Monday, February 08, 2010

In the Spotlight

The Illini took center stage in the college basketball world Saturday, hosting ESPN's College GameDay and holding on to beat the Spartans at home, 78-73. They handled the spotlight well.

The energy in Assembly Hall was fantastic, and the Illini fed on it. There were stretches of crisp passes for open shots. Demetri McCamey had a fantastic game -- a double-double with 22 points and 11 assists -- but he wasn't alone. Mike Davis added 16 points off the bench, along with 2 blocks. The last block was critical, setting up his dunk that put an Illini exclamation point on the game.

Mike Tisdale was a success in that he didn't disappear. Although he only had 6 points, he grabbed 8 rebounds. Freshmen D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul had strong games, too. Richardson scored 14 and Paul had 8 points and 6 rebounds off the bench.

It would have been nice to make more free throws and grab a few more rebounds. The Spartans got plenty of second chances off 11 offensive rebounds. But the Illini took advantage of the crowd energy, the prime time slot and absence of Kalin Lucas.

No question that Tom Izzo missed Lucas. His team racked up 18 turnovers, even though they soundly out-rebounded the Illini. The Spartans are still the team to beat in the Big Ten, and will likely go far in March, but it was so nice to beat them.

At the end of the game, when the Krush celebrated on the floor, Dickie V chided them for rushing the floor. For Dick and other critics of this tendency, I would say remember the context. I don't blame the students for rushing the floor, and I think it was appropriate for a few reasons.
So go ahead, Krush. Have your fun. You were recognized for your passion and philanthropy. You did well on GameDay. The "NIT" chant for UNC was my personal favorite. And you made Assembly Hall a House of Paign for Michigan State. Congratulations.

Next up, Wisconsin on the road...Go Illini!

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