This report of the squeaker Illini win over Lewis University from Friday provided by my brother. Lightly edited for content and sanity. Sounds like Coach has some work to do to meet expectations for this much-anticipated Illinois basketball squad.
It didn’t take long (obviously) to see who the starters were……drum roll……the same as last year. All four Sr.’s, DMac, Tiz, Onion Rings (Mike D), Cole and DJ. That lasted about 4 minutes before Bruce began his torrid exchange of more atheletic than Lewis, stronger than Lewis, faster than Lewis, overall better than Lewis substitutions. We here at Rubesville……er I mean Beemsville have stated that one of Coach Weber’s toughest jobs this year will be to find minutes for all 11 guys. The Rube came away from this exhibition still wondering how you get enough minutes for 11 guys in a 40 minute game. We’ll see how the staff handles this in the future, but The Rube is a bit worried that there will be an odd man or two out (still not sure who it will be), that may end up transferring due to lack of PT at the end of the season.
On to the clash of the Fighting Jerry’s from Lewis University vs. Illinois. First subs of the game were (in order) BP3, and JRich. for DJ and Davis. The team jumped out to a 9-2 advantage with Tiz hitting a 17 foot baseline jumper, DMac hitting the only 3 pointer of the game for the Illini (1-10 on the night as a team) and DJ hitting an acrobatic layup and Davis getting an offensive rebound and a put back. Cue the madddddd substitutions. After the aforementioned subs, Griff came in for Cole and Leonard and Bertrand came in for DMac and Tiz. So if you’re counting about 6 or so minutes into the game we have our 2nd team in, JRich, Bertrand, BP3, Leonard and Griff meaning Head Jr. was the only one not to get some tick in the first 6 minutes of the game (don’t worry that will change). The Illini promptly lost their lead and went down 15-14. The offense or lack thereof was frightening. It basically came down to “pass it in to Griff or JRich” and then hope they can make a play. Coach Weber has been telling anyone who would listen for the last two weeks or so that they havn’t practiced offense at all this year so far…..and you could tell. The Rube was very disturbed that even the original starters seemed to be watching a lot on the offensive end, there was little to no continuity and just disorganization. Coach may want to think about installing a play or two or the basic motion offense this week! While the 2nd team was in BP3 ran the point, which wasn’t all bad, other than it takes him off the wing and puts him out of position worse than The Rube playing the 5 spot! Head Jr. came in for Bertrand (who along with the walk on were the only people not to score) and we had our 3 Freshman, Griff and BP3 in the game. At this point Head Jr. took over PG duties and looked infinately more comfortable than BP3 at that spot. Plus Luther’s little bro plays tough on the ball defense! He doesn’t do so well positioning himself when his man doesn’t have the ball, but The Rube will say this…..during our playing days I wouldn’t have been comfortable with Crandall guarding anyone on our team with the ball other than…..well…..The Rube!
The game was slowish….we didn’t push the ball, we didn’t press (accept for three times in the 2nd half) and Coach McClain’s assertion that one time walking the ball up the floor will be one time too many this year went out the window with our #13 ranking! At about the 11:00 minute mark we got our requisite “We want Devin” chant from the Crush. Referring of course to 6’6″ PG out of Huntsville, Ala. Devin Langford who was on an official visit this week-end. If I were Devin, I’d be committing ASAP after watching the different folks we have trying to play the PG position! We also struggled mightily to rebound in the first half and had it not been for the Almost All Hard Ass group (Cole, Leonard, Head, DJ and……Davis) grabbing 3 offensive boards right at the end of the first half we’d have been down 14-12 in rebounds to LEWIS at half time. Tiz had 2 fouls in the first half (both were flops), DMac also had 2 charges in the first half. As a result Tiz and DMac played a grand total of about 8 minutes in the first half. DMac was trying to make spectacular plays a couple times instead of making smart plays. Both of his charges were on 2 on 1 and 3 on 1 breaks where instead of passing for any easy bucket he tried twice to dunk it over the guy from Lewis who stood his ground and took 2 legit charges. Bad decisions by DMac were the name of the game for him vs. The Fighting Jerry’s. Our Beloved Illini got down as much as 29-20 at one point and were it not for one of the Jerry’s stepping on the sideline just before draining a 3 pointer it would’ve been 32-20. We continue to run the same crappy inbonds plays under the basket that invariably result in us tossing it into the back court as well.
