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High school baseball

Illini Bluffs vs. Illini Central

[MARCH 27, 2001]  Illini Bluffs met Illini Central in Mason City yesterday afternoon for a high school baseball game. 

Central started off strong with three runs in the first inning and two in the second inning. The Bluffs made four runs in the second inning, adding three runs in the fourth, one run in the fifth, and three runs in the seventh. Illini Central made their last run in the seventh inning. The final score was 11-6, Illini Bluffs.

Harris pitched for Illini Central, and this was his first loss of the season—he has already pitched two winning games.

Central hit five balls and made five errors. The Bluffs hit 15 balls and made only two errors.




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College softball

Lincoln College vs. Parkland College

[MARCH 27, 2001]  Lincoln College defeated Parkland College of Champaign 6-3 and 2-1 in softball action at Lincoln College Monday afternoon.   The doubleheader victory raises the Lady Lynx record to 2-6 for the season.

Coach Jennifer Ciaccio saw her club plate three runs in the second inning of the opening game, and the Lady Lynx were never headed.  Amy Czerwionka drew a walk to start the three-run rally.  She moved to second on an error and advanced to third on a single by Brandi Barnes.   Maggie Green followed with an RBI single, and Ronni Beebe then added an RBI single.   After Heather Dobey drew a walk, Beth Gajdik singled in the final run of the inning. 

Parkland came back with two runs in the top of the third; however, Lincoln added one in the bottom of the inning and two more in the fourth to put the game out of reach.  Brandi Barnes went the distance on the mound for the Lady Lynx, giving up one earned run while fanning four and walking one.

Lincoln waited until the bottom of the fifth inning of the second game to get on the scoreboard.   Due to cold weather, both coaches agreed to a five-inning second game; therefore, the Lady Lynx won in their final at bat.   With two outs, Christine Lott drew a base on balls.  Ronnie Beebe followed with a double, scoring Lott and tying the game.  Heather Dobey then connected for a double, with Beebe scoring the winning run. 

[to top of second column in this article]

Dobey was the winning pitcher for Lincoln, allowing three hits.  Dobey also had a pair of hits, including the game winner.

First game

Parkland College    002 100 0   - 3-11-2

Lincoln College       031 200 x  -  6-9-2

Sloan (L) & Koetes; Brandi Barnes (W) & Beth Gajdik.

Second game

Parkland College    001 00  -  1-3-2

Lincoln College       000 02  -  2-6-1

Heidbreder (L) & Moller; Heather Dobey (W) & Gajdik.

[Bill Martinie,
Lincoln College sports information director]

Illinis trip to the Final Four derailed

[MARCH 26, 2001]  Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright. Somewhere bands are playing and somewhere children fight. But there is no joy in Mudville…Mighty Casey has struck out! There is also no joy in Illinois tonight, as our mighty Illini have fallen to the pesky Arizona Wildcats 87-81 in San Antonio, Texas. The win enabled the Cats to punch their transfer ticket to the Twinkie Dome for next week’s Final Four in Minneapolis, Minn.

[click here to see photos from the game]

The Illini did not go down without a fight, and the contest was still in doubt until the last few seconds. The Illini started slow and dug themselves a hole. They slowly climbed back into the game and, amazingly, were only four points down at half after shooting an abysmal 29 percent from the field, while allowing the Cats to fire at a 60 percent clip.

They slowly chipped away in the second half and finally tied the score around the 12-minute mark. They took their final lead of 56-54 with 7:19 to play on a bucket by Archibald.

The contest was marred by a plethora of free throws, and amazingly Illinois had six players disqualified before it was all said and done.

For the Illini, this game’s story had to be Robert Archibald. "Arch" fired in a career-high 25 points and must have felt that he was defending the Alamo all by himself at times.


The LDN had a premonition that Archibald would have a great game. On Saturday the LDN staff spent about an hour or more with Robert’s mother, Heather; his father, Bobby; and his sister, Jemma. They are one of the most delightful families that you will ever meet. They told us how much Robert enjoyed playing for the Illini and how he was playing with more confidence than he had in his entire career. I guess they were right…because if Archibald had not shown up Sunday, the Illini might have been embarrassed in front of a national TV audience. He seemed to be the most dominant big man on the floor.

