Illini and Railers continue to roll
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[FEB. 14, 2005]
its amazing run Saturday with a hard-fought 70-59 win over a tough
Wisconsin team. The Illinois trio of Luther Head, Deron Williams and
Dee Brown were magical once again for the Illini, and in the end, it
was free-throw shooting that really made difference for both clubs.
Illinois made 18 of 19 attempts on the game, while Wisconsin
struggled from the line, missing its first four and making just
seven of 16 for the game. Both teams made eight 3-point baskets and
22 of the other kind, but Illinois made 11 more free throws, while
attempting only three more.
Head, the senior from Chicago, scored
26 points and, for stretches of the game, seemed to be the only
Illini wanting to take a shot. For the first time this season, Head
failed to connect on a 3-point basket, but made up for it by making
12 of 13 free throws. Williams, battling inconsistent shooting much
of the year, nailed two big 3-point baskets early in the second half
and found himself battling Wisconsin power forward Alando Tucker on
defense for key possessions in during the game. Williams looked
really solid for much of the game while directing traffic. Brown,
the flashy junior whom so many young Illini fans want to emulate,
was frustrated by foul trouble for much of the game, but he came up
big when it mattered most. Dee nailed two late 3s from well beyond
NBA range to help Illinois extend its lead to double digits for the
first time in the game.
was the story for Wisconsin, as the sophomore from Lockport led the
Badgers with 24 points and eight rebounds. Illinois did hold the
usually tough Mike Wilkinson to four shot attempts and just eight
points for the game. Wisky's guards just couldn't match up with the
terrific trio of Illini, and in the end, the Orange Invasion
continued to sing its victory song for another game.
Saturday's game in Champaign was a
crowded affair, to say the least. Over 200 media requests were
filled by the Illinois sports information director, and dozens of
recruits and their families watched up close and personal the No. 1
team in the land. CBS featured Illinois nationally for the fourth
time this season, and the Orange Krush and crew were jacked and
ready to roll. The media work room was packed beyond capacity as
everyone seems to want to get a look at the amazing run by the
For week No. 11, the Illini will be
the No. 1 team in the land, and for the third straight week, it
should be unanimous in both major polls.
[to top of second column in
Lincoln High School entered into
Friday night's game at Southeast with the chance to take over sole
possession of first place in the Central State Eight, as Lincoln and
Southeast went into the game with just two conference losses each. I
must admit, I was really nervous, because I know how hard it is to
win on the road in the CS8. To say I was surprised to see Lincoln
blow out the Spartans on their home court by 29 points is the
understatement of the year.
Lincoln senior birthday boy John
Harmsen was once again incredible, scoring 22 points for Lincoln,
most in the second half, and the starters were once again writing
the definition of teamwork as they played the game they love.
But, the LDN gives a huge salute to
sophomore Brandon Farmer, who nailed three 3-point baskets in the
crucial second quarter, helping Lincoln break a 13-13 tie and surge
to a 30-17 halftime lead. Farmer, who has excelled in the point
guard role, showed he can knock down the open jumper -- another
weapon for a team that is now an incredible 23-4 on the year!
The second half was all Railers, as
Southeast had to endure the dreaded running clock at home (the
running clock goes into effect in high school when the lead becomes
30 points or more) and watched as Lincoln ran its offense to near
perfection. In the end, the final was 64-35 and the Railers find
themselves alone in first place with three games to go.
Kudos, of course, to the coaching
staff and especially Neal Alexander for another unbelievable year of
hoops at Lincoln.
Bottom line? Another great weekend
of hoops for two of our favorite teams. Lincoln wins, the Illini win
-- it just doesn't get much better than this!