F - 34 Brian Cook (senior, 6-10, 240,
20.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg)
F/C - 40 James Augustine (freshman,
6-10, 220, 6.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
G - 24 Sean Harrington (senior, 6-3,
185, 10.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G - 11 Dee Brown (freshman, 6-0, 175,
13.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.7 apg)
G - 5 Deron Williams (freshman, 6-3,
210, 7.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.5apg)
C - 1 Aaron Spears (freshman, 6-9, 250,
3.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg)
G - 4 Luther Head (sophomore, 6-3, 175,
7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
F - 23 Blandon Ferguson (senior, 6-3,
205, 3.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
G - 25 Jerrance Howard (senior, 6-1,
200, 0.0 ppg, 0.1 rpg)
G - 31 Nick Huge (junior, 6-4, 215, 0.7 ppg, 0.3 rpg)
F - 32 Kyle Wilson (freshman, 6-8, 230,
2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
F - 42 Clayton Thomas (senior, 6-7,
240, 0.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
F - 43 Roger Powell (sophomore, 6-6,
220, 9.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
C - 45 Nick Smith (sophomore, 7-2, 240,
5.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Illinois owns a 100-65 advantage over
Wisconsin in the all-time series. Illinois also holds a 63-17 edge
in games played in Champaign. The two teams split the season series
last year, when the Badgers posted a 72-66 win in Madison on Jan. 5
and the Illini answered less than three weeks later with an 80-48
victory in Champaign on Jan. 23. Wisconsin has not won in the
Assembly Hall since 1997.
Head coach: Bill Self -- overall record
193-99 (10th year), 25-8 in the Big Ten; at Illinois (third year)
64-18, 2-1 versus Wisconsin
Associate head coach: Norm Roberts
Assistants: Tim Jankovich (first year)
and Wayne McClain (second year)
Trainer: Rod Cardinal (30th year).
Head coach: Bo Ryan -- overall record
412-119 (18th year); at Wisconsin (second year) 29-16, 1-1 versus
Assistant coaches: Rob Jeter, Tony
Bennett and Greg Gard
Television: ESPN plus regional -- Wayne
Larrivee play-by-play; Bob Ford, expert analyst.
Radio: Illini Sports Radio Network, 43
-- Brian Barnhart, play-by-play; Steve Bardo, expert
analyst; Loren Tate pre-game and halftime reports.
Illinois and Wisconsin were two of four
Big Ten schools that tied for the Big Ten title last season. ...
Brian Cook needs three points to move into 15th place on the UI
career scoring list. ... Cook has scored at least 17 points in all
10 of his games this season, including at least 20 seven times. ...
Sean Harrington has averaged 20 points per game in his three starts
for the Illini this season. ... Harrington is shooting 65 percent
(17-of-26) from 3-point range over the last three games and 61 percent
(26-43) in seven games at the Assembly Hall this season. ...
Illinois' current eight-game Big Ten winning streak is its longest
since an eight-game streak in 1988 and 1989, when the Illini won
four to end 1988 and four to begin 1989.
76, Minnesota 70
Illinois opened Big Ten play with a
gut-wrenching 76-70 win at Minnesota. Sean Harrington sank three
3-pointers in a span of 61 seconds to take the Illini from a
four-point deficit to a five-point lead midway through the second
half. Illinois never trailed after that point and held on despite
some shaky free-throw shooting down the stretch. Brian Cook posted a
double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Harrington
scored a career-high 22 points while making six of nine 3-pointers.
Illinois held Minnesota to just 30.5 percent
field-goal shooting on its home floor.
After 12 games this season, Illinois
opponents are shooting just 36.1 percent from the field, including
just 29.7 percent from 3-point range.
Against Coppin State on Dec. 30,
Illinois held the Eagles to just 12 field goals, the fewest made
shots in the 40-year history of the Assembly Hall, and to just 29
percent shooting from the field. Coppin State was the second Illini
opponent this season to shoot under 30 percent. In the last outing,
Illinois held Minnesota to 30.5 percent shooting on its home floor,
as the Gophers made just 19.2 percent (5-26) from 3-point range.