It was especially important when you consider that Lincoln’s Brian Cook was limited to four points because of yet another bout with foul problems, and Marcus Griffin finished the night with one point. In fact, our crew of central Illinois players did not fare too well in this battle at all. Sergio McClain did not have one of his best games, and Frank Williams was nowhere near his sensational self of Friday night’s fame. Cory Bradford bounced back and had a solid night by hitting for 22 points including 6-for-11 on his 3-pointers. Lucas Johnson came off the bench and had another fine outing for the Fighting Illini.




[to top of second column in this article]

The Illini just never seemed to have the legs and the energy that Arizona brought from the opening tip. Gilbert Arenas blew up on the Illini, blistering the nets for 18 first-half points. He seemed to douse Illinois’ fire.

Although Illinois out-rebounded the Cats 36-35, Arizona held a commanding lead in that department in the second half. The Illini buried themselves early, and even the brilliant coaching of Bill Self couldn’t save us this time.

And I mean his coaching was brilliant. Left for dead after ’Zona built up a commanding 11-point lead with just three minutes to play, the Illini fought back as hard as any team in America by closing the gap to three points with 1:39 to play. However, on this night we would never get any closer. There was a lot of drama as the Orange and Blue hit three big 3-pointers in the closing 90 seconds, but we could never get closer than four points the rest of the way.

I know we’re supposed to be all sad, disappointed and depressed because we didn’t make it to the Final Four. I just can’t allow myself to feel that way. I love this team…AND, I love our fans. I’m proud of our players and proud of what they accomplished. Half the fun in having a great season is the ride we took to get there…And our Illini gave us a great ride!

On behalf of the LDN I say thanks to an outstanding coaching staff and to one of the greatest groups of Illini players in history. I know that I will NEVER forget this special season, and I thank you for the great ride! Lastly, thank you, seniors, for everything you have meant to our program to our state and to our team. May the Lord bless you in all that you do!

[Jeff Mayfield]


Illini, Cook make Elite Eight

Williams, Johnson help Illinois survive

[MARCH 24, 2001]  Had it been a battle of attrition the Illini might not have come away with the victory. Illinois was in a peck of foul trouble, and had the game gone into overtime, perhaps the Illini's deeper bench might have had to be a few seats wider. But just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, Frank Williams and Lucas Johnson simply took this game over, leading the Fighting Illini to a much larger than it actually was 80-64 victory over an outstanding group of Kansas Jayhawks.

This was truly a game of wild runs, hard fouls, funny bounces and a host of other unsettling stuff. But somehow, some way the Illini were able to hang on. The Illini had three players in double figures. Sergio McClain had a solid game and finished the night with 10 points. Lucas Johnson though, played the role of savior as he recorded 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. But Frank Williams was simply sensational. Frank put up 30 points, hit three 3-pointers and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the line


Illinois outscored Kansas 36-24 in the paint, but that was not the most amazing stat. The most amazing stat of the night was that Illinois out-rebounded the No. 1 rebounding team in the nation 45-30…and 19-6 on the offensive glass. Illinois also forced the Jayhawks into 20 turnovers.


[to top of second column in this article]

After the game the LDN spoke with Brian Cook, and he said: "We aren't looking ahead; we are just taking it one game at a time. We know that we've got them (Arizona) next, and we need to prepare. We're real emotional, but we just need to stay focused and stay together and listen to our coaches."

In some ways it seems kind of sad that there is more a sense of relief with many fans than there is of celebration. We're one of the best eight teams in all the land and one win away from a trip to the Final Four. Illinois just eliminated a No. 4 seed in Kansas just like they disposed of No. 4 Louisville back in 1989. Now they must go up against No. 2 Arizona at 4:00 on Sunday.

The Illini knocked off a No. 2 in Syracuse back in 1989, and the LDN says to Brian and the Illini…let's take out a No. 2 again. I've got to get this to the office, but we'll try to give you more updates later. Keep cheering the Illini on, and maybe we'll see you in Minnesota!

[Jeff Mayfield]


College softball

LC vs. Mattoon

[MARCH 24, 2001]  Lake Land College of Mattoon swept a doubleheader from the Lincoln College softball team at Lincoln Friday afternoon. Lincoln College was playing its first games at home and now stands at 0-6 for the season.

Lincoln College starting pitcher Brandi Barnes gave up a run in the top of the third inning of the opening game Friday; however, the Lady Lynx bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. The lead didn't last long, as the visitors promptly tacked on two runs in the fourth and added another in the sixth, while Lincoln was unable to dent the plate again. Barnes went the distance, fanning two and walking four. Jody Hicks had a double for the Lynx, who collected just four hits in the game.

