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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Senior Night at Illinois          Send a link to a friend

By Greg Taylor

[February 22, 2007]  CHAMPAIGN --

Illinois sends seniors out in style

Led by seniors Warren Carter and Rich McBride, Illinois won their 20th game of the season and their eighth in the conference with a 54-42 victory over Michigan. Carter, from Dallas, Texas, scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the way for the Illini.

Carter's mother witnessed her first game at the Assembly Hall last evening, and Warren didn't disappoint Mom.

McBride, the senior from Springfield who really struggled early in his senior year, scored just two points in the first half before scoring eight points early in the second half to help Illinois extend to a double-digit lead. He finished the game with 11 points.

And don't forget about senior Marcus Arnold, who again played strong in the post.

And while the score would suggest yet another "ugly win," Illinois played really strong defense most of the night.

Leading just 23-19 at the break, Illinois opened the second half on a 13-4 run to put the Wolverines away. Michigan, a team with a ton of talent, could never seem to get on track, and Dion Harris, the shooting guard who killed Illinois with 22 points earlier in the season, scored just three points through the first 36 minutes of the game. Michigan made just one 3-point basket while the game was in doubt, compared with six long bombs for Illinois. Shaun Pruitt chipped in eight points, and Brian Randle made several good athletic plays when he wasn't on the bench because of foul trouble.

Illinois has two road games left in the regular season and must win at least one of the two in order to stay in line for an NCAA bid. The game this Saturday looks most winnable for Illinois, as they travel to Penn State to play the Lions, who are just 1-13 in the conference this year. Illinois also plays at Iowa on March 3 before traveling to their home away from home, the United Center in Chicago, for the conference tournament March 8-11. The LDN will have correspondents at the conference tourney so you can stay right on top of the action.

Last dance for the Chief

Wednesday night brought the end of an era at the University of Illinois, where after 80-plus years, Chief Illiniwek, the official symbol of the school, performed for the final time at an athletic event. (Video)

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It is political correctness and hypocrisy at its very worst and, unfortunately, it is probably just the beginning of changes at Illinois. Even though the school is in a "no-win" situation in so many ways, it is still really difficult to see the Chief go. We could rant and rave about the hypocrisy of the NCAA in allowing schools like Florida State and Utah keep their symbols while forcing the reverent chief to be retired. We could go nuts on the disgust we have for the political correctness that is running rampant in the world in which we live. But, instead of anger and frustration, we will instead just say how really sad we are to see the Chief go.

This writer was just 3 years old when he witnessed the Chief in action for the first time, and for me and so many others, I can't think about Illinois football and basketball games taking place without the Chief. I realize this is a majority opinion in central Illinois, but majority opinions are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The screaming and crying of a small group of Chief-haters finally has won, and worst of all, this fringe group says they've only just begun. Their next target is the name "Fighting Illini," and my guess is they will scream and cry until Illinois makes even more radical changes.

The NCAA really boxed Illinois into a corner with their decision to prohibit the Illini sports teams from hosting postseason events if the Chief remained an active part of athletic events. I can't blame the university for making the change in order to allow their sports teams "even footing" -- I just think it really stinks. And regardless of what the bozos on sports radio in Chicago say or think about the Chief, today really is a sad day for those who follow Fighting Illini sports. Long live the Chief!

Another end of an era

If you have been to an Illinois football game, you've probably wondered about the guy who states with such passion, "First and 10 for the Illini!" If you watched Illinois hoops at the Assembly Hall when Dee Brown was playing, no doubt you loved hearing an emphatic, "Dee for 3!" when the Illini legend would knock down a long-range bomb.

The voice was that of Jim Shepherd, and he was the public address announcer at Illinois for over 20 years. Last evening was Jim's final basketball game and, after the 2007 football season, Jim will be finished in this role -- despite his desire to carry on. The LDN says thanks, Jim Shepherd, for doing your job with excellence and bringing excitement to Illinois football and basketball games.

[Greg Taylor]

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