The Morning After: Illinois open thread

After the massive disappointment last week against Michigan, I didn’t expect much out of Saturday’s game at Illinois — that’s a tough place to play, and Illinois has sneakily been really good this year. Their tempo-free numbers belie a team better than their win-loss record, and their win-loss record is good. Let’s just say I didn’t have my hopes up. And still, somehow, the game was a gigantic letdown.

As R, Alex, and my friends yesterday could attest, I racked my brain for a while thinking of things to say about this game, and I really don’t have much. Some blowouts you can analyze; some are deceptive. There was nothing deceptive happening Saturday. Illinois was just so much better in every facet of basketball it was simultaneously boring and engaging. That doesn’t happen often.

In any case, this is your Monday open thread. Discuss whatever you’d like, whether it’s Saturday’s game, or when you predict IU will win its first Big Ten contest, or whatever. It’s all you.

I have one thought to hopefully get the discussion going. Not only was IU bad on Saturday — just skillwise, in matchups, that sort of thing — but it was the first time this year that it seemed like they weren’t even trying. Transition defense was unusually slow; Illinois was able to get into their secondary break, make one pass, and have a wide open jumper waiting for them before IU even matched up man-to-man or picked up the nearest player. I understand being drained after the Michigan game. That’s fine. But the one positive constant about the Hoosiers this year has been their energy and commitment to their coach, and Saturday was the first time I didn’t see it.

Also, one more: Did Illinois fans even enjoy that? Wasn’t that sort of like working out all summer, getting big, hoping to fight the bully that terrorized you last year only to see the bully come back to school in a wheelchair? I mean, you can punch the kid in the face if you want … but it’s not going to be nearly as satisfying.

Good, Bad and Ugly: Illinois

THE GOOD (HEY, WE HAD TO LIST SOMETHING, RIGHT?):

Nick Williams. That pretty much sums it up. On a day when the Hoosiers came out with far less fight than needed to win in a hostile environment, Williams was the guy who tried to keep it respectable early. He scored 10 points in the first 13 minutes before disappearing until the 7:00 mark in the second half.

IU won the rebounding battle 35-23, but Illinois hardly missed so there weren’t many boards to corral.

THE BAD AND UGLY:

The injury to Devan Dumes. The one player Indiana can ill-afford to lose didn’t start the game (reportedly after he missed the team bus to Assembly Hall) and played just two minutes before injuring his right ankle. Dumes had to be carried off the floor by Tijan Jobe and Steven Gambles and returned to the bench during the second half on crutches. For all of his faults, Dumes is the one Indiana player that can create his shot consistently, even if he is streaky. Not. Good.

The lack of intensity. In a start that looked eerily similar to the Kentucky game last month, Indiana fell behind 21-2 and never matched the energy of Illinois. Perhaps it was a hangover from the Michigan debacle or maybe Illinois is just that much better than the Hoosiers, but it was discouraging nonetheless.

The turnovers are back. After cutting down on the turnovers the previous three games against Lipscomb (13), Iowa (11) and Michigan (16), Indiana was once again sloppy with the ball, coughing it up 18 times.

Defending the 3-pointer. Illinois hit 13 from behind the arc including seven from Trent Meacham and three by Dominique Keller, who had only hit four all season going into the game. Most of the looks were of the “nobody within four feet of the shooter” variety.

Live Blog: Indiana @ Illinois



Know Thy Opponent: Illinois Fighting Illini

Expected to be a middle of the pack team in the Big Ten, Bruce Weber’s Illinois club is off to a 13-2 start and owns the most impressive conference win to-date: A 71-67 upset at Purdue in overtime.

A big reason for the turnaround from last year’s dismal 5-13 Big Ten campaign is Illinois’ ability to share the ball. They rank second nationally with 20.1 assists per game and are sixth in team assist-to-turnover ratio at + 1.5.

“They share the ball,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “We are really going to have to be on top of our game to move the basketball and match their ability to move the basketball.”

Four players are scoring in double figures for Illinois: Demetri McCamey (12.1), Mike Davis (11.9), Mike Tisdale (11.7) and Trent Meacham (11.7). Chester Frazier is the fifth Illini starter and averages 5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 6.4 apg.