In the nightcap both teams scored a run in the first inning before Lake Land scored twice in the third and then broke the game open with five runs in the fourth. Lincoln's defense fell apart in the second game as they committed six miscues. Heather Dobey was the starting and losing pitcher for the Lynx. Beth Gajdik had a pair of hits to lead Lincoln at the plate.



First game

Lake Land               001 201 0  -  4-10-1 

Lincoln College        002 000 0  -  2-4-2 

McFall (W) & Perrine; Brandi Barnes (L) & Beth Gajdik.

Second game

Lake Land               102 54  -  12-14-1 

Lincoln College        100 00  -  1-4-6 

Wilhelm (W) & Meyer; Heather Dobey (L), Crystal Wilkey (4), Barnes (4) & Gajdik.

[Bill Martinie, 
Lincoln College sports information director]

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High school baseball

[MARCH 24, 2001]  

Illini Central vs. Springfield Ursuline

In a game called for darkness in the middle of the sixth inning at Mason City, the Cougars held six runs to Ursuline's one run. IC scored in all five innings played, with seven hits bringing in six runs. Illini Central hitting star Bryce Cunningham had three hits, double, triple and two RBIs; Josh McDaniel had two doubles.

Mount Pulaski vs. Lincoln

Lincoln traveled to Mount Pulaski to sweep up the Hilltoppers in a 7-2 win. Each team had six hits. Four of Lincoln's runs came in during the seventh inning.

Winning pitcher Jameson Sheley bested Mount Pulaski's Justin Anderson (0-1). Star hitter for Lincoln was Nick Bay with two hits and for Mount Pulaski Caleb Dirks with two hits.

Records: Lincoln 1-1, Mount Pulaski 1-1.


High school baseball and softball

Hartsburg-Emden vs. Deer Creek-Mackinaw

[MARCH 23, 2001]  Hartsburg-Emden’s baseball and softball teams traveled to Mackinaw yesterday afternoon for a doubleheader against Deer Creek-Mackinaw. The hosts won both games.

Deer Creek-Mackinaw scored two runs in the first inning of the baseball game. Neither team scored any more runs until Hartem’s one run in the seventh. Matt Chapman pitched well for the Stags baseball team. In seven innings, he struck out seven players. Dee-Mack did not make any runs due to Chapman’s error. Hartsburg-Emden made three hits and two errors. Deer Creek-Mackinaw made five hits and three errors. The final score was 2-1, Dee-Mack. Hartem’s baseball record is now no wins and two losses.

In the softball game, Deer Creek-Mackinaw scored steadily. Hartsburg-Emden did not score until the sixth inning. Tuttle was the pitcher for Hartem. The Stags made five hits and four errors. Dee-Mack hit 13 pitches. The final score was 7-1, Dee-Mack. Hartsburg-Emden’s new record is split—one win and one loss.


LCHS loses baseball opener

[MARCH 23, 2001]  LCHS opened its baseball season against Metamora on Wednesday, March 21. Players and coaches were pumped; the excitement was obvious. High school baseball was finally here.

Both Lincoln and Metamora seemed rusty at the plate through five innings, when the score stood at 1-1. Lincoln’s starter, Chris Phillips, pitched four innings, striking out six and walking just one. That one walk scored Metamora’s first run in the fourth, scooting home on an unsuccessful attempt to throw out a base stealer at second.

Justin Dedman took over the mound in the fifth — an inning that started with a single, a sacrifice bunt and a walk. But Dedman stifled the scoring threat by picking off the runner at third and forcing a fly out to end the inning.

Lincoln’s first run came in the third inning. With two out, Blake Schoonover reached base on an error, and Danny Schick drove him home with a double to right center field.


Lincoln had another scoring threat in the fourth inning. Jeremy Ohmart, pinch hitting for Dedman, was hit by a pitch. Designated hitter Jamison Sheley followed with an infield single, and shortstop Andy Knopp laid down an effective sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third with only one out. Ryne Komnick then hit a shallow fly to right field, and Ohmart attempted to score after tagging up. The throw was on the mark and Ohmart’s tag out ended the inning.


[to top of second column in this article]

[Danny Schick, who had two hits, waits for his pitch.]

[Aaron Matson sends a foul ball down the third-base line.]

