Thursday, January 13, 2005

Big 10 Victory # 3

What a great win--I love this team! In their 100th season of basketball, last night's 90-64 victory over Penn State not only tied the Flyin' Illini's school record for best start at 17-0 but also marked the Fighting Illini's 1500th victory as a program. They are now one of only 15 schools to have achieved this status.

In what is continuing to look like a very special season, the Illini put away a lesser opponent and continued to demonstrate how unselfish a team they have become. Their passing was outstanding as was their shooting. They set a school record by making 15 three point shots out of 34 (which tied the school record for three point shots taken).

The starters all played great. I have to give props to Luther Head and Coach Weber. Luther had a difficult year last year but I give him credit for turning things around and coming into this season focused and ready to be a senior leader. With 5 three's and 19 points, he continues to shine and is starting to get some national recognition. He has stepped up big time and played outstanding. Coach Weber deserves credit for sticking with him last season and helping him get to this point. Deron and Dee turned in very good games and Augie and Powell (talk about a dunk--foul call or no foul call, that was awesome) were solid as usual. I was pleased to see Nick Smith go 4 for 5 and gain some confidence in his shooting. He played some solid defense as well. It was also nice to see some of the less-used reserves get some playing time and experience.

There were three comments/quotes that came out of this game that I loved. The first was one mentioned by the announcers. They noted that according to Coach Weber, the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's, is that this year's team loves to get assists as much as they love to score. They compete for assists and that is reflected in the 20+ assists per game average. The second quote is also from Coach Weber: "I told them we don't want to lose any games. There's no need to learn from losses. We can learn watching other people lose." Sounds good to me! Check out Greg Couch's excellent article in the Chicago Sun-Times for more on Coach Weber's approach with his team this season.

The third and final quote comes from Deron Williams in reference to how the Illini have not celebrated their victory over then #1 Wake Forest, their rise to #1 in the rankings, or their 14-0 non-conference record. I nominate it for quote of the year (thus far):
"Only a national championship is something to celebrate. What do those victories mean if you're out in the first round of the NCAA tournament? Those kinds of wins are fool's gold. The great ones have them but what's next?" As I said, I love this team!

Next up: The Northwestern Mildcats (and a little payback for last year's visit to Evanston)

P.S. Go Vote. ESPN is currently taking a poll on "Who was the Big Man on campus for the 1st half of the season?" Illinois' own Deron Williams leads with 44.3% of the vote (out of 61,741 cast at the time of this posting)! LET'S KEEP HIM THERE--VOTE!!!

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