“Trent Meacham, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, all the way back into high school. Chester Frazier is high-energy lighting ram,” Crean said. “He’s out there making things happen and delivering the basketball and defending. (Demetri) McCamey certainly has the ability to play inside or outside and (Mike) Tisdale is one of the more improved players anywhere in the country right now.”

Coming off of a 74-64 loss at Michigan that snapped a seven-game winning streak, Illinois will be hungry to get back on track and will need no extra motivation given the recent history between the programs. The Hoosiers won both games a season ago: 62-58 on Jan 13 in Bloomington and 83-79 on Feb 8 at Champaign in double overtime.

“We’ll learn from it (the loss at Michigan) and hopefully move forward,” Weber said. “We have a nice stretch here. You got four out of five at home. If you’re going to be in the Big Ten race, you got to take care of business and win your home games and see if you can sneak out road games.”

Crean, Jones and Roth talk Illinois

Tom Crean, Verdell Jones and Matt Roth met with the media Friday afternoon to talk about Saturday’s matchup with Illinois. Here are a few highlights:

Jones on the rivalry between Indiana and Illinois:

“The whole week, that’s the talk about this big game, Indiana versus Illinois. I’ve grown to see Indiana fans really don’t like Illinois fans and I know for sure Illinois fans hate Indiana fans. So it’s a great rivalry and I hope we keep it going.”

Crean on having Calbert Cheaney around practice the past week:

“He just talked to the team at the end of practice. As a fan, as a coach but most importantly as a man, it’s unbelievable to have him here. He is a wonderful guy. He has been good to me since the first time I talked to him. He loves this university. He loves this state, that’s obvious. He’s got a great future in whatever he wants to do, whether it’s in basketball or outside of it. And for him to come in here and have that presence, he has truly been an E.F. Hutton in this program this week. And he has really observed. He wanted to get a firsthand account, so he hasn’t done a lot (of practicing) but he has definitely been here and he had a point to make. And he’s been good for us as coaches for us to talk to him. Any former player, they (current players) know that those championship banners mean something. They may not understand everything about them but they know that they mean something.”

Roth on the hostile environment expected in Champaign:

“That’s something we are all looking forward to, we like that challenge. We like the challenge of going on the road. We had a great non-conference schedule; going on the road and playing at Wake Forest and places like Kentucky where we played in front of 22,000. So I think we are going to prepared for that.”

A lesson in motivational speaking: The fist

As the Hoosiers prepare to take on Illinois tomorrow afternoon, it’s the perfect time to relive one of the most moving speeches ever delivered.

Let me set the scene: It’s the 2005 National Championship game at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Coming off a comfortable 15-point win over Louisville, the Illini were ready to take on one of the most storied programs in college basketball, North Carolina. A win would mean their program would possibly become relevant. A loss and well, status quo: irrelevant.

So like any master motivator, Bruce Weber knew what he had to do: Deliver the words that would lead his men to the promised land. Like Winston Churchill before him, who said:

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

… Bruce knew this one had to be special. And indeed it was. Ladies and gentlemen, prepared to be moved by the … fist.



Around the Hall: Shot selection and a whole lot of awesomeness

Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall crew.

+ Matt Dollinger, the Indiana Daily Student beat reporter for the men’s basketball team and friend of ITH, took it upon himself to chart IU’s shot selection against Michigan. The result? IU’s most economical and efficient shots were three-pointers from the wing. {Basketblog}

+ Bloomington South sophomore Spencer Turner makes it no secret what his favorite word is: awesome. It’s awesome that IU is coming to watch him. It’s awesome that Jordan Hulls is going to IU. Tom Crean is an awesome guy. You get the point. {The Hoosier Scoop}

+ Michigan blogger Brian Cook didn’t want to bring it up, but the Wolverines are still painfully young and are not as good as their record. And who are we to disagree with him? {mgoblog}

Quotable:

Nobody is going to give Indiana a break. Nobody’s looking to give Indiana a favor. Indiana just has to go take it. It’s an unbelievably tough pill to swallow right now.” – Crean on the uphill battle his team faces.

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