Illinois has now held its last six
opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field and has a total of eight such defensive efforts this season. Coppin
State's 37 points were the fewest allowed by the Illini since
defeating Northwestern 63-30 on Feb. 19, 2000.
Illinois ranks second in the league in
scoring defense, allowing opponents an average of just 58.9 points,
and first in field-goal percentage defense, at .361. The Illini also
rank fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus 5.6) and fifth
in steals per game (7.3).
In the latest national statistics
compiled by the NCAA, Illinois ranks ninth in field-goal percentage
defense and third in scoring margin (plus 22.5), while ranking 11th
in scoring defense.
says 2003 is final season
Guard Jerrance Howard has said that the
2003 season will be his final campaign as a player at Illinois.
Howard, who would have one season of eligibility remaining in
2003-04, after redshirting as a freshman in 1999-2000, will graduate
in May and plans to possibly enter the coaching field. He will be
listed as a senior for the remainder of his Illinois career.
Sophomores Luther Head and Roger Powell
sat out Illinois' games versus Coppin State and Oakland last week. Head
is suffering from a pelvic-groin injury and returned to play 24
minutes Tuesday at Minnesota. Powell sprained his right big toe in
the game at Memphis Dec. 28 and could play just two minutes.
The Fighting Illini have begun the
2002-03 season with unselfish play. Illinois leads the Big Ten and
ranks fourth in the nation in assists per game (19.7 avg.),
highlighted by a season-high 25 assists versus Oakland, 24 versus
Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and 23 against both Western Illinois and North
Carolina. In the win over Coppin State, the Illini were credited
with 21 assists on 22 made baskets, an amazing 96 percent of shots
made. Illinois has tallied 20 or more assists in seven games and has
recorded assists on over 67 percent of its baskets (236 assists on
350 FG) on the season. Guards Dee Brown and Deron Williams rank
third and fifth, respectively, in the Big Ten in assists, with
averages of 4.7 and 4.5 per game.
Illinois' eight straight wins to open
the 2002-03 season tied the 10th best start in the 98-year history
of Fighting Illini basketball and rank as the Illini's best start
since beginning the 1995-96 season 9-0.
Illinois' current 11-1 record is its
best since the 1995-96 season, when the Illini entered January with
an 11-1 mark. A win over Wisconsin on Jan. 11 would give Illinois
its best start since beginning the 1989-90 season with a 12-1 mark.
The Illinois bench has a very
productive start this season, averaging 22.7 points and 10.9
rebounds, while limiting the opponents' bench to 15.3 points and 9.4
rebounds. Illinois' bench is outscoring the opponents by 7.4 points
per game and is out-rebounding the opponents by 1.5 boards per game.
Eastern Illinois and Minnesota have the only two opposing benches to
Illinois 32-9, Lehigh 9-7
Illinois 40-18, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Illinois 32-9, Western Illinois 14-6
Illinois 39-14, North Carolina 7-1
Illinois 20-9, Arkansas 19-13
Illinois 12-13, Eastern Illinois 18-12
Illinois 13-3, Temple 8-8
Illinois 30-13, Missouri 26-11
Illinois 17-12, at Memphis 11-15
Illinois 12-10, Coppin State 6-8
Illinois 11-10, Oakland 5-7
Illinois 14-11, at Minnesota 36-17
Illinois totals 272-131, opponents
Top 25 streak continues
Illinois began last week ranked No. 11
in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, extending its streak to 47
consecutive polls in which the Illini have been ranked, including
every poll during Bill Self's tenure. Illinois is also ranked No. 10
in the AP's top 25.
The Illini had a school-record streak
of 30 straight polls in the top 10 snapped last January but never
dropped out of the top 25.
Senior Brian Cook, a preseason Big Ten
Player of the Year selection, is proving the recognition was
deserved. He leads the Big Ten in scoring, at 20.8 points per game,
while ranking fourth in rebounding, with 8.3 boards per contest. He
also ranks sixth in the league in field-goal shooting (.543) and
seventh in free-throw percentage (.838).