The sixth and seventh innings saw seven Metamora runs cross the plate, although only two were earned. Four walks and three costly errors saw Metamora’s lead jump to 8-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, after Lincoln left the bases loaded but scored none in the sixth. The sun was setting, both figuratively and literally.

Nevertheless, in its first game, Lincoln showed signs of real character. Senior Nick Bay started the inning with a single, and Carlos Chavez looped a fly ball down the right-field line to plate Bay, who had stolen second. Schick drew a walk and was sent to home along with Chavez on a single by Dedman. The rally showed heart, but came up short.

Lincoln travels to Mount Pulaski on Friday and hosts a doubleheader with Bradley-Bourbonnais at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

[Rich Knopp]

Olympia vs. East Peoria

[MARCH 23, 2001] 

Olympia welcomed East Peoria to Stanford for a softball game. Only one run was scored during the entire game. Shay pitched seven innings for Oly and struck out five of East Peoria’s players. No runs were earned due to Shay’s error. East Peoria hit four of the Spartans’ pitches. Olympia hit three of East Peoria’s pitches and made one error in the outfield. That error hurt Oly, because the final score of the game was 1-0, East Peoria.

Olympia’s record is now no wins, one loss and one tie.


High school track and field

Co-ed track meet at Mason City

[MARCH 23, 2001]  Illini Central, Mount Pulaski, Springfield Lutheran and Springfield Ursuline gathered in Mason City for a co-ed track-and-field meet.


Illini Central’s girls earned first place with 116 points. Mount Pulaski’s girls made 41 points. Springfield Lutheran made 21 points to qualify for third place, and Springfield Ursuline came in last with 15 points.

The first-place event winners were as follows:

100-meter dash—Illini Central: McDonald, 13.95

200 dash—Illini Central: Harvey, 28.1

400 dash—Illini Central: Mortlock, 1:14.9

800 dash—Illini Central: Daum, 2:54.0

1,600 dash—Illini Central: McKenna, 6:49.7

3,200 dash—Illini Central: McKenna, 14:09.0

100 hurdles—Illini Central: Mortlock, 20.1

300 hurdles—Illini Central: Eden, 1:03.0

Long jump—Illini Central: McDonald, 14’1½"

High jump—Illini Central: Hankins, unavailable

Triple jump—Illini Central: Harvey, 30’6"

Shot put—Mount Pulaski: Sanders, 31’9"

Discus—Mount. Pulaski: Sanders, 82’3"

400 relay—Illini Central: McLaughlin, McDonald, Cave, Harvey, 55.3

800 relay—Illini Central: McLaughlin, McDonald, Cave, Harvey, 2:00.9

800 medley relay—Springfield Lutheran: Davis, Smith, Adams, Ruggless, 2:11.8

1,600 relay—Illini Central: Cave, Daum, Hankins, McLaughlin, 5:06.0

3,200 relay—Illini Central: Eden, Daum, Mortlock, Hankins, 12:52.0

[to top of second column in this report]


Illini Central’s boys earned first place with 103 points. Springfield Lutheran’s boys got second place with 81 points. Mount Pulaski made 30 points to earn third place, and Springfield Ursuline was in last place with 10 points.

The first-place event winners were as follows:

800-meter dash—Illini Central: Brandon Grimsley, 2:12.0

1,600 dash—Illini Central: Brandon Grimsley, 5:20.0

3,200 dash— Illini Central: Brandon Grimsley, 11:33.3

110 high hurdles—Illini Central: Vaneten, 20.1

Shot put—Illini Central: Liesman, 39’0"

Discus—Illini Central: Ryan Allen, 116’10"

400 relay—Illini Central: Hankins, Vaeten, Wells, Heine, 50.1

1,600 relay—Illini Central: Grimsley, Barton, Schulze, Vaneten, 4:04.0

3,200 relay—Illini Central: Hernan, McDanial, Schulze, Baron, 11:00.0


College baseball

LC vs. LCC

[MARCH 23, 2001]  Lincoln College won a pair of baseball games from Lincoln Christian College Thursday afternoon at Galen Shirley Field in Lincoln. They were the first home games of the season for the Lynx.   

Lincoln College won the first game 15-1 and took the nightcap by a score of 17-0.  Both games were halted after five innings due to the 10-run rule. Lincoln College now stands at 3-11 for the season.

