Thursday, February 26, 2009


Dis one vas all about defense. Dere was de fence around de basket (the Illini and Gophers combined for 70 missed shots), de fence around de ballhandlers (19 turnovers and 8 steals for Minnesota; 13 turnovers and 11 steals for Illinois), de fence around de paint -- at least for de home team (the Illini were out-rebounded 37-25, and the Gophers had 15 offensive rebounds), and de fence named Chester (4 steals and a block according to the box score, but many impressive defensive plays on taller guys). But de Illini managed to win, 52-41, and de Gophers vill head home to finish de season.

(Note: Yes, that was painfully cheesy. I'll blame the February thunderstorm that accompanied this game and memories of business trips to northern Minnesota. They do talk a bit different when you get way up there.)

Despite being dominated in the paint and on the boards, the Illini played tough defense, holding the Golden Gophers to two scoreless stretches of about 6 minutes. And despite struggling (again) to hit open jump shots, the Illini stuck with it and eventually managed to score.

Mike Davis led with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. Trent Meacham added 13 points, including 3 big 3s. Demetri McCamey added 10 points, and Chester Frazier had 6 assists. Off the bench, Calvin Brock had 4 steals and Dominique Keller had 5 rebounds.

Tubby's team was led by Damian Johnson, who had his way on both ends of the floor, racking up 18 points, 5 steals, 3 blocks and 4 rebounds. The Gophers played very aggressively on the road, and even though the ball didn't find the basket that often, this was a tense, fast-paced game. The Gopher defense has this team playing well beyond their talent level, a testament to the skill of their coach.

The Illini are overachieving this season, as well. Their play isn't always pretty, but they understand how to play as a team. The unselfishness (15 assists on 21 baskets Thursday) makes it easy to cheer for these boys, even though they struggle to rebound.

Just 2 conference games left for the Illini, and they will be tough. The Spartans will be in Champaign Sunday, and then the Illini finish up at Penn State. Go Illini!


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