Cook's streak of consecutive made free
throws came to an end at 32 on Jan. 4 against Oakland, when he tied Rob
Judson for second place in school history for consecutive free
Cook enters the Wisconsin game with
1,357 career points, 16th on the UI career scoring list.
After sitting out the first two games
of the season (along with teammate Jerrance Howard) as an NCAA
penalty for playing in an unsanctioned summer basketball tournament,
Cook returned and immediately established himself in the Illini
Cook has scored at least 17 points in
all 10 games he's played, reaching 20 points seven times. He's also
had at least eight rebounds seven times and has averaged 9.8 boards
over the last six games.
Cook's highest-scoring games have been against Minnesota and Temple,
with 25 points each time, while he made 22 against North
Carolina, 22 versus Oakland, 21 against Eastern Illinois and
Memphis, and 20 versus Coppin State.
In the win over No. 11 Missouri, Cook
scored 17, making all 10 of his free-throw attempts, and pulled down
a game-high nine rebounds. In his most recent outing, versus
Minnesota, Cook recorded the 11th double-double of his career, with
25 points and 11 boards.
Dee-pendable -- no Dee-bate, Dee can play
Who is the best freshman point guard in
college basketball? It's hard to find a rookie guard who has made
more of an impact than Illinois' Dee Brown. Brown has started every
game and leads the Illini in minutes played (33.0 avg.). He has
scored in double figures in eight of 12 games and is second on the
team in scoring, averaging 13.3 points. Brown exploded for a
career-high 25 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 10, hitting
10-of-14 shots, including a career-high five 3-pointers.
[to top of second column in this article]
In two December performances in front
of national television audiences, Brown first had a game-high 21
points along with seven assists and five rebounds in Illinois'
victory over No. 11 Missouri to earn Big Ten Player of the Week
honors on Dec. 21. He then followed with 19 points, including five
3-pointers, along with three assists, three boards and no turnovers
in 37 minutes against Memphis.
Brown ranks third in the Big Ten in
assists, with 4.6 per game, and ranks fourth in the league with an
assist-turnover ratio of 2.00. He also ranks 18th in the Big Ten in
scoring, at 13.3 points per game. One of the quickest guards in
America, Brown's 1.6 steals per game place him at eighth in the Big Ten.
Among the top freshmen in the league,
he ranks among the top three in assists (first), points (third) and
steals (first) per game.
becomes first Illini freshman to earn Big Ten Player of the Week
Dee Brown became the first freshman in
Illinois history to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors. He was
honored on Dec. 23 after pouring in a game-high 21 points in the
Illini's victory over No. 11 Missouri.
The first-year point guard connected on
a trio of 3-pointers, recorded a game-high seven assists and added
five rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, in the win.
Against Missouri, Brown broke the 20-point barrier for the second time on the season, while his seven assists against the Tigers also
ranked as the second best output of his career.
Brown was the second Illini to earn Big
Ten Player of the Week accolades this season, as teammate Brian Cook
was honored on Dec. 9.
nice -- Williams joins Brown in all-freshman backcourt
Deron Williams and Dee Brown make up
perhaps the best freshmen backcourt in the nation. The two rank
second and fourth, respectively, in the Big Ten in
assist-to-turnover ratio and have the Illini leading the Big Ten in
team assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Brown leads the team in
minutes, at 33.0 per game, but Williams is third, at 24.6 minutes.
Williams is averaging 7.1 points, is second to Brown for the team
lead in assists with 54, and is second on the team in steals with
16. Williams is shooting 46 percent from the field. He ranks second
in the Big Ten in assist-turnover ratio, at 2.45, and is fifth in
assists, with an average of 4.5.
three -- Sean Harrington
Senior Sean Harrington has been hot
from behind the arc this season. He has made 36-of-66 treys, leading
the Big Ten and ranking sixth in the nation in 3-point field-goal
percentage, at 54.5 percent. Harrington nailed a career-high six
3-pointers in Illinois' win over North Carolina on Dec. 3 en route
to a 20-point output, tied his mark by making six-of-eight treys on
his way to 18 points against Coppin State, and tied it again with
six-of-nine treys on his way to a career-high 22 points against
Minnesota. Against Oakland, Harrington had 20 points, connecting on
In his three games as a starter this
season, Harrington is averaging 20.0 points per game. It is the
first time in his career at Illinois that he scored in double
figures in three straight games.