Lincoln High School graduate Anthony Hoffert worked the first four innings of the opener for Lincoln College, striking out seven batters in earning the victory. Brent Barker worked the final inning for the Lynx. Erik Rich had three hits and five RBIs in the game.  One of his hits left the park, with two men on base in the fourth inning. Chad Blackburn also had three hits for the Lynx, with a pair of doubles and two runs batted in. Ahmad Ritchie had a pair of hits and two RBIs. Engle led LCC with a pair of doubles.

In the second game, Lincoln College put 11 runs on the board in the second inning and never looked back.   The Lynx added six more tallies in the third. Coach Tony Thomas used four pitchers, with Jaren McLane working the first two innings and earning the victory. McLane gave up two hits while striking out two and walking one. Matt Knepper, Matt Whetstone and Mark Stoltzenburg each worked an inning. Whetstone and Stoltzenburg both struck out the side, while Knepper had one strikeout in his inning.   


[to top of second column in this article]

Chris Ackman led the Lynx with three hits and three runs batted in. Gary Ryan had two hits, including a double and two RBIs, while Erik Rich added two hits with a double and two RBIs. Donnie Skelton also doubled for the Lynx.

First game

Lincoln Christian College  000 01  -   1 -3 -3

Lincoln College                406 5x   -  15-14-2

Hansen (L) & Turner;  Anthony Hoffert (W), Brent Barker (5) & Robert Sherren, Donnie Skelton (5).

Second game

Lincoln Christian       000 00      -   0-2-3

Lincoln College         0(11)6 0x  - 17-14-1

Engle (L) & Turner;  Jaren McLane (W), Matt Knepper (3), Matt Whetstone (4), Mark Stoltzenburg (5) & Robert Sherren, Donnie Skelton (4).


[Bill Martinie,
Lincoln College sports information director]

College softball

LC vs. Danville

[MARCH 23, 2001]  Lincoln College lost a softball doubleheader at Danville Thursday, 6-1 and 5-3. The double setback drops the Lady Lynx to 0-4 for the season. incoln plays its first home games of the season Friday against Lake Land at 2 p.m.

In the first game Thursday, Danville scored three times in the bottom of the third to break a scoreless tie. After the Lynx plated a run in the fourth, Danville came back with three more to put the game out of reach. Heather Dobey and Brandi Barnes had two hits each to lead the Lynx. Jody Hicks and Amy Czerwionka each had doubles for Lincoln. Barnes was the losing pitcher.

In the second game, Lincoln used three pitchers in the second game. Crystal Wilkey worked the first inning, Heather Dobey took over in the second and took the loss. Barnes hurled the final two innings. Dobey again led the Lynx with two hits in four plate appearances.  Jody Hicks also had two hits for Lincoln.


[to top of second column in this article]

First game

Lincoln College        000 100 0  -  1-8-2

Danville                    003 300 x  - 6-11-1

Brandi Barnes (L), & Beth Gajdik;  Ashley Stephens (W) & Marie Windser.

Second game

Lincoln College        200 100 0  -  3-8-2

Danville                    023 000 x  - 5-12-2

Crystal Wilkey, Heather Dobey (2-L), Brandi Barnes (5) & Beth Gajdik; Lindsey Airreb (W) & Windser.

[Bill Martinie,
Lincoln College sports information director]

Mount Pulaski and Hartem are
top two in state 8A volleyball

[MARCH 21, 2001]  Last night was evidence once again that Logan County is a hotbed for volleyball in Illinois. The Mount Pulaski Honeybears went undefeated on the season — with an impressive record of 29-0 — defeating Hartsburg-Emden in two games, 15-3 and 15-6, to claim the state title.

[click here to see more photos from the tournament]

The evening was an emotional one for both teams, longtime rivals, but was perhaps especially so for the Lady Stags, who faced the final match without their head coach, Jennifer Hayes. Coach Hayes, in the final days of a twin pregnancy, was taken to the hospital, and we are happy to report that this morning the Hartsburg-Emden contingent is stronger by two!

Congratulations to coach Dulle, coach Hayes and their teams on their successful seasons!

[Cherie Rankin]

Sports Talk

Interview by Jeff Mayfield

The inside scoop with Brian Cook

Part 2

[MARCH 26, 2001]  

Q. I know that your high school coach, Neil Alexander, visits you from time to time. What kind of advice does he give you?

A. He’s been a big part of my life. He’s always telling me to take the ball hard to the basket. He’s worked hard with me over the years, as has coach Donnie Aeilts, my junior high coach.

