Congratulations to the Missouri Tiggers – you proved yourself less inept than the Illini in a battle of vastly overrated basketball teams. With the game winding down, you finally made a layup or two. Then the refs made sure of it with the inevitable intentional foul and follow up technical. Am I the only one who wishes the boys would have just gone for it? Put in the aggressive press-break that led to lay-ups and dunks two years ago – damn the torpedoes and let’s play this one in the 90s?
Merry Christmas, Illini Fans! Let’s get pumped for the Texas Bowl!
One comment about the annual Braggin’ Rights game from someone who hasn’t missed one in eleven years: at one time Mizzou fans may have slightly outnumbered the orange-clad, but the last four or five years it’s Illini fans who show up in greater numbers. We sat on the Mizzou side this year and there were numerous orange-clads in the sections around us. Compare that to the Illini sections across the way, which were solid orange. Don’t know why KMOX and various newspapers perpetuate the myth this game is a Missouri lean (but we can guess), but since the middle of the streak of the aughts, the Tigger faithful don’t turn out in strength.
Five points in your two-loss-in-a-row pentagram:
- Lay-up drill. How many lay-ups and five-footers did these two teams miss? Had to be around 20. For Illinois, who had a height advantage, this was especially frustrating. Opportunities off offensive rebounds have been rare for this team. Tisdale and Richmond had a tough time again. Mike Davis came to play, but he missed some close ones two. Mizzou also missed a ton of bunnies, but they made them in the final five minutes.
- Defensive misses. Illinois came out strong with energy and altered shots and played pretty well early. Then, in the second half, they allowed Justin Safford to hit four mid-range jumpers in a row (come on! you can’t guard Justin Safford?) and continued to give up high-percentage shots off the two separate downscreen plays Mizzou ran over and over. The one time Illinois pressed we caused them to burn a timeout. Why not more? Why not two minutes of zone to throw the Tiggers off? Why?
- Mental toughness. Again, the Illini seemed to shrink in the final stanza. Brandon Paul (who otherwise played admirably on an injured ankle) threw the ball to the other team on an in-bounds. Inexcusable. The offense looked impotent and slow and content to throw it around the perimeter then hope someone makes a shot. Pathetic. After the scramble three by DJ, Tisdale fails to get back and compounds his mistake by putting two hands to the lower back. Whether that was a foul or not (and I still don’t think there was contact), you just can’t give the refs an excuse. You either go for the block or let them score. How do you build mental toughness? Is it even possible? At this point we’ve pretty much given up on certain players – might as well have the young guys in at the end and see if they can sack up.
- Poor officiating. The intentional foul and subsequent technical pretty much paint the picture. Mizzou’s style is to force the refs to call fouls, and they responded by calling fouls on Illinois (Illini – 21 fouls, Mizzou – 16). Whether it was terrible charging fouls on every flop or Tigger guards barreling into Illini defenders and praying for the bail-out bump, these refs were bad. But most egregiously was the manner in which they allowed the systematic assault of Demetri McCamey on every possession. The Mizzou guards were bumping, holding, hand-checking, and otherwise fouling D-Mac every trip down. Mike Anderson said in the post-game this was their plan. And they got away with it. If that would have been D-Mac’s old high school teammate handling the ball, he would have shot 15 free-throws. Still don’t understand why D-Mac has to pay for being exceptionally strong and difficult to bump off balance by never getyinh any calls. Look for other Big 10 teams to emulate this strategy. And of course the Illini ‘O’ plays into this by not really taking it to the hole. Bringing us to…
- The question of the offense. This team has looked poor on offense the past two games, shooting in the 30s. Contrast that to earlier wins against UNC, Gonzaga, and the like. Usually Illinois doesn’t look this bad on offense until the second half of the Big 10 schedule, win teams have had the chance to scout and scheme against the motion tendencies of the squad. Guys seem content to throw it around the perimeter. Guys don’t get the ball in comfortable positions. Guys don’t throw it into the post. So what’s a coach to do? How about, accept that no matter how much you stress defense and rebounding, this will not be the forte of the team. Work to your strength: and that means shooting and offense. Get creative. Isolate Tisdale up top. Post up Brandon Paul and work inside-out. Get Jereme Richmond the ball on the block. Run rub-screens for Mike Davis. Design plays that open driving lanes for D-Mac and Paul…
In other words, do anything other than what we’ve seen the past two games! We’re talking to you Coach Weber. We realize you’re notoriously stubborn and always seek to emulate mid-80s’s Boiler-ball, but accept your team’s makeup and shift the focus away from defense to offense. Put in plays. Tweak the motion. Turn the boys loose! This team will only beat other good teams by out-shooting them, so design your practices to bring about that result. Mizzou ran two plays the final ten minutes of the game: a high pick-and-roll and a double downscreen play. But that was two more plays than Illinois ran. You have some talented offensive players that cause match-up problems. Tisdale can’t make a five-footer but he’s money on a face-up long jumper. Use it. Griffey and Cole can shoot. JRich can post and slash. Give them plays to work with. Use your depth and get Leonard and Head in the mix! Get your team in the 70s or 80s on a nightly basis. Sure, we will have more turnovers, but we’ll make up for it by shooting. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Gun it. Chuck-and-duck! Play a zone so the guys can rest up for more shooting…
Yeah, we don’t think this will happen either, but it’s a thought.