Thursday, January 27, 2005

No Crow for Good Hope Orange

Ah yes, how sweet it is. 20-0 with Tuesday's 10 point win over the Wisconsin Badgers. Many people were surprised at my decision to predict an Illini victory on Illinitalk before Tuesday's game in Madison. I think even Chief was a little nervous and surprised about it but as he said, "I figured you knew what you wer talking about." For anyone who was thawing out the crow and getting ready to cook it up for me to eat, put it back in the freezer for another time!

What a great win. This was big, big, big, big, BIG!!! Going on the road into a very hostile environment and coming out with a victory once again shows the ability and fortitude this team has. Going into this game, there were still some skeptics who wondered if this team was for real and this should put to rest many of their doubts. There are still a lot of games, including some very tough ones, that lie ahead for this team, but this was an important conference road win. As Coach Weber stated, there may not be anyone else in the conference who can come in and beat Wisconsin on their home floor.

The Illini weathered a hot-shooting Wisconsin team and a raucous crowd to pull this one out. Here are the numbers that tell the story: 27-8 is how much the Illini outscored the Badgers by in the last 10:19. 14-1 is how much the Illini outscored the Badgers by in the last 4:34. 2 for 2 is Jack Ingram's 3 pt. field goal attempts and makes. 17 for 20 vs. 5 for 12 is the free throw comparison. Illinois converted 85% of their free throws compared to 41.7% for Wisconsin (And no complaints from Badger fans about the free throw disparity. Each team had a total of 15 fouls called on them. The Badgers just managed to foul more while Illinois was in the process of shooting plus the Illini made the front ends of their 1 and 1's while the Badgers missed some of theirs).

Illinois showed a lot of mettle in this game. There was a very frustrating sequence during the second half when Dee stole the ball, then had his layup blocked, followed by Wisconsin getting a layup at the other end. Right after that, Deron threw the ball away on an attempted pass inside, and at about the same time Wisconsin had their biggest lead of the game at 8. You could tell that if the game was going to slip away from the Illini's grasp, this is when it was going to happen.

To Dick Vitale's credit, he didn't immediately jump on the Badger bandwagon. Instead he said, "Don't go away. Illinois won't quit." But more on Dickie V. later.
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However, coming out of a timeout, something changed in the Illini. They clamped down on defense and starting passing the ball on offense like they had been doing almost all season but did not do early in this game. It was then, that they began to battle back and eventually pull ahead to stay. In the past, this game may have gotten away from them and become a blowout but that didn't occur with this team. They are a veteran team with too much pride and experience to let that happen. Props especially to Jack Ingram, Luther Head, Deron Williams, and James Augustine during that stretch when Illinois refused to go away. I can't say enough about how important Luther has been to this team all year and I continue to be impressed at how different players, such as Jack, step up each game.

Great job by the team and now its time to prepare for Minnesota on Saturday before a big road game at Michigan State next Tuesday.

--Thanks to all our readers for your patience. Chief and I both have our "day" jobs so while Illinitalk is a passion of ours, sometimes it takes a little longer than we would like to get our posts up, even after big wins like Tuesday.

--Chief pointed it out earlier but as he said, "And then there were two." Losing at Cameron Indoor Stadium to a Maryland team that is down compared to previous years? With what Duke has coming up on their schedule, that is a bad, bad loss. Bye-bye Duke and let me echo Chief's thoughts that Maryland fans need to get a life and mature a little bit. P.S. It was also enjoyable to see J.J. Redick have 8 turnovers including two within a few seconds in the final minutes of the game. Illinitalk can't stand that guy!

--Assuming Illinois wins on Saturday, they should now be a UNANIMOUS #1 in the AP Poll, just as they are in the ESPN/USA Today Poll. If they are not, the writer(s) who do not vote for them should have their votes taken away and they should be sent to a corner with a dunce cap to think about what they did.

--Dick Vitale has to be in mourning after his beloved Dukies lost last night so I don't want to beat him up to bad, especially as he has finally started to give the Illini some love. However, I have to say one thing. Every Tuesday, the ESPN national morning radio show with Mike and Mike has an award called the "Just Shut Up Award." This is normally given for an outrageous comment or act done by a figure in the world of sports. However, this week I would like to see them make an exception and nominate Dickie V. purely for the volume (both quantity and loudness) of what he said during the Wisconsin game. It's not that it was outrageous, it was just too much! There were times I could barely concentrate on the game. There are times when you need to just watch the game and let the viewer enjoy it. So this week, Mike and Mike please give everyone the opportunity to vote for Dick Vitale to "Just Shut Up."

--While I am not sure that I agree with everything in the column, Mike Imren from the Daily Herald, has an interesting take on the Illini win against Wisconsin. Some points to ponder. Read it here.

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