Q. Your shoulder turn to the basket looks a lot sharper and a lot quicker. Have you guys been working on that a lot?

A. Our emphasis at Illinois is to take the ball to the basket and to dunk everything. I think if we could do that we could get to the foul line a little more often.


Q. How far can this team go?

A. First, we’ve got to remember what happened to us last year and always keep that in mind. We have to come out every game with the best focus that we can. We have to show up with our A game and always give it 100 percent.

Q. Do you know how much this means to the fans?

A. Yes. We know, but we have to be a team that approaches things one game at time.

Q. Where do you watch the NCAA tournament games, and do you root for the other Big Ten teams?

A. I watched some in Frank’s room and some with my roommate, Sean. Yes, we want our conference to do well, but we’re mostly concerned about how well we perform.

[to top of second column in this section]

[Brian Cook]

Q. What do you need to do personally through the rest of the tournament?

A. I have to come out with more intensity. If I can be even more focused, that will help me and our team be even more successful. I just want to keep it going. I will use that experience from last year to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

Q. Your teammates seem to be shooting the ball really well right now.

A. They are stroking their shots pretty well right now. When they shoot it we think that they will make every shot.

Q. What did you think about your former Railer teammates having such a great season?

A. I only got to see one game, but I read about how well they were doing. I was excited for them because I know how hard they have worked. I really wanted to see those Southeast and Mount Zion games, but obviously we had work to do here.


Q. Rod Cardinal is here working on you while we talk. Do you give him credit for all of Illinois’ success this season?

A. I give him credit for keeping us healthy.

Q. How would you compare this season to last season?

A. I’m a lot more calm this year. I’m not bothered by the media or the hype now. I took that experience and learned from it. It’s a mental thing…my attitude is so much better this season. I remembered that in last year’s NCAA’s I had two rebounds in two games. I’m not going to let that happen again. I’m just trying to come out and do my job.

[Jeff Mayfield]

(Note: The Illini had not yet played Kansas and Arizona when this interview was completed. For reports on those games, click here.)

Interview by Jeff Mayfield

Brian Cook and LDN: One-on-one

[MARCH 22, 2001]  One year ago, Brian Cook was disappointed, dejected and despondent. His Fighting Illini had looked lethargic, lifeless and totally lost as the Florida Gators kicked the stuffing out of Illinois on their way to an NCAA title date. Even though the media seldom reports on the strong character and integrity that Cook possesses, we all knew that Brian would blame himself. And that’s exactly what he did. Never mind that the rest of the team failed to show up as well on that fateful day. Cook vowed that if his chance rolled around again that he would be ready…and ready he was, firing in 31 points and crashing down with 16 rebounds. The LDN spoke with Brian at the press conference last Friday in Dayton and then in a joyous Illini locker room after the game.

Q. Brian, once again you came out on fire, scoring eight straight points.

A. Yes. I just tried to come out with a lot of energy and a lot more focus than I came out with last year. I think that experience from last year helped me prepare for this year.

Q. Were you relaxed playing a team like Northwestern State in the first round?

A. No. They really pressured us in the first half, and after a few minutes they were picking their spots. We made some nice adjustments at halftime, and then their pressure was no factor after that.

Q. Did you guys need a game like this to get your confidence back and to get rolling into the NCAAs?

A. No. We’re just going to take it one game at a time. We played well today. We all worked the ball around and played unselfishly. Whoever we play tomorrow, we know that we’ll have to bring our A game (I forgot to ask Brian if he’s been talking to Tiger Woods with that A-game crack).

Q. You guys seem to be playing unselfishly, making lots of extra passes out there.

A. At the end we were just having fun, especially when the entire bench got in.

Q. Did all of the upsets on Thursday affect your thinking going into your game?

A. Yes. It affected us a little bit. You know…we didn’t want to get popped. But we came in here focused, with the mentality that we want to keep playing.

Q. After winning so handily, are you still able to see areas that can be improved on?

A. We’ve got to guard the ball more. When people try to pressure us, especially full court, we can’t let it bother us like it did for a few minutes.

Q. How did last year’s tournament help you this year, and do you feel redeemed?

A. Actually we all played well. I went out there and tried to get some easy baskets underneath and basically do my job. It feels real good that I could contribute and play as well as I did. I think I’m a lot stronger and much more mentally focused than I was last year. And like I said earlier, the experience from last year really helped me this year.

Q. For our loyal readers that don’t know, tell us about the shaved-head thing.

A. My hair was just long and I wanted to cut it. I wore it like this in high school during tournament time. I mean, I just wanted to bring it back.

