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To the editor:
Congratulations to the Illinois Fighting Illini
basketball team on compiling a 26-7 record. A big thank-you goes out
to head coach Bruce Weber for what many say was his best coaching
performance. After losing three key starters from last year's NCAA
second-place team, the Illini had to play their seniors, James
Augustine (first player in Illinois history to score 1,000-plus
points and grab 1,000-plus rebounds) and all-American Dee Brown,
with players who played sparingly, if at all, last year.
Illinois started the season by winning its first 15 games,
including games against Wichita State, Michigan State, at Georgetown
and at last year's NCAA champions, North Carolina. The Fighting
Illini did this by posting one of the top 10 stingiest defenses in
the country, which overshadowed their poor free-throw shooting. This
free-throw shortfall really showed up in the Big Ten tournament,
when the team barely shot just over 50 percent and lost by a few
points in the first round for the first time ever.
[to top of second column in this letter]
Then the Fighting Illini played in the NCAA tournament, where
they made it to the second round and played a very good Washington
team. Illinois played well enough to win, but they could not get
past one of the worst-officiated games in recent memory and finally
lost by three points.
The Illini will miss Dee Brown and James Augustine next year, but
with these two players the only seniors on the team and the players
on the current team making valuable contributions next year, and
with some top recruits coming in, the Illini should be a great team
come next year!!!
(Posted April 10, 2006)
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