Thursday, February 24, 2005


What an impressive display put on by the Fighting Illini in their 84-48 demolishing of the Northwestern Mildcats. I am not sure words can do justice to the performance they put on last night. It is one of the best all around games the Illini have played for some time. Crisp passing, outstanding shooting, and smothering defense. I know they will face tougher competition in the NCAA tournament, but if they play like last night, they will be cutting down the nets in St. Louis. We haven't mentioned his name much on the blog, but Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune deserves credit for the column of the day about the Fighting Illini's performance.

Dee Brown is making a strong end of the year push to be the Big 10's MVP. 22 points on 6 of 8 shooting from 3-point land. That makes 57 points on 21 of 32 shooting in his last 3 games. Great games as well from Powell, Head, and Williams. Ingram and Warren Carter were also strong off the bench. Carter is going to be a player to watch over the next couple years if he can continue to develop. He reminds me a lot of Scottie Pippen in terms of his size and wingspan. One concern continues to be the shooting slump of Rich McBride. Hopefully the week off will help him get his legs back as well as some confidence. His ability to hit the 3 when giving the other guards a break is going to be important in the tournament.

A couple last things to comment on as we wrap up this post. First, I really like the fact that Coach Weber and the players chose not to celebrate clinching a tie for the conference title. They are focused on their goals of winning it outright, winning the Big 10 Tournament, and becoming national champions. Hopefully, they will be able to celebrate the regular season conference title on senior night next Thursday.

Second, the Illini now have 8 days before their next game, including no practice this Saturday and Sunday. Some people might wonder if this is a good thing. I think it is a great thing. It gives them a chance to work on some things in practice and to get some rest both physically and mentally. Even though the Illini have been extremely healthy this year (knock on wood), the starters (especially the guards) have logged a lot of minutes and it is a long season. This should be a good chance for the bumps, buises, and sore muscles to heal. Just as important, they are now able to take a mental break after a grueling stretch. This should enable them to be fresh for the remainder of the season and the tournament. It is extremely rare to get this type of a break this late in the season, but things just keep going right and falling into place for this team. They should be fresh and ready to go come tournament time.

For additional coverage of last night's game, check out the following:

"Doin' the title wave"--Chicago Tribune

"A grilling win for Illinois"--Chicago Sun-Times

Illini make it perfectly clear: 11 victories to go--Chicago Sun-Times

For a little bit different take on the game, check out Greg Couch of the Sun-Times

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