Harrington is third on the team with 31
assists and has just 11 turnovers, for an assist-to-turnover ratio
of 2.82. He also ranks second on the team with 16 steals. In games
played at the Assembly Hall, Harrington is 26-43 (.605) from 3-point
Harrington ranks fifth on the UI career
list with 163 3-point field goals.
Another member of the heralded Illini
freshman class to shine has been newcomer James Augustine. He has
bolstered the UI frontcourt, averaging 6.3 points and shooting over
62 percent from the field. He has scored in double figures four
times, with a season-high 12 points versus Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
He is second on the team in
rebounding, behind Brian Cook, and is averaging 5.8 boards.
been Illinois' top rebounder in three games, highlighted by
back-to-back nine-rebound performances versus Lehigh and
Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He ranks 16th in the Big Ten in
rebounding, at 5.8 per game, and eighth in blocked shots, at 1.5 per
named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week following wins over UNC and
Brian Cook was named Big Ten Co-Player
of the Week on Dec. 9, after leading the Illini to victories over
North Carolina and Arkansas. He shared the award with Indiana's Tom
Cook scored a game-high 22 points in
Illinois' 92-65 victory over No. 12 North Carolina. He connected on
eight-of-12 shots from the field, grabbed a game-high eight rebounds
and tied his career high with five assists. Cook was also the
leading scorer in Illinois' 62-58 win over Arkansas, scoring 18
points in 39 minutes of action, the most playing time logged by an
Illini player this season. Cook made seven-of-14 field goals and
added four rebounds and four assists versus the Razorbacks. On the
week, Cook averaged 20 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists per game
on combined 58 percent shooting.
Illinois has opened the 2002-03 season
by averaging 80.1 points, outscoring its opponents by an average of
21.2 points per game. Illinois is shooting 50.4 percent from the
field and has shot better than 50 percent in seven-of-12 games this
Illinois leads the Big Ten in scoring
margin (plus 21.2), field-goal percentage (.504) and scoring average
(80.1), while ranking second in 3-point field-goal percentage
(.393). Illinois' top seven scorers are all shooting 46 percent or
better from the field.
sidelined with knee injury
Freshman center Aaron Spears suffered a
torn lateral meniscus in his left knee during practice on Dec. 16
and had arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 27. He is expected to miss four
to six weeks of action, with a possible return in mid-February. He
averaged 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in six games before he was
bask in season opener
For the first time in school history,
Illinois opened the season with three freshmen in the starting
lineup, as James Augustine, Dee Brown and Deron Williams were on the
floor for the opening tip versus Lehigh on Nov. 24. Two sophomores,
Roger Powell and Nick Smith, rounded out the starting lineup as the
youngest in school history. Prior to the opener, the five starters
had combined for a total of four starts (all by Nick Smith).
The previous time Illinois started
three freshmen in any game was Feb. 20, 1991, when Rennie Clemons,
Scott Pierce, and Tom Michael started versus Ohio State.
In the opening two wins of the season,
the five Illinois freshmen scored 104 of Illinois' 186 points (56
percent), while grabbing 42 of the Illini's 90 rebounds (47
Five freshmen have given an entirely
new look to the Fighting Illini this season. The Illini recruiting
class was a consensus top 10 group and includes McDonald's
All-American Dee Brown, a 6-foot guard from Proviso East High School
in Maywood; Deron Williams, a 6-3 guard from The Colony, Texas; Kyle
Wilson, a 6-8 forward from Plano, Texas; James Augustine, a 6-10 forward
from Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox; and Aaron Spears,
a 6-9 post player from Chicago Dunbar High School.
added to UI staff
Bill Self added veteran coach Tim
Jankovich to the Illinois coaching staff Nov. 20, replacing Billy
Gillispie, who moved to UTEP as head coach on Nov. 2. Jankovich, a
former head coach at North Texas, has worked as associate head coach
the last three seasons at Vanderbilt. He served on the Oklahoma
State staff with Self in the early 1990s.
