Illinois 81, Iowa 68: Rapid Reaction

Illinois basketball

It was a college basketball game that highlighted one of the main reoccurring themes of the Illinois Fighting Illini season. Every time they had a big lead, they just couldn’t find a way to step on their opponents’ throat.

The “killer instinct,” or “closing speed” just was not there. It seemed like every time they went up 15, the margin was back to five or less before you knew it.

The 81-68 Illini win certainly was a game of runs in the first half as the Illini 10-0, then Iowa went  11-1, followed by ILL 16-2, then Iowa 11-5 over the final five minutes to close half.

And up until the 6:02 mark in the second half, when Demetri McCamey hit a dagger to put the Illini up 17, this Big Ten brawl constantly shifted back and forth between non-contest and close game.

By Paul M. Banks

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Five Worst Moments of the 2010-11 Illini Hoops Season

Bruce Weber Illinois

The Illinois Fighting Illini came into this year with across-the-board top 15 preseason national rankings. Yet here they are receiving no votes at all (deservedly so) in either poll for the past few weeks, under .500 in conference, and squarely on the NCAA bubble.

In other words, grossly underachieving and not even remotely close to meeting expectations. And it’s not just this year’s expectations. The current nucleus (Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Demetri McCamey) have been starting for three straight years. So one would expect them to peak this season…so much for that! Throw in a recruiting class that was highly regarded on a national college basketball level, and this WAS the year Illini fans have been looking to since 2008.

Kind of depressing isn’t it? Go here for more on that. It’s a very emotional description of how soul-sucking this season has been for the Illini fan base. What follows is a more anecdotal and objective description of the same soul-sucking season from hell.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini Crush Penn State, McCamey’s Final Battle with Talor

Two all-star senior point guards meeting for the final time…unless of course they square off in the Big Ten Tournament. But during the four years that Demetri McCamey manned the one for the Illini, and Talor Battle served in the same role for the Nittany Lions, Battle won the war 5-4. This is a substantial aberration, because Illinois has an all-time 22-10 advantage in the series versus  their Big ten rival, if you subtract the last four years.

Both point guards know what it’s like to shoulder an enormous burden on their teams. Especially in 2009-10, these guys were their teams, as Battle led PSU in scoring, rebounding, assists, minutes and steals. Last year McCamey scored or assisted on an exceedingly high and somewhat disturbing percentage of the Illini scoring.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini DJ Richardson’s AWESOME Trick Shot! Sportscenter top Video!

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Last night, the Illinois Fighting Illini absolutely mangled the Northwestern Wildcats in a game that was decided minutes after the tip. The Illini shot the lights out from both inside and outside the arc. But that was nothing compared to this trick shot Illinois sophomore guard D.J. Richardson hit from the concourse in between the A and B sections of Assembly Hall.

It’s really like those old Michael Jordan-Larry Bird commercials “off the scoreboard, off the floor, nothing but net,” and it needs to be seen to be believed. And it made Sportcenter’s top plays last night. (Deservedly so)

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Illini Basketball Weaknesses: Zones, Neutral Courts, and Complacency

bruce weber demetri mccamey

It’s certainly nice that Illini basketball has started 2-0 in Big Ten play. It’s a lot better than  0-2.

Their win yesterday over Wisconsin was just the second time they’ve beaten a ranked opponent in ’10-’11. (Gonzaga, exactly like the Badgers, were ranked #24 in the coaches poll, receiving votes in the AP). It was a good win, and the Illini do have a couple decent wins this season, but their overall body of college basketball work has still revealed three red flags which could lead to big trouble.

One issue is internal, the other a natural part of the game and the third a strategy their opponents may choose to implement against them.

By Paul M. Banks

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Kendall Gill on McCamey, Deron, Richmond and all Things Illini

kendall gill illinois

Everyone here knows Kendall Cedric Gill, retired NBA player, now professional boxer and analyst for Comcast Sports Net and the Big Ten Network.

The ex-Chicago Bulls player and current Bulls expert for CSN starred at suburban Rich South before taking his talents to Champaign-Urbana for the “Flyin’ Illini” of the late 80s, earning a Final Four berth in 1989. He’s quintessentially Chicago basketball through and through.

I had an exclusive with Gill this off-season. For part one on Bulls insights go here. For part two, discussing the 2010-11 Fighting Illini go here. Welcome to part three, discussing the past, present and future Illini

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Kendall Gill Optimistic About his Alma Mater (Illini) Chances

kendall gill illinois

Everyone here knows Kendall Cedric Gill, retired NBA player, now professional boxer and analyst for Comcast Sports Net and the Big Ten Network.

The ex-Chicago Bulls player and current Bulls expert for CSN starred at suburban Rich South before taking his talents to Champaign-Urbana for the “Flyin’ Illini” of the late 80s, earning a Final Four berth in 1989. He’s quintessentially Chicago basketball through and through.

I had an exclusive with Gill this off-season. For part one on Bulls insights go here.

Welcome to part two, discussing the 2010-11 Fighting Illini.

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D.J. Richardson, Illini Need to Bring More Defense to the Table

dj_richardson

As you might have noticed Thursday night, given you watched the #13 Illinois Fighting Illini in their 90-84 OT loss to #22 Texas in the 2K Challenge college basketball tournament benfitting Coaches vs. Cancer, Illinois has some problems stopping people.

Sure the Longhorns went seven minutes without a field goal down the stretch, but that was more due to leading scorer Jordan Hamilton being benched with four fouls than anything Illinois did right. Giving up 45 points in the first half, and letting the Horns hook ’em in the first couple overtime minutes is not what a top 15 team does.

Head Coach Bruce Weber has said repeatedly this team will be as good as they defend, and as good as their seniors. So far the Mike and Mike Show (Tisdale and Davis) haven’t locked-down on the defensive side. Weber has said Davis must be a defensive stopper. He’s also said sophomore guard D.J. Richardson, the Big Ten Freshman of the year, is the team’s best defender.

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Illinois Hunt Down Salukis in Spirited Rivalry Game

bruce weber demetri mccamey

After a football game that nearly defied all description, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber knew it was important for the Illini basketball team to get out fast.

“I did bring up the football game in the shootaround — you just never know and you gotta be ready to play,” Weber said.

“When you are winning you’ve got to keep pouring it on. One of the things we weren’t that good at last year was building and extending leads and putting teams away.  We had a saying this summer that you don’t ever take any prisoners, you don’t let up. And the way we’re playing right now we are doing just that.”

It was that relentless style that led the Illini to build a 31 point lead on the way to their 85-63 win over Southern Illinois Saturday night.

By Paul Schmidt

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