Thursday, February 07, 2008


This meeting between the Hoosiers and the Illini fit well into the ESPN hype around Rivalry Week. And it was much prettier than their first meeting -- though just as intense and exciting. Double overtime, clutch 3s by both teams, outstanding freshman play, painful freshman mistakes, missed free throws (and yes, the Hoosiers missed some, too), missed calls by the refs (these went both ways, too).

The Illini played a great game, even though they didn't close it out. As my mom said, "We can play with anybody, but we can't beat anybody."

McCamey had an incredible game. Chester played like a warrior. Pruitt played strong inside. Brock had key baskets and defensive plays. Randle played solid defense. And Jeff Jordan played a good game off the bench in overtimes when Chester couldn't go anymore. And as a team, they scored against a zone defense.

Of course, according to the talking heads at the Worldwide Leader, the real rivalry here was Gordon v. the Illini Nation he spurned for Sampson. I'm not sure I agree that was the story, (Pruitt v. White in the paint, anyone? What about Bobby and Lou, who both now can put their feet up to watch a game like this?) but it made for good TV. Yes, the teenager has a right to change his mind, but realize that we also have a right to despise him for it. Orange Krush was just as impressive as Demetri, with well coordinated taunts and boos. There's no question they rattled Gordon for at least 20 minutes, and at several points through the rest of the game. I don't think he enjoyed what is likely to be his only trip to Champaign. The atmosphere was fantastic -- and the Illini did everything to look great on national TV except close out the game.

I'm sure Shaun won't sleep well tonight, but the game wasn't just his to lose. I personally blame the clock, which just didn't wind down fast enough during the last 10 minutes of regulation. ;)

Despite solid defense on Gordon, the Hoosiers had too many open 3s. And it only would have helped the Illini to give Shaun the ball a bit more in the second half and the first overtime. He and White were well matched inside, but Shaun played well, and may have been able to give D.J. his fifth foul if he had gotten a few more opportunities.

It was our game to win, thanks in part to impressive 3-point shooting. Demetri actually reminded me a bit of an NBA point guard with one of the hottest teams in the West. (Yes, I think Deron should be an all-star, but I'm biased.) He was on, and the mix of driving, passing and shooting 3s was beautiful. Since he will stick around for a couple years, if he can progress to this level, he may be a better investment than the freshman point guard we thought we would have this season.

The game embodied rivalry. We should have won, no question, but our boys played their hearts out. Hang in there, boys...


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