The half time score was 37-34 Lewis and The Rube along with about 12,000 or so Orange clad Illiniweks were becoming very agitated! Davis led the way at half with 7 points DJ and JRich had 6 each and Leonard had 4 along with 3 blocks (Yes we FINALLY have a 7 footer who likes and often does block shots!) Came out in the 2nd half with the same starters as the game minus Cole with JRich in his place. The Rube isn’t completely sold on JRich taking Cole’s spot as Billy brings some toughness and a bit of a chip this year it seems. Cole doesn’t have JRich’s gifts….not even close actually, but you can’t teach 4 years of experience and just being a bit pissed off at the other team! About 1:30 minutes into the second half Coach Weber yanked DMac and Onion Rings for Cole and BP3 because they weren’t playing defense. About 30 seconds later he put them back in. While DMac went out for a couple possessions, JRich played PG. If you’re keeping track that’s Head Jr., JRich and BP3 at PG, along of course with DMac. Finally the Sr.’s start running some offense with a group of Davis, Tiz, DMac, Cole and BP3. Tiz hit a couple hooks, Paul got a run out (and didn’t dunk???) and we finally tied it at 43 a piece. By the way…..remember the electric guitar that made an appearance in the pep band a few years ago…..remember how annoying that was…..now multiply that by 300% when you hear the OBOE in the pep band! Piercing, shrieking OBOE. The Rube was looking for baskets with Cobras in them as the pep band playing the old stand by’s was over taken by an OBOIST with a microphone right in front of them. The pep band sounded more like the University of Illinois snake charmers. HORRIBLE!!! The Rube and Mini-Rube still couldn’t get that piercing sound out of our ears the next morning!!!! Down with the double reeded intstuments in the pep band!!!!!
Sorry hit a tangent there. With the aforementioned group the Illini finally started to pull away. With a 49-49 score the Sr.’s along with BP3, put together an 11-0 run and got it up to 60-49. Then….inexplicably…..the subbing! Of course this is an exhibition game and we’re looking to see who our odd men out will be this year. We yanked everyone but BP3 and put in DJ, Griff, Leonard and JRich. That group allowed Lewis to get back within 5 or 6 before Coach Weber put in Head and the Sr.’s. They salted some things away with DJ coming back in for Head and hitting some clutch FT’s. That’s right I said CLUTCH FT’s aginst LEWIS! The Rubess began asking The Rube if the Illini were going to lose to Lewis, to which The Rube couldn’t honestly answer! The score got back to 65-63 Illini and the Illini continued to only hit 1 out of 2 FT’s. JRich, DMac and Davis all shorting their 2nd FT. With 2:01 to go the Illini were up a paltry 66-63 and Lewis had the ball, missed a 3, got an offensive rebound and missed another. We then got the ball, walked it up and made FT’s the rest of the way securing a 75-65 win. The Illini made a grand total of 3 field goals in the last 10 minutes of the game, of which one came within the flow of the offense the other two were runouts off turnovers.
Observations: The Illini pressed for 2 or 3 possessions in the 2nd half, created a turnover and scored, knocked the ball out of bounds on a great trap in the corner with Tiz, Cole and DMac and then gave up an easy hoop at the other end at which point Weber pulled tham off the press and didn’t go back to it the rest of the game. In addition DMac had a run out at the end of the game and came up lame and asked to be taken out of a close game with 1:30 left, with what appeared to be a sore knee, The Rube thinks he was being a wuss! Finally, we didn’t run, we didn’t press and we didn’t play particularly well. What we did do was get alot of Tick for everyone. The Rube still believes that Meyers Leonard, not JRich will have a better career at the U of I. Meyers is a beast down low and with some work on the offense and with a go to move or two will be as dominant a big man as the Illini have had since Deon Thomas. JRich had 11 points, 4 rebs. 3 assists, but 6 Turnovers. While some of his passes went off peoples’ hands and were great looks, he forced things a bit too much. When the going got very tough JRich flashed back to High School and posted up very well against a 6’3″ guard from Lewis, for whatever thats worth. Crandall Head may be the diamond in the rough. Already playing better defense on the pereimiter, on the ball than anyone else other than possible DJ, Crandall also is very atheletic and isn’t a bit timid! He also looked to be the most comfortable of all our wings at playing a bit of PG. DJ was solid and is a bit of a hard ass, which you’d expect out of a Peoria boy, but I didn’t see him play PG once the entire game…which The Rube found to be a bit odd as everyone else did (even The Ruber was asked to come down and play some PG, but had to decline do to contractual issues with Beemsville)! BP3 was OK, but needs to figure out what his schtick is going to be. Is he a slasher, is he a 3 point shooter, does he want to play defense? Brandon has all the ability in the world, but just seems to be maybe thinking a bit too much. Joe Bertrand was OK. Nothing flashy, rebounded a bit and played decent defense and is probably the best athelete on the team, but like BP3 is having an indentify crisis, he may be one of the odd men out. Griff is solid as a backup. He’s strong, but doesn’t take it to the hoop that way sometimes, he’s quick and can jump, but doesn’t play that way sometimes. Its almost as if he’s out there just going through the motions because he’s thinking about other things? He needs to develop a mean streak to get more time.
The Sr.’s will be fine. DMac will quit making bonehead plays, Tiz will get more than 12 minutes most games and Onion Rings was solid although The Rube did see more of that poor me whiny body language, throwing up his hands and pouting crap that earned him a spot on the bench with Griff starting for him a few games last year. Cole may be our glue guy. He’s tough, doesn’t care if he doesn’t shoot much, plays decent defense and was rebounding very well last night. He’ll have to play if we’re going to be successful in certain games and situations this year.
That’s all The Rube has for now. Very long….and not very soccerish! That said The OBOE in the pep band HAS TO GO! The Rube is mounting an extensive write in campaign to get OBOEs removed from the pep band and replaced with Mime’s, actual King Cobras or COWBELLS!!!!