By Paul Schmidt
Hello sports fans, and welcome to part of ESPN’s 24-hour Tipoff, sponsored by Valtrex, because if you’ve got genital warts, you can’t watch college basketball!
OK, I made that up. At least the last part.
But I am live at the Ass. Hall, bringing exciting Illinois basketball action to you, as they take on the overmatched Northern Illinois Huskies, which will be their official name tonight. You can see the action live on…uhhh….ESPN360.com. Ummm…yeah.
Check in here for all the game updates!
19:50 left 1st half
Demetri McCamey hits his first shot off the tip, while being guarded by someone I saw play high school basketball at Seton Academy in South Holland, IL less than 12 months ago…by the way, that’s not a good sign for the Huskies tonight.
18:00 left 1st half
Brandon Paul for three! He is silky, silky smooth on that long jumper. I am thinking we’ll be saying that a lot this season.
16:39 left first half
Another Brandon Paul three and it’s 9-6 Illini early. The bigger problem that I see is that right now the Illini look fairly disorganized on the court. Also, there have now been six total team fouls by both teams before the first TV timeout at 16:00….
15:54 left first half
My man-crush just hit a really nice basket, Dominique Keller, and gets the and-1 after the timeout. Keller and Alex Legion were the first off the bench for the excessively deep Illini, in an ongoing battle for who gets minutes. Interestingly, both freshmen Paul and D. J. Richardson were in the starting lineup for this one. Just how far can a team starting two freshman swingmen go in the deep and experienced Big Ten?
15:36 left first half
Remember when I made fun of Tony Nixon, from Seton Academy? Yeah, he just drained a three. Should have seen that coming…Also, overmatched Northern Illinois has no one to defend Keller. He’s too big and fast for their post guys, and he’s just pushing their guards around.
Also, Illinois is in the bonus on the next Northern foul…
13:45 left first half
Another Brandon Paul three is answered by ANOTHER Tony Nixon three, this after he blew by three Illini and made a nifty little scoop shot. Illinois still only leads by two, as they can’t seem to defend Nixon well, or at all. I would assume that doesn’t bode well for the season.
11:53 left first half
ANOTHER Brandon Paul three, and he’s clearly feeling it on the court right now, with 14 of the Illini’s first 21 points. Mike Davis has zero shot attempts thusfar, which is probably not the way Bruce Weber wants his team to run their offense. Still, you can’t complain when someone is as hot as Paul has been early in this game.
10:42 left first half
Double foul on Sean Kowal and Mike Tisdale…they are pushing eachother a lot in the post. At least, it looks like it. I will again say that’s probably bad for the Illini. Davis finally hits on his first attempt — I’d missed seeing him shoot that little 12-footer from the wing! Damn, it feels good to be seeing college basketball again!! Also, before I forget, that double-foul put the Illini in the double bonus…yikes for the overmatched Huskies…
10:00 left first half
Illinois just extended to a 27-20 lead here in the first half with a Demitri McCamey steal and then a great pass back to Davis for a big dunk that caused the overmatched Huskies to use a 30-second time out. Also…the Illini are on pace for 108 points. I don’t recall them scoring that many points. Ever. This might be a new day for Illinois basketball this season.
7:29 left first half
Illinois now is up by double digits for the first time in the game, extending their lead to 34-22. Defensively, they have been underwhelming, but their offense is looking very, very good. If anyone was doubting McCamey’s ability to run the point, don’t. He seems perfectly content to take a back seat in scoring and to just run the offense. So far, he has been the most impressive part of the offense, taking shots when he needs to, distributing the ball the rest of the time.
7:06 left first half
Tyler Griffey was the least-heralded of these Illini freshmen, but he just gave the Illini 5 or 6 great minutes off the bench, scoring 6 points and grabbing a couple of boards. If he can give the team that in the post every night while Davis or Tisdale rest, he will be invaluable to the Illini this season.
Now…he needs to bulk up, because he looks like a freshman. But they aren’t asking him to play 30 minutes a night, either.
3:45 left first half
The Orange Krush is definitely shaking off some rust, and there’s only about 12K here tonight…but they are lobbing a ridiculous amount of boos and taunts at Northern point guard Mike DiNunno. And I can honestly say I don’t know why.
Brandon Paul is making this look easy tonight, as he just grabbed a rebound and put it back through over DiNunno for his 20th point of the first half. He and Richardson (though he isn’t scoring much) have been VERY impressive in this first half.
HALF, Illinois 49, Northern Illinois 41
WOW. Well things took a turn there. With under 4 minutes left, Illinois led by 18, and with under two minutes, they led by 15. They got lazy on offense, and looked the same on defense. What it basically looks like they lost some intensity and focus, and that completely changed the complexion of the game. Also, it looked like Weber fiddled with the lineup some and that that affected a lot of the continuity on the court, although you can’t balme him for wanting to get some of the other guards like Legion and Richardson some time at the point.
18:20 left second half
This one is getting interesting, as the Huskies just cut it to a three point game now out of the gate. Bruce Weber is yelling push it a lot. That’s going to be the key, as the Illini can out-athlete these guys if they could avoid playing sloppy.
Also, Mike Tisdale hasn’t broken double-digit minutes yet in this game because of foul trouble. He got two early in the first half, and just picked up his third moments ago.
