Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beautifully Ugly

The Indiana game had everything you could ask for in a heated Big Ten rivalry (except the Illini W). Intense emotion. Questionable calls. Heated exchanges with refs. Tough defense. Frustrated stars. A bit of sloppiness that added fuel to the fire. Unexpected contributors. A few good battles for lose balls. Charges. Technicals. It was a classic, ugly, Big Ten basketball game/boxing match between teams that "don't like each other very much." Good stuff.

If the Hoosiers have been paying attention (and you know they have), they know Illinois is down this year. Many experts expected a different kind of ugly game -- a lopsided victory by a ranked team with a one-year wonder against a solid defensive team that struggles to score.

But what the Illini served up on national TV proved that every game is played because anything can happen. Calvin Brock and Brian Randle combined for great defense on the Hoosiers leading freshman scorer (E something or other, I think). McCamey proved to be a very capable ball handler with Chester out with a rib cage injury. Pruitt battled D.J. White in the paint. Trent did his best to wear out the freshman guarding him, and made key baskets. The extra pass provided more than one great shot. The Illini fought hard -- and well -- with a respectable shooting percentage. Yes, a few more free throws would have helped, but we were still in the game at the end.

With the exception of the typical few-minute drought halfway through the second half that allows our opponenets to build a slight lead, I like what I've seen from the Illini during the Big Ten season, especially on the road. Madison and Bloomington are not easy places to play, but the Illini have showed up and played hard. They've given us ugly, physical, classic Big Ten basketball. Yes, wins would be even better, but it's still beautiful.

Go Illini!


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