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Illini cast Pearl to the swine       Send a link to a friend

Illinois thumps Wisconsin-Milwaukee 77-63

By Jeff Mayfield

[MARCH 25, 2005]  In the Good Book there is a passage that comes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. One of the points in his message that day (Matthew 7:6, for those of you scoring at home) was that you should never throw your "pearls" to the swine. That is because they would not recognize their value, stomp them in the mud, and then turn on you and try to rip you to shreds. In this particular case, I thought an exception was warranted.

I know I should be a bigger person than that. For crying out loud, what Bruce Pearl did to the University of Illinois and its athletic program happened some 15 years ago. I'm sorry… but I can't get over it. What he did was wrong, and he and I both know it. Perhaps if he were remorseful, I could at least feign some level of forgiveness. I admit, I will need help from above for that to happen.

So, what did I want from Thursday night's game? I only wanted Illinois to win by 100 or more points. I thought that might send a proper message. Please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the Milwaukee Panthers… except their coach. In fact, if they were playing anybody else and were coached by Stalin, Attila the Hun or even Bob Knight… I and legions of others would be backing these Cinderella darlings all the way. I confess, it was hard to see the forest for the trees.

With all that being said, I liked Illinois' approach to this contest. They came out from the opening tip and looked like they meant business. And had it not been for Joah Tucker's constant cherry picking, the Illini may have been up by 15-20 points at halftime. Actually, I hate to say it, but those easy run-outs were probably pretty smart for the Panthers. They were struggling in their sets, and run-outs are one of the best ways to take pressure off your half-court offense.

But in the end it was too much Deron Williams and too much Dee Brown. Not bad for a kid one national writer called this week, "the most overrated player in the NCAA tournament." Are you kidding me? Somebody send those rag tabloids some of Greg Taylor's stuff! I'm quite certain that he is way more insightful than that!

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It was also way too much Roger Powell Jr. and James Augustine. How 'bout the job those guys did cleaning up the glass? Roger Powell Jr. was doing his impression of the mountain man, or maybe even Dennis Rodman, as for a while in the second half he took over the game in the paint. He finished a carom short of matching Augustine's double-double. Coach Weber addressed us in the post-game press conference and said the rebounding by the "bigs" over the last six games has been outstanding.

And don't forget the performance of Luther Head. Hobbled by a sore hamstring, he was -- as one writer said -- limited to 12 points, six assists, two steals and no turnovers. I wish I would've had games in my college career where I was that limited. Luther's important contributions helped get all five starters in double figures, which has been yet another trademark of this epitome team. A total of 20 assists on 28 field goals also continues to demonstrate Illinois' trademark of unselfish play.

Next, the Illini will take on a familiar foe in the Arizona Wildcats. They are fast, strong, quick and speedy. And beyond that they are pretty athletic and shoot the ball pretty well. Will their athleticism overtake the Illini, or will Illinois approach them the same way they have all outstanding opponents all season long? Stay tuned Saturday. Same bat time, same bat channel!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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