For the 2002-03 season, Illinois is
scheduled to appear at least 13 times on national television, with
five games on ESPN, four games on ESPN2 and four games on CBS.
Illinois' 26 wins in 2002 tied as the
third winningest season in school history. … The 2001-02 season was
the second time in school history that the Illini posted
back-to-back 26-win seasons. The last time was in 1984 and 1985. …
After starting the 2002 season with five straight road losses,
Illinois finished with five straight road wins, including four
straight Big Ten road victories. ... The last time Illinois won four
straight Big Ten road games in the same season was in 1956. ... In
2002, Illinois won at least 10 games in conference play for the
third straight season and for the fifth of the last six years. ... Brian
Cook made 50 of his last 52 free throws over the span of the last 18
games of the 2002 season. … In Big Ten play, Cook ranked first in
free-throw percentage, at 92.0 percent (46-of-50). … In 2002,
Illinois led the Big Ten in scoring in all games (77.3 ppg) for the
second year in a row.
During the 2001 and 2002 seasons,
Illinois won back-to-back Big Ten titles for the first time in 50
years (since 1951-52) and for just the third time in school history.
The Whiz Kids posted back-to-back titles in 1942 and 1943. Illinois
has never won three straight Big Ten titles.
second Big Ten title in two years
Bill Self became just the second Big
Ten coach in conference history to win Big Ten basketball titles in
his first two seasons in the league. Self is the first since
Wisconsin's Walter Meanwell did so in his first three seasons, from
Last season, Bill Self became the first
coach in 22 years, the ninth all-time in the Big Ten and the second
Illini coach to win a Big Ten championship in his first season as
coach at a conference school.
League rookies earning hardware were
Wisconsin's Meanwell in 1912, Guy Lowman in 1918 and Harold Foster
in 1935, Iowa's Sam Barry in 1923, Michigan's George Veekner in
1929, Illinois' Doug Mills in 1937, Minnesota's Bill Musselman in
1972, Purdue's Lee Rose in 1979, Self in 2001 and Wisconsin's Bo
Ryan in 2002.
Williams, Archibald move to the NBA
Frank Williams became Illinois' first,
first-round NBA draft pick since 1990 when the New York Knicks chose
him as the 26th pick of the 2002 draft. Teammate Robert Archibald
soon followed as the 32nd pick by the Memphis Grizzlies. Archibald
is the first native of Scotland to be drafted by an NBA team.
--Ingram transfers from Tulsa: Jack
Ingram, a 6-10 forward-center from San Antonio, Texas, transferred
to Illinois from Tulsa this past summer and will sit out the 2002-03
season per NCAA transfer rules.
Illini: Three future student-athletes signed national letters of
intent with the University of Illinois and Bill Self during the
early signing period in November. The class includes 6-foot-3-inch
guard Richard McBride of Springfield Lanphier High School, 6-8
forward Brian Randle of Peoria Notre Dame High School and 6-9
forward Warren Carter of Lake Highlands High School in Dallas,
Texas. Both McBride and Randle are two-time all-state picks entering
their senior seasons.
[Provided by Kent Brown,
sports information director,
University of Illinois]
Insiders will tell you that SE was
without their star guard Ty Johnson. We'll tell you, that's hooey!
Yes, he didn't play and they were a noticeably different team
without him, but on this night would it really have mattered? We
When Cory Farmer, Erik Young and Chris
Bunch are hitting on all cylinders, this Railer contingent is pretty
strong. Throw in a great game by Ryne Komnick (and I mean a GREAT
game), and this one was over early in the third period!
I haven't even mentioned the consistent
play of Derek Schrader and Brandon Heidbreder; and don't forget that
Brock Werner will hopefully be back in two to three weeks as well.
Funny how the Springfield papers fail to point that out… and they
think we're the ones that are not full-time investigative
What we REALLY liked about the game
Friday was the way that Lincoln dictated the tempo and pace of the
game after about the first four minutes. This style and tactic bodes
well for the Railers IF they have plans to go far in the postseason.
