definitely help us, there’s no doubt about that,” Weber added. “We actually got more free throws than they did, so that’s a positive.”

As for keeping the boot on the throat of your opponents, Weber has a theory on that one too.

“You’re not going to have success against Wisconsin unless you move the basketball, and I thought the only time we struggled was when we kind of stood around when we got the lead,” Weber said. “We just don’t do a good job of continuing attacking with smartness. Hopefully that’s something we can learn as we go on.”

The most revealing quotes from Weber came from being able to keep the team motivated and moving forward, and presented, surprisingly, a reversal from last year’s team.

“I learned something myself, and it’s that I can’t let up on these guys,” Weber said. “I have to throw chairs, I have to yell at them, and do stupid stuff. I don’t hate that, but…I learned you can’t be nice to them. You guys can tell me that I’m not nice to Demetri, but you can’t be. He just doesn’t deal with it very well.

“I think our whole team, I think they think we arrived after Gonzaga, and they didn’t want to listen,” Weber continued. “I was just hoping that it would pass, but it didn’t pass — It got worse. Then I think, obviously, there was a disturbing loss and then a hard loss, and they just started listening better. And I learned something too on just how you have too deal with this team…you just learn about your guys.”

Candid and interesting quotes from Weber on the team, for certain, but it brings together the larger issue that the Illini continue to be a team that has trouble not only self-motivating, but keeping their heads in the game. The squad has “Champagne wishes and Caviar dreams,” to quote Robin Leach, but can’t allow themselves to get confident because they easily get too OVER-confident.

It’s a strange combination that the Illini — And Bruce Weber — will have to manage throughout the Big Ten season.


  1. Nick Grays says

    Another missed opportunity for the Badgers to get a quality road win. They did win at Marquette, but it really depends where they finish in the Big East. Not a big deal as they will have many other chances in the Big Ten.

    I am concerned about the Badgers and the three-point shot. While they do take care of the ball extremely well (5 turnovers in their last two games), they can’t rely merely on the three-pointer with the size they have.

    When it comes to the Fighting Illini, they look like a quality team which needs to find that killer instinct. They really should have won this game by eight or ten moe points.

  2. paulmbanks says

    I agree, that seems to be a re-occuring theme with this bunch; never able to step on anyone’s throats. McCamey is obviously the leader, and he takes over when neccessary. but there’s no bonafide second option, other than maybe DJ Richardson. With a genuine second and third banana, they could more easily start putting people away

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