Thursday, January 11, 2007

Too close for comfort but we'll take it

This is how I spell relief. Watching last night's game, I thought I was going to have to take some of those antacids and offer some to Coach Weber as well. Thankfully though, that was averted when the Illini prevailed over the visiting Hawkeyes. This was very much a team victory and it ended Illinois' three-game losing streak.

Randle and McBride snapped out of their slumps and were huge contributors in this victory. Randle had his best game in a long time and McBride shot very well from three-point range. With major contributions from Carter and Pruitt as well, it was enough for the victory. I also want to give credit to Brian Carlwell for his nice play coming off of the bench. I would like to see him as the first sub in for Pruitt. He is going to be someone Illini fans are really thankful to have on the team as he gets experience and matures these next couple of years.

Illinois really missed having Chester Frazier at the point last night. I think we saw how important he is to this team and the value he brings to the floor. He may not be a great shooter (although he is much improved in that area this year) but he runs the team well and is a solid assist guy. Trent Meacham is just not at the same level and did not play well last night. However, give him credit for hitting two clutch free throws that were desparately needed at the end of the game. We certainly need someone who can hit free throws because this team does not shoot them well and it may cost them some games if they can't improve. Iowa, on the other hand, doesn't seem to ever miss from the line, especially Haluska as he shoots 90% on his free throws.

Finally, I hope that Illinois studies the tape from the second half and learns two things:
1) The big guys inside can be a strength and they need to get the ball to them. Illinois shot way too many 3's and jump shots last night without ever throwing the ball inside or trying to penetrate. If you go inside first, the big guys have a chance to score or to kick it back out for a better outside shot. Relying too much on 3's and jump shots is going to kill you on bad shooting nights, as Illinois should have already learned.
2) This team must develop a killer instinct!!! They had this game under control and then almost lost it by letting Iowa back into the game in the final minutes. Keep the pressure on and don't let up until the clock reads zero!

Bonus thing to Learn: Stop fouling guys when they are shooting three point shots!!! McBride and Carter both did this last night and, especially as seniors, they should know better.

All in all, it was great to get the victory and now it is on to a tough road game at Michigan State on Sunday. The game begins at 12:30 central time. Please send your thanks to CBS for scheduling it during the Bears playoff game against the Seahawks. That's all for now. Until later, GO ILLINI!!!

P.S. Congrats to the University of Illinois-Chicago on their upset of 12th ranked Butler last night. Great win for them!

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