Smile Politely

Illini Get Revenge Against Wolverines

Get that shit outta here!

Michigan guard Manny Harris sprang loose for 20 points Wednesday night, but his teammate DeShawn Sims managed only seven, so Illinois was able to contain Michigan 66–51 in Champaign.

The first half looked much as predicted: Michigan had no trouble getting past Illinois’ defense. Cuts to the hole succeeded. Passes to the interior succeeded. Jumpers succeeded. And, as predicted, the only thing that didn’t work was running right at Mike Tisdale and then trying to shoot over him. Midway though the game, the Wolverines led 31–30. It was the first halftime
deficit for Illinois this year.

Despite continued chiding from the coaching staff to out-hustle and outwork their opponents, the lackaday Illini displayed more ennui than energy against Michigan’s unusual offensive scheme. Matto rolled over in his grave when, with just under nine minutes to go in the first half, the Illini turned the ball over at the outset of a would-be fast break, and then stood around shrugging at each other while Michigan executed two sharp passes and a bucket.

You can see from this low f-stop exposure (left) that Sims is a full step quicker than Tisdale to the basket. Notice how Tisdale moves with his outside foot, rather than shuffling sideways. At this point, the only thing that will stop a bucket is Someone Else.

Luckily, Mike Davis is learning to help on the weak side. On a couple of occasions, you could see Davis snap to attention just as a Michigan offender penetrated the Illini perimeter. (And although I use this expression in reference to man-to-man defense, Illinois was totally playing a 2–3 zone for a minute there. I am not shitting you.)

In the second half, Illinois was slightly more patient, considerably more fluid and subtly more violent.

Around the 15-minute mark, Michigan coach John Beilein had seen enough non-calls. “That’s why the Big Ten doesn’t score,” he yelled, “’cause you guys don’t call that crap!” Fans got all over him for that one. But the whistles started blowing. In the next minute, Illinois was assessed three times. At that point the Wolverines were still very much in the game. It wasn’t until the Matto points starting coming that Illinois was able to build a lead.

At the under-12 timeout, Michigan led the Matto 13–11, with Brock and Frazier accounting for eight of the hustle points. Michigan is faster than Illinois, at almost every position. To prove that point, after the timeout Zack Gibson deflected and stole a telegraphed pass intended for Tisdale.

But Michigan couldn’t score. For over five minutes, from 13:03 to 7:59, Illinois kept a lid on the basket. The Illini relied on grit to shut the Wolverines down. When Michigan finally called timeout in frustration, the Illini had vaulted into a 22–15 Matto advantage, a 48–41 lead, and led the rebound tally 21–17.

Tisdale led the Illini with 24 points and three blocked shots, but managed only two rebounds in 34 minutes of action. It’s not reasonable to expect a lot of rebounds from Tisdale. He is what he is, and that’s an offensive powder keg. To tap this keg, the Illini must be prepared to help cover up Tisdale’s shortcomings.

Tisdale made a big time move at the six-minute mark. In the battle of strengths and weaknesses against Sims, the foolmaking favor was returned. Tisdale faked twice before going under Sims for a nifty spinning bank (right). A minute later, the crowd tensed audibly when Tisdale stepped into a three, then exploded as it snapped the bottom of the net.

As the Illini pulled away, Beilein continued to work the refs, while craftily putting the hex on his opponent. During the silence of Chester Frazier free throