Orange-hot Illini turn Sweet 16
Illinois buries Cincinnati
By LDN staff
Send a link to a friend
Ohio -- Going into Sunday's contest with the Cincinnati Bearcats,
conventional wisdom said that if Illinois played like they did
against Murray State on Friday, they would at least have a chance to
win. However, never in anyone's wildest imagination could you have
expected an outcome like the 92-68 demolition that appeared on the
scoreboard. But what was it that REALLY turned the trick? Was it the
Well, the Illini are something like 8-1 in
those babies, with the only loss coming against UNC in a game many
felt the Illini should have won.
Was it the Ohio State Buckeye floor?
That's right, you read it correctly. Even though the game was played
in Value City Arena, the Columbus Blue Jackets' NHL home arena, they
shipped in OSU's floor from their nearby Shottenstein Center gym for
the NCAA hoops action. You will recall that on the last Sunday of
the year, the Illini marched into Columbus on that same floor and
promptly won their first outright title in 52 years! The good
vibrations were still forthcoming on that floor two Sundays later.
We've left a voice message with the Georgia Dome's physical plant
manager offering to ship that same Buckeye floor to Atlanta for next
weekend's games. Hey, conventional wisdom says to ride something
while it's hot!
All right then, was it all the trash
Mostly, it wasn't any of those things.
It was a culmination of bringing everything together. It was players
believing in their coaches and coaches believing in their players.
It was chemistry coming together over the last two months, like you
couldn't believe. It was unselfishness cranked up to the highest
We spoke to Jack Ingram after the
contest and asked him why he didn't see much action. He said that
the matchups didn't favor him on the floor. He told the coaches
that's all right with him... anything for the team. How often do you
see that kind of attitude on today's sports landscape?
[to top of second column in this article
It was execution of running their stuff
almost to perfection. It was tenacious, in-your-face defense with
pressure coming at you from all sides for 94 feet and for 40
minutes. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you hit an Illini NCAA-record
63.6 percent from the field and a mere 57.9 percent from 3-point
You can also win a few games when you
have a 26-4 assists-to-turnovers ratio. And when Deron Williams
records the most Illini points ever in an NCAA game at 31, followed
by a silky 22 from Roger Powell, and for good measure you get 14
from Dee Brown and another 11 from James Augustine, you're going to
beat a lot of people with those numbers.
However, it may have been assistant
coach Gary Nottingham who said it best. He told the LDN that coach
Weber has been preaching one major thing all season long: Take care
of all the little things! Dive on the floor for loose balls, keep
possessions alive by tipping them back in or to a teammate, block
out on every shot, close out defensively, contest every shot, help
every teammate who's in trouble on the defensive end, cash in on
your free throws… and if we don't stop now, this article will be a
amazing dismantling of the Bearcats was the culmination of all these
things coming together at once. Consider the lessons learned. The
orange-clad Illini turned sweet 16 on this awesome day in Columbus.