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Illinois jousts the Lancers     Send a link to a friend

By Jeff Mayfield

[DEC. 28, 2004]  Sometimes a holiday break is just what a college basketball team needs. Sometimes it's not.

Guys are away from home, their families and friends for months at a time, and it can be a good time for them to go home and experience a time of refreshing. It can be bad because grandma, the next-door neighbor, and every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to know why you're not getting more playing time, why you don't get more shots in the offense, and why your picture is not on every program. Multiply that by playing in one of the least prestigious holiday tournaments. And that goes up exponentially when you find out you're playing Longwood, a team you've probably never heard of. Believe me when I say that it is very hard to get players up for a game they know they should win in a blowout.

With all that as a backdrop, the astute basketball student knew exactly what to expect on Monday night at the Assembly Hall. Though Illinois' fire and intensity on defense was not showcased in this contest, the Illini unveiled enough showtime plays to fill up a highlight reel. Some have commented that they haven't done that (razzle-dazzle plays) this year and that it's not needed. I beg to differ. I like to see the kids having fun. Basketball's a lot of work, and when they can have some fun WITHIN the scope of the offense... Let's just say I'm all for it. For another thing, I am among the few who argue that it is impossible to bring that A-level defensive intensity every night. I'd much rather see them get by Northwestern State and THEN put on a defensive show against Cincy's Bearcats... but, that's just me.

So, the Illini took care of business once again, 105-79, in a game that never was in doubt. Coach Weber was asked by a reporter after the game if he was the angriest 12-0 coach in the country. Weber's response: "Is anybody else 12-0?" I like that response... He is a little feisty himself, and I think that bodes well for the Illini.

Stray shots

I like the way the Illini involved the "bigs" last night. James Augustine led the "bigs" with 16 points, followed by Roger Powell with 13, Nick Smith with nine and Jack Ingram with eight. Augie also picked up nine rebounds, while Ingram tallied five and Smith four. The big men off the bench, notably Ingram and Smith -- and I'm STILL thinking that Warren Carter will come up big -- will be a big factor in helping to keep the Illini on top.

Another sold-out Assembly Hall crowd was on hand to help the Illini to their 12th win of the season. But this crowd was different. Most of them stayed until the final horn. That is because most of the people were sitting in someone else's seats, as this is typically a game that season ticket holders give up as Christmas presents or give away, just knowing they'll be gone for the holidays. I'm glad the Illini made several nice plays for the people who will get to see only that game in person this season.

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Redbirds back in action

The ISU Redbirds will be back in action Thursday night at home versus the Bears of SMSU. No word as to whether Lincoln's Gregg Alexander will be back in the lineup yet or not. Tip is 7:05 for the contest.

Lincoln Railers advance in Holiday Classic

The tourney advises gave Lincoln a nice holiday treat by giving them a much tougher draw than advertised. Like usual, however, the Railers responded nicely by delivering a 57-50 victory over Eastern of Louisville, Ky. The Railers advance to take on Tinley Park, which nipped Chicago St. Rita by only two points. A report we received last night said that the game was scheduled for the Shirk Center today at 4:30.

Manning sets record, Colts make mega-comeback

Peyton Manning set the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season in a most prolific way -- on a game-tying touchdown pass. Actually they also needed the 2-point conversion to force overtime. And if you give Manning the ball first in overtime, you might as well forget it. And that's exactly what happened.

The Bears, on the other hand, seemed to be robbed by a funky call. I'm not the biggest Bears fan in the universe, but that play sure looked like a touchdown to me. I'm not an NFL official, but when a guy comes down with possession and two feet inbounds, I was always taught that that's a touchdown.

As to all the fans upset that coach Smith did not get upset... too much ado about nothing. He's probably winning over even more respect from the men in stripes, and when he develops a playoff-caliber team, THAT's when he'll need those calls to go his way.

It did make me wonder... Do other teams get as many questionable calls as the Bears do? And does it all REALLY even out over time? I don't know... I'm just asking...

No New Year's resolutions as of yet...

I probably should have several of them, but I'm too busy putting toys together...

That's it for me... Happy New Year, everybody!!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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