Q. What a balanced attack! That should make us a scouting nightmare, huh?

A. We’re really moving the ball well and finding each other.


[to top of second column in this section]

Q. It seems like the Big Ten really struggled the first day. Were you weary of that?

A. We want the Big Ten to do well, but our main focus is us. We are selfish in that regard. We’re just going to go out and try to do our best.

Q. Any secret good-luck charms besides shaving your head…like your mom’s chicken?

A. No. I ate the hotel’s chicken.

Q. Compare this year with last year.

A. Last year I felt a little bit intimidated with all the media coverage and with all the hype flying around. That year to think about it and deal with it has helped me grow. Last year I was even shy with the media. This year my teammates and I were much more calm than we were a year ago.

Q. How fun was it to see your teammates get some playing time?

A. It was really fun. They work so hard trying to get us prepared. It was great to see them go out and be able to do their thing.

Q. What did this win mean, especially after losing to Indiana?

A. It means a lot. Everybody was knocking down shots…Cory shot it well, Sean shot it well…everyone was shooting it well. We’ve got a lot of weapons, and hopefully we can continue to use them all. We were disappointed after the Indiana game, but since the next day was selection Sunday, I think we got that out of our minds quickly. We immediately started focusing on the NCAA Tournament. I thought we came out with that kind of focus and jumped on ’em early today and came away with the victory.

Q. Did you watch the games Thursday on TV?

A. We watched as many games as we could. But mostly, we’re concerned with ourselves; we’re not concerned with other teams. We’re concerned with Illinois basketball and what goes on amongst our own players.

Q. Some people say that you weren’t really tested.

A. They played better pressure defense than most people thought. We came out in the second half and broke their press. Give credit to them. They didn’t back down the whole game. They did beat us to some loose balls and got a few boards, but that’s what we expected from them.

Q. Are you sick of answering questions about what happened last year, and is it a weight around your neck?

A. No. It’s not a weight. I knew the questions would be coming. I just thought I would take that experience and not let it happen again.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of LDN’s exclusive interview with Lincoln’s Brian Cook tomorrow!

[Jeff Mayfield]

Headin’ south

Illini prepare for battle with Kansas

By Jeff Mayfield

[MARCH 21, 2001]  Not only are the Illini through the first weekend but part of their reward is a trip to a warmer climate. Since the players probably won’t be getting a spring break this year, maybe they can make up for it by having a swingin’ time in San Antonio, Texas.

On the other hand, maybe they shouldn’t even go to Texas. I mean basketball experts like Dick Vitale, Tim Brando, Rick Pitino and Digger Phelps say that Illinois will get upset and not make it to the Final Four.

Of course the LDN would like to point out that if we listened to those geniuses all season, we would’ve never won 20 games, won the Big Ten championship or received a No. 1 seed! I guess we here at the LDN will be content to play our role as the corn-fed team right off the farm.

You know, those high-IQ basketball personalities are surely right. To hear them talk, they’ve been right for years. They talk about how Kansas comes in with rich tradition and how they are due. And they seem to be in love with Arizona, the preseason No. 1.

The LDN would just like to say to these characters that the game won’t be decided in the ivory tower of their broadcasting booth. Illinois’ game with Kansas that is now scheduled for Friday night at approximately 9:15 p.m. will STILL have to be played.

Although no one seems to think that the Illini can win, the LDN is betting the farm that coach Self and his players will STILL show up sometime around game time.

[to top of second column in this article]

Kansas is a very good team. They are big, huge and gigantic...and any other words that describe larger-than-life players. They also possess excellent guard play and probably have two of the nation’s best players in Nick Collison and Kenny Gregory. They are extremely well-coached. Roy Williams is as fine a coach as there is in the business and is one of the true class acts in the entire coaching profession. The Big 12 conference has played some great ball the last few years, and we know how good their teams are just by having played Missouri every year.

So, maybe those know-it-alls are right. Perhaps the Illini don’t have a chance in the world...but just maybe, as they have done all year, they will fight...and claw...and come back...and defend...and execute...and somehow find a way to survive...and live on for another day.

The LDN says good luck to Brian Cook and to the Illini...WE BELIEVE!!!

(Stay tuned all week, as the LDN plans to be Illinois’ NCAA Tournament HEADQUARTERS! COMING SOON...LDN'S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN COOK.)

[Jeff Mayfield]

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