Early experts said that the CS8 would
be all SE and Lanphier. We wonder what they all think now??? The
Railers also picked up a road victory at Jerseyville on Saturday
night to run their record to 14-2; not bad for a team that some are
not taking very seriously.
One more Railer note: It was nice to
finally see a pretty decent crowd at a home game. Don't know if it's
the winning record, the college kids being home or what, but it was
still nice to see. A good home crowd could be worth a couple more
important victories somewhere down the road!
…BUT if you're a loyal reader of the
LDN, you've been hearing that from us since our very existence! We
just feel that in football and basketball our conference is
strongest from top to bottom. And until the ACC and the SEC and
others can even go into the houses of our bottom-rung teams and
consistently come away with some wins, that's not going to change
I know that all area Buckeye fans are
delirious right now; but if they're the champs, what does that make
the Illini? I seem to recall a recent game in Champaign where
Illinois gave OSU all it wanted and deserved a better fate in the
process. If that means what we think that means, that means that
Illinois is this close to a national championship??? Probably as
close as the Illini have been in years.
On the other hand both OSU and Miami
have five or six of the type of athletes that the Illini never seem
to have. I don't think Illinois will ever be able to compete year
after year until they find some way to attract those kinds of
players here! Superior size and strength would REALLY help; BUT,
blazing speed at all skill positions can cover a multitude of sins!
Here's hoping that some of those guys and that kind of help is on
By the way, this column is not just our
typical LDN sports department blabber! The Big Ten DID in fact win
the conference bowl cup going away, hands-down by going 5-2 for a
winning percentage of over .700! And that was without having
Illinois drub some poor, unsuspecting team!
drama in the NFL playoffs
…If you consider the wild-card round
high drama and anything of significance.
According to the stats a wild-card team
has not advanced all that often. So, you could say what a game
Atlanta had at Green Bay or the Jets had over the Colts. You could
say what a comeback Pittsburg had over Cleveland. You could even say
what a miracle the 49ers threw at the NY Giants. Or you could say,
All those teams must go on the road
next week and show people they're for real. On the one hand, that
shouldn't happen. The home teams have been resting, preparing and,
most of all, getting their guys healthy.
On the other hand, the last few weeks
there have been so many weird things happening in sports that it
REALLY makes you wonder what's going on. For example: Is there now
so much money on the line that the outcomes or at least the spreads
are being played with? I sure hope we don't get a visit from
somebody's Mongo or Baby-Face Nelson, but it REALLY does make you
wonder. I'm sure that it will take a crack reporter and newspaper
with many more investigative skills than our own upstart LDN to
solve this mystery, but no one can question that strange things are
Whether it's the players, the
officials, Vegas, the lucky bounce of the ball or whatever, YOU make
the call. Please notify the LDN when you get the results. Until
then, we're just going to remain a little skeptical…
LCC going back to the hardwood
After a very lengthy layoff, too long
in fact, Lincoln College and Lincoln Christian College are heading
back to the hardwood this week. As a matter of fact, LCC even got
some games in last week.
The Preachers went to 1-2, and we got
no report on how the Angels fared in their annual New Year's
tourneys down in Oklahoma.
Both of LC's teams will resume regular
season play Wednesday night at home.
season looms for the Illini
The Illinois Fighting Illini are about
to begin their second season after blowing through the
non-conference portion of their schedule to go 10-1.
I would describe myself as an
optimistic realist, and even I was overwhelmed by their success. An
8-3 record would have made me proud, and I could have even settled
for a 7-4 mark at this point. So, I'm ecstatic to be covering a 10-1
But as the Big Ten season looms, many
questions that we hoped to avoid will soon be answered. How will
this young Illini team handle going on the road for four of the
first six games? How will they respond to tough losses or even an
occasional blowout loss? How will they handle conference success?
How will they respond to playing more football and wrestling than
the finesse that they've excelled in?
[to top of second column in this
As for me and my house, we will be
thrilled to see us at 2-2 and at 3-3 after those first six games.
