When a sportswriter (even a semiprofessional one) goes to another
town to cover one of the local athletes trying to make good on a
bigger stage, they can often be criticized for being a "homer." For
those unfamiliar with the term, we're not talking about Homer
Simpson. It's just that the media can be construed as being
overzealous in their props for the hometown kid. Writers can lose
their objectivity, their sense of fairness and forget totally about
I think I recognize it when I see writers do it. I'd
be the first to admit it to you if that's what I was doing in regard
to Gregg Alexander. But, after his 10-point, 10-assist performance
(his second career double-double), in which he may have even sold
50-50 tickets and dots (the ice cream of the future) at halftime, I
realized he took ALL the pressure off me.
Again, he and the Redbirds don't care. Because after he started
the stampede that led to their 79-67 victory over the Marshall
Thundering Herd (if that's not one of the best college monikers,
I'll eat my hat), ISU's record currently stands at a sparkling 7-2!
Yes, I know they now have to go on the road. Yes, I know the
schedule gets tougher from here. I know, I know, I know. But, did I
mention that the Redbirds now sport a 7-2 record?!
The players were whooping it up after the game like they had just
received word that they got a postseason invitation; AND if they
keep playing the way they are playing, that invitation will
eventually find its way into their postal box!
Alexander is doing all he can to make sure that invitation comes.
In his 10-point, 10-assist performance, he added two rebounds and a
steal while committing zero turnovers in 37 minutes of the best
action you can imagine. In fact his coach, Porter Moser, called
Gregg's night "the most solid game he has had since I've coached
him," and added, "I didn't want to take him off the floor."
Alexander himself would not go that far in assessing his game,
but he did offer this comment on the difference between this year
and last: "The difference is our mindset. We've added new pieces to
the puzzle, which has helped out tremendously. But we knew we had to
get our edge back like we had in Milwaukee and pick up a win
tonight." And that is exactly what he and the 'Birds did!
Illinois should stay No. 1
BUT, never underestimate the voters. If coaches and media experts
can lobby for votes like Texas did in football, don't be surprised
to find that Kansas or some other "worthy" team leapfrogs the Illini.
However, Luther Head and the boys are doing all they can to keep
that No. 1 ranking for as long as they can.
Saturday's game versus Oregon at the United Center was more of
the same. Since we're at the busy time of the year, LDN primary
correspondents were not on hand, but our sources at the scene
indicated that it was another solid showing for the nation's most
elite team. As a matter of fact, the 83-66 drubbing of the Oregon
Ducks allowed Illinois to climb to 9-0 and, barring tragic voting
decisions, should keep the Illini in the top spot for another week.
All five starters finished in double figures (talk about
balance), led by Luther Head's 23 points as he missed only two
shots. The death of Deron Williams' game, which had certainly been
overexaggerated, produced only 17 points to go along with seven
assists. Dee Brown continued his stellar play, adding 13 points to
the mix, and James Augustine had 10 points and eight rebounds. The
Illini gave Roger Powell the afternoon off, but he still wound up
with 12 tallies.
[to top of second column in
Most impressive in the decisive win was Illinois' ability to
overcome tired legs. Many have asked, "How can 18- to 22-year-old
kids get that tired?" That's a good question but an easy response.
Yes, they would be practicing or playing every day anyway. BUT, when
you mix that all in with classes and homework (not to mention
finals), travel (not sleeping in their own beds, different food and
water, and so on), sleep changes, and then trying to have a life
(relationships and such), there are plenty of ways for a team to get
tired playing four games in eight days. Illinois simply showed the
power of their depth and balance Saturday and emphatically stated a
solid message. These guys don't plan on being denied. Oh, and by the
way, I love saying, "We're No. 1!"
How 'bout those Railers?
I don't know if Railer coach Neil Alexander is making his guys
watch the Illini on tape or not, but they sure seem to be following
Illinois' template for success. Incredible balance, teamwork (and I
do mean work), unselfish play, extra passes and the list goes on and
on. Friday night Lincoln drilled an undefeated Chatham-Glenwood
squad 58-30 to lift their record to 6-1 (2-0). Coach Al always likes
to get those early wins to help seeding later, to provide a game or
two league cushion, and that list is endless too. Lincoln will host
two home contests next weekend, entertaining Taylorville and
The Lady Railers lost a heartbreaker to Bloomington 48-53 to go
to 3-5. They did show a lot of life and potential according to
sources at the scene, so we'll hope for better days around the bend.
How 'bout those Lynx?
The Lincoln Lynx steamrolled Shawnee 86-69 at the Carl Sandburg
Classic in Galesburg this weekend. The victory allows Lincoln to now
claim an impressive 11-1 mark to start the year. The Lady Lynx were
also victorious with a 68-54 win over Elgin.
LCC not so charmed
LCC suffered a 65-59 setback at the hands of Concordia-River
Forest and is really struggling early in the season. The Angels took
a loss 71-47 to Maryville.
Colts won, Rams and Bears did not; what else is new? Greg Taylor
was right once again when he told you in week one to get on the
Colts' bandwagon. The only hitch for them may come in the AFC
championship game, where they will likely have to go on the road to
play Pittsburg or New England.
Non-sports item of the week
Congratulations to Bill Hull for being selected the Citizen of
the Year. Hull has been a solid supporter of our sports guys and is
truly richly deserving of the award and honor.
That's it for me. Have a great week, everybody!