He was a lot like Wednesday night's Big 10-ACC Challenge game
between Illinois and Georgia Tech. I wish he could have described
it. Now keep in mind, I am not suggesting a replacement for our own
Brian Barnhart. I personally feel he is one of the best in the
business, and we are blessed to have one of the top announcers in
the country. I'm just saying that Wednesday night's game was so
wacky, zany and strange, it would have fit Mr. King's style
How wacky and strange was Wednesday night's game? Well,
for starters the game was tied five times and the lead changed hands
eight times. The Illini got up 6-2 early but then struggled for most
of the rest of the first half as the Yellow Jackets were hitting
lots of shots from distance. They led by as many as six points, and
Illinois was slow to close out and ended up chasing the Ramblin'
Wreck all over Assembly Hall.
If that wasn't bad enough, the Georgia Tech "bigs" were using and
abusing the Illini post players. I thought they had set up a
rent-a-mule shop in the paint on both ends of the court.
The Jackets outscored Illinois 26-16 in the paint and had a 30-20
advantage in points off the bench. Tech was led by Kammeon Holsey,
who missed only one shot all night and finished with 14 points and
four rebounds. Illinois didn't have much of an answer for him. Jason
Morris also hit for double figures with 10 points and was joined by
long-range sharpshooter Mfon Udofia, who also garnered 10 points.
Other strange occurrences on the night had to do with getting the
shot clock corrected a few times. There were also some reffing
discussions that created stoppages in play.
The bad thing about issues like these is that it really disrupts
the flow and tempo of the game. It hurt Illinois a few times when
they were on a run and could have pulled away. I guess you could say
that it affects both teams, but I am just weighing in that I am not
a big fan of the disruptions. Let 'em play and let's see what
Probably the biggest star to emerge on the night was the Illini's
Joseph Bertrand. He took over the game late and at times was the
best player on the court. He helped turn around a 54-50 deficit and
turned it into a 64-58 lead with 4:48 to play. Illinois was able to
finish the job thanks to Bertrand. He finished with 15 points and
three rebounds, but he saved Illinois by going on his own personal
10-point run to put the game out of reach as he led the Illini on a
game-ending 21-4 run.
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What was especially encouraging was the team's balance. You got
great stat lines from your upperclassmen. Brandon Paul also had 15
points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. D.J. Richardson
hit some big shots on his way to 14 points, four rebounds and two
assists, and Tyler Griffey continued his hot shooting and inspired
play with 14 points and three rebounds.
What was additionally exciting was that Illinois kept coming at
the Ramblin' Wreck with waves of production. Hats off to Myke Henry,
who hit a big first-half 3 that finally gave Illinois some breathing
room, and to Devin Langford, who gave seven quality minutes in the
first half when the Illini were battling foul trouble. Nnanna Egwu
also contributed six points and four rebounds and took a physical
beating in the paint. He did block out some of the Jacket bigs to
let other Illini corral the caroms. Tracy Abrams did not have one of
his best games but settled down in the second half and finished with
six points, four rebounds and five assists. In fact, the whole team
settled down in the second half as they committed only two turnovers
after throwing the ball away 12 times in the first stanza.
With the win, the Illini move to 8-0 and most assuredly should
move up in the polls, hopefully into the top 20. But are they a top
20 team just yet? Probably not. But who cares. Enjoy it while you
This crazy, fantastic and amazing game allowed the Illini and the
Big 10 to retain the Cup. Actually I am mixing my metaphors once
again and my former English teachers are running for cover. In
golf's version of the Big 10-ACC Challenge, called the Ryder Cup,
the previous year's winner only needs a tie to retain the Cup. The
reality is that some of our Big 10 brethren did not hold up their
end of the bargain and the actual series ended in a 6-6 split. But I
say the Illini held up their end and helped us hoist the Cup again.
Since this was one of the craziest games I have personally
witnessed in a few years, only one phrase really comes to mind:
"Party on, dudes!"
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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