Thursday, March 18, 2010

Survive and Advance

The Illini visited Long Island and Stony Brook, and they walked into a classic trap game. And they looked like it.

Their disappointment at being in the NIT instead of the NCAA was palpable. And their travel schedule seemed to be a bit much for them. They essentially were sleepwalking through the first several minutes of the game.

Stony Brook, on the other hand, made the most of their first nationally televised game in school history. Their fans filled the gym and made plenty of noise. And the Seawolves played their hearts out. The America East conference champions are a solid team, with excellent shooting, sound rebounding and plenty of hustle.

The Illini were sloppy. With 17 turnovers, the assist-to-turnover ratio was 1. Mike Davis played well, and led the Illini in scoring. But he also had some lazy passes and turnovers that were hard to watch. Demetri McCamey ended with a strong night. Although his scoring was needed, his assists were perhaps even more important. Mike Tisdale hit some big shots, including a couple 3s. And D.J. Richardson also ended in double figures. But the whole team was out-hustled, and they had to work to get ahead and keep the lead.

But, it's March. And even if it is the NIT, the name of the game is still survive and advance. Ugly as it was, the with still means the Illini will play another game. So bring on Kent State. At home, as it should be for a 1 seed in this tournament.

Which reminds me, one of the highlights of the night, in my opinion, was the "Cirque du P.A." piece on SportsCenter that kicked the anchors out of their studio for the Illini NIT segment. A bit embarrassing to have the Illini made fun of like that, but it was a clever piece.

Ok, boys, you got the disappointment out of your system, I hope. You have what it takes to win this tournament. Prove it.

Go Illini!

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