Saturday, March 21, 2009

And Bowing Out

The Illini didn't exactly impress in the Big Dance. The holes we've seen all season were exposed painfully by the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. And the Illini didn't play their game.

However, the Illini made the game interesting at the end, making a run based on suffocating defense that didn't show up until late in the game. There's no question that Chester's suffocating defense was missed, as Western Kentucky had too many open looks and drove inside much too easily. But the Illini didn't give up. Despite their struggles, they played hard.

The Illini play didn't merit moving on in the tournament, but then again, the Hilltoppers had their share of struggles, turnovers and miscues. But at the beginning of the season, we weren't sure if we had a team that would compete in the conference, let alone merit a tournament bid.

This team has been fun to cheer for all season (even if they were hard to watch at times). The seniors set the tone for teamwork and determination. The sophomores improved dramatically from their freshman year to allow the Illini to finish second in the Big Ten regular season. And this team proved that coaching and chemistry can make a team better than individual players.

So although the final game was painfully disappointing, thanks to the 2008-09 Illini team for a much better season than expected. Good luck to the graduating seniors, and to the rest of the team, we know you will work hard this summer. We look forward to next year...


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