15:01 left second half
Just heard Jerrance Howard yelling about something at someone (maybe he wants a hotdog or something), all the while we have our first replay of the season, with an over turn and everything. Plus, we just had our second medical emergency of the game in the stands…just all kinds of weird going on right now htat have nothing to do with basketball.
Also, in a related story, the second half has started off slowly in terms of basketball…
12:53 left second half
Nice passing there by the Illini as they worked the length of the court without dribbling, ending in a Tyler Griffey dunk. He’s looking really impressive in some extended minutes because of Tisdale and foul trouble. Makes you feel good about his prospects for the season, even if it is against sorta-overmatched Northern Illinois.
Did I mention that this was an Northern Illinois team that lost by 22 last week to Northwestern, who was playing without their best player, Kevin Coble? Parts of this game may not reflect well on the Illini.
10:06 left second half
Nice little run by the Illini to get the lead back to double-digits, and now Mike Tisdale goes to the line, and he hits the first. That’s only notable because that would be his first point of the game. Whatever is worse than underwhelming is what Tis has done this game.
6:30 left second half
Every time the Illini pull away, they let Northern back into it. I stress that I phrased that correctly, because they get up by that then commit poor turnovers or take bad shots and allow the Huskies a little bit of momentum. Just moments ago, the Illini were up 17 with the ball, but it’s now a 12 point game, with Northern having possession. I fear that the defense this season is going to haunt me as much as the offense did last year.
5:49 left second half
Illinois leads 71-59 after two Demitri McCamey FTs, giving him 10 points on the game. He got to the line on a nice slash to the hoop after a miss of a long three, which Mike Davis was able to rebound.
I mention all of this because Davis right now has 16 rebounds, with 5:24 left in the game…
4:51 left second half
Northern Illinois wing Michael Fakuade just fouled out…and the Krush couldn’t execute on the “Left, Right….SIT DOWN” chant. Definitely a rough night for them, hope to see more in the future, there’s a lot to build on….
3:57 left second half
Some other fun scores from around the country…get ready for all of the Big Ten is overrated talk, as Gonzaga is currently up 2 with 3:40 left in the second half at the Breslin Center. Michigan State has only led twice in the game for roughly a minute of game time…and Bruce Pearl REALLY wanted his 100th win tonight as they nearly beat UNC-Asheville by 80. And that’s not a typo. Also, Bruce Pearl is a douche.
3:18 left second half
And just like that the Illini are up 19 points, 78-59, and Mike Tisdale has 10 points. Nice second half for him. Mike Davis is also closing in on 20 (!!!!) rebounds.
2:00 left second half
The Illini are in the four corners offense, and this one is pretty much over. More from the post-game presser, with some final thoughts from me, the team, and Bruce Weber. Til then….
Illinois 80, Northern Illinois 61
Lots of good, lots of bad from the game. Brandon Paul finished with a game-high 20 points, but he scored all of them in the first half. Mike Davis was pretty outstanding all game long in the post, posting his second double-double of the season with 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. The bench was outstanding, as well, contributing 21 points. Demitri McCamey is adjusting quite well to his new role, too, scoring 10 points and dishing out 8 assists.
Some thoughts from the players….
Brandon Paul, shooting the ball well in the first half, but for some reason not in the second: “In the first half, we came out with a lot of excitement, and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball. I don’t really know what happened in the second half other than it wasn’t going in. But I tried to focus a little bit more on the defensive end.”
Mike Davis on why he was so successful on the glass: “Just boxing out really. I knew they were going to shoot alot of threes, and jack it really quick. I tried to get in position and just know where the ball was going to be coming off the rim. I did a good job of that.”
Demitri McCamey on the offense coming together with new parts and everyone adjusting to new roles: “I think we’re gelling pretty fine. It’s like I said last week, you never know who is going to score, whether it’s me, Mike Davis, Brandon, D. J., Alex…we’ve got a lot of guys that can score, so different nights, it’s different people. As long as we’re happy, and winning basketball games, we all don’t have to go out there and score. Everyone will be gelling, and we’ll all be on one page.”
Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton’s opening comments: “Hope the roads are clear, I’m ready to get home…This Big Ten trip hasn’t been a lot of fun, but I think it’s been a great experience for our players.”
Bruce Weber on whether or not he wants to run the half-court offense more, or keep pushing the ball in transition: “I want to run; that’s our strength, our athleticism. Demitri’s learning to push it. Last year, when I wouldn’t run, that’s all I heard was, ‘Why don’t you run??’ So now we’re running. But we also have to get better in the half-court. Because anyone who knows basketball, whether it’s the NBA or the college game, you’re going to have to, somewhere, score in the half-court. We’re going to have to get better at that. We have seven or eight plays that we just put in to the offense, and I really don’t want to use them, to be honest, right now, and I want them to learn how to make plays together.
We called some things, some ball screens, during time outs, and some different actions, but I want…my goal is to get them to play and be smart and move the ball, and get open on their own. I thought Demitri cut without the basketball as well as he’s done since he got here. Just pass, cut through the defense, come off a tight curl and hit a jumper…next time, he’d dish it to somebody…and the next time he’d penetrate and kick it to somebody…you know, that’s what he’s gotta be. He’s gotta be a little more than one-dimensional with the ball. He’s gotta learn to play without the ball. A lot of our guys are like that.”