Why? Because with four of our last six at home, if we can just hang
around at the top until then, and with growing confidence each step
of the way, good things could happen. We're going to go with
something around 10-6 (even though I'm probably thinkin' more like
9-7 because of the early brutal schedule), which we think is doable.
That would still get ‘em to 19-20 wins before the Big Ten bash and
perhaps seal a nice seed in the Big Dance, which again would really
help this young team. Enough muttering… Let the games begin!!!
sledding for ISU
The ISU Redbirds continue to struggle.
However, they showed signs of life Saturday in Carbondale. Gregg
Alexander lit the tote board for 18 points to give ISU a solid
chance at a tough and improbable road victory. But after being
whistled for two cheap fouls he went to the bench. SIU outscored ISU
26-10 while Gregg was on the pines to take the win.
And it doesn't get any easier in the
days ahead as the Birds are facing a tough road date at UNI and a
Saturday home contest with No. 15 Creighton. Hopefully the intensity
they showed Saturday will carry over in these next two games!
Regardless, it's great to see our
former Railers faring so well on the next level!
It was a lot of fun covering the Bears
in their inaugural Champaign season, even though they didn't play as
well as the fans had hoped. If you recall, we had them at 8-8, and a
case could be made that they could have reached that mark. And now
the LDN gives the Bears their grades for this year:
It's hard to know what all they did to
get the pieces in place, but from our standpoint it looked like they
were somewhat happy to into the season riding last year's laurels.
Maybe they didn't feel it was as important since the games would be
played downstate or maybe they didn't fully realize how brutal the
schedule would be (next year's doesn't look all that much better to
us). We also don't know all the options that were open to them once
the season got going. We think that going much harder after Drew
Bledsoe would have been a step in the right direction. Lots of
things broke. We'll see how many they fix before next September.
If you want to talk about trying to
coach a team with so many injuries, you have to take your hat off to
what this team was able to do with patchwork lineups. That's the
reason for such a high C-minus on that side of things. But, if you
want to just talk about philosophies, well, then you have the other
side of things. It concerns us when any coach says that they are
happy to be competitive and are pleased to still be in games in the
final two minutes. Let us just say from experience, that would NEVER
play well in Oakland or San Francisco. They'd run you right into the
Bay and use you for a bridge support! So, since it wouldn't play
there, how does it play here? You have to attack in the NFL on both
sides of the ball. IF you just wait until they do something bad
before you try to do something good… Well, what happens if THEY
don't make many mistakes? Offensively, something has to be done!
We're sticking to these grades!
Considering what play-calling they were
given and the extent of their injuries, a C-plus or even a B-minus
could be accounted for. Jim Miller was bandaged and taped together,
and Chris Chandler was in even worse shape. Anthony Thomas was
adequate at times, but more would have helped lighten the load on
the quarterbacks. Receivers were not nearly the threat that most
hoped they would be. A speed merchant with great hands is an
absolute must for next season.
Maybe too high a grade… but as much as
they had to be on the field with their limited numbers, we felt they
kept the Bears in some games that they shouldn't have been in.
Still, improvements on the line and in the secondary would make the
linebacking corps even MORE imposing!
As we said on many occasions, they just
weren't all that special. We were hoping that Brad Maynard would
help a little bit more. Again, a great return specialist is an
absolute non-negotiable for next season.
This is a no-brainer. Paul Ettinger was
easily the MVP of this team… period!!!
They were always with the team and did
a great job! To those who didn't think they would be any different
than the Illini fans: You couldn't have been more wrong. And to
those who actually drove down from Chicago every week: You oughta
get some kind of award. We had to drive only an hour and a half to
look at THAT!
On the other side of the fence: To
those who were so drunk that they didn't know where they were, or so
rude on every possible occasion, thanks for demonstrating such good
traits to a lot of young impressionable fans! Some of you were a
To those who didn't take advantage of
seeing a professional sport in your own back yard: Don't gripe and
complain about it later!
6, right here on your LDN dial, CITV or FIX-96.3 FM, we have some
special stuff in store for you. So get your question or comments
ready and give us a call at 735-3306.