Illinois blows out Longwood --
afternoon, the Illinois basketball team found out they would be the
No. 1-ranked team in the land for the fourth consecutive week.
Monday night, the No. 1 team in the land played a team most in
Illini Nation had never heard of -- Longwood, a team with an RPI
ranking of 320 (out of 322 nationwide). Fans asked if the Illini
would win by 80, could they hold the visitors to 20 points, and
would walk-on Fred Nkemdi be starting the second half? None of the
three took place, as Longwood took the fight to Illinois for most of
the night, before Illinois rallied for a 105-79 win.
It moves the Orange Invasion to 12-0
on the year (even though they wore their white uniforms) ahead of a
pair of games in Las Vegas later in the week.
The story of this game was defense,
or lack thereof, even though the team scored 100-plus points for the
first time since the 2001-2002 year.
In the post-game press conference,
Dee Brown was furious with the play of his team and seemed very
agitated with each and every question asked. Coach Bruce Weber was
much more tranquil but equally frustrated with his team. Weber
complained that the defensive lapses began in the second half of the
Missouri game and followed through into Longwood.
At one point, with less than 10
minutes left in the game, Longwood trailed by just eight points and
had the ball. Maybe it was a good thing this game was not on TV?
positives can be noted on the offensive end, including:
dished out a career-high 13 assists.
Williams scored a team-high 23 points and appeared to break his
Augustine was one rebound shy of a double-double, with 16 points
and nine boards.
Head scored 20 points but had the highlight of the night -- an
alley-oop slam from Brown when he did a chin-up with the rim (and
received a T).
Smith showed positive signs of life -- and few signs of pouting.
McBride nailed two 3-pointers in transition and had a nice steal
scored a season-high 56 points in the first half.
had runs of 16-0 and 11-0 over the last 10 minutes of the game to
blow out Longwood, and both runs were things of beauty.
Much credit must be given to
Longwood. This team that was given little chance to compete with
Illinois took the fight to the Illini. Sophomore Michael Jefferson
looked a lot like Michael Jordan -- he had a game-high 30 points and
scored regularly on Head, Rich McBride and even Williams. The
Lancers also got several second-chance points when the Illini failed
to block out.
Illinois didn't play its best game
of the year on Monday night, but at the same time, Illinois fans who
are panicking might want to relax. This week will present a huge
test, as Illinois faces an undefeated and ranked Cincinnati team
Friday night in Vegas. Illinois is hoping to finish the
non-conference portion of the schedule undefeated (and 14-0) for the
first time since the 1989-1990 season. The Illini will also play
Northwestern State on Thursday night at 6. Both Vegas games can be
seen on Fox Sports Chicago.
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Lincoln holds on to beat Kentucky
Being the No. 3 seed in the State
Farm holiday tourney, it could be assumed the Lincoln Railers would
cruise to an easy victory against a team seeded No. 14 in the
classic, Eastern HS from Louisville, Ky. Nothing could be further
from the truth.
Two reasons really: First, Lincoln
looked a little sloppy and possibly slow-footed in their first game
after the Christmas holidays; and second, whoever did the seedings
at B-N, I'll buy dinner if you can show me 13 teams that are better
-- I'm not buying it!
The result of the game was a
hard-fought 57-50 victory that moves the Railers into the second
round of the tourney against a strong Tinley Park Andrew team at
4:30 p.m. today at the Shirk Center.
Sophomore Blake Schick led the
Railers with 18 points, including five 3-point buckets. Junior Chris
Gossett battled foul trouble but scored 13 points off the bench with
some really nice post moves. Though he stands just 6-foot-1, Gossett
is a stud down low and really impressive when clicking on all
cylinders. Seniors John Harmsen and David Pickering were steady as
always -- Harmsen scoring 11 points and Pickering chipping in nine
points as both seniors made three 3-pointers each. Overall, the
Railers converted 11 3-point baskets, which accounted for almost 60
percent of their points on the night.
Lincoln trailed 11-8 at the end of
the first quarter but went on a 13-2 run to take an eight-point lead
halfway through the second quarter. Eastern HS, however, refused to
quit and rallied to within two at the half, 27-25. Another strong
run, this one 9-0 on three straight 3-point baskets -- two by
Harmsen, sandwiched by one from Schick -- helped turn a one-point
deficit into a 38-30 lead. Eastern responded with a 10-1 run to
retake the lead at 40-39. A huge Schick 3 at the third-quarter
buzzer gave the Railers a two-point lead going into the final eight
minutes of play.
Lincoln played a strong fourth
quarter to pull away late and win 57-50. Schick, Harmsen and
Pickering all nailed 3s at key points of the fourth quarter, and the
Railers stay in the winners bracket. The victory moves Lincoln to
9-1 on the season.
Commentary: This team is really fun
to watch and deserves the support of our community. Get out and
support the Railers -- whether this week up at Bloomington-Normal or
down the road at home. You can follow the entire State Farm tourney
at www.theclassic.org and
find out how both Lincoln teams are faring, as well as Mount
Pulaski, Hartsburg-Emden and Olympia.