Although both are
winless in the Missouri Valley Conference, each team believes the
first win could lead to several more. Add the tradition of the
Interstate 74 rivalry and the Fox Sports Net live telecast, and the
victory will be just that much sweeter.
The Redbirds, 2-9,
0-2 in the Valley, are hoping to go forward with some momentum from
a good second half in Thursday's loss at Northern Iowa. The 'Birds
outscored the Panthers 30-26, committed only four turnovers and saw
the best offensive outputs of the season from sophomores Jaci
McCormack (16) and Michelle Harakas (15).
Bradley, 4-8, 0-3, is
looking to re-establish its promise without two-time all-Missouri
Valley Conference guard Sara Bailey, who left the team before the
Braves' 80-62 Thursday loss to Indiana State.
Redbird coach Jenny
Yopp thinks Bradley still has plenty of ingredients to make a
"They still have a
very talented team," said Yopp. "Sometimes, when your back is
against the ball, you scrap and claw a little bit harder, and kids
will step up from that. They lost a talented player, no question,
but they still have a talented team with players we know are
Former Illinois State
assistant Paula Buscher, Bradley's head coach, thinks the 40-mile
proximity of the two schools and the traditional rivalry always
makes the ISU-Bradley contests special in their own right.
State-Bradley rivalry means you can throw out the records, throw out
the past games," said Buscher. "That's what makes the rivalry so
[to top of second column in this
Both teams will look
for aggressiveness as a symbol of good things on Saturday and better
things to come.
"If we have the same
kind of aggressiveness and energy we had at Northern Iowa, and
improve our scoring, we can have a great ballgame," said Yopp.
"But discipline will
be the deciding factor. We will have a great atmosphere, plus
aggressiveness and intensity on both ends of the court. I think for
both teams it will boil down to having the discipline to make the
right plays and not having discipline breakdowns that lead to missed
Yopp, whose team
committed a season-low 10 turnovers at Northern Iowa, expects a
different defense than the 'Birds saw in Cedar Falls. Since Buscher
arrived, Bradley has played defense in the attack mode.
"We expect ball
pressure," said Yopp. "How we handle it will be critical to the
outcome of the game for us. Taking care of the ball as well as we
did at Northern Iowa will hopefully get us as many layups as we had
at Northern Iowa; only this time, we expect them to go down (instead
of rimming out of the basket)."
The Redbirds also expect to play at home
next weekend, with Southwest Missouri State at 7:05 p.m. Thursday
and Wichita State at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Redbird Arena.
[Thomas Lamonica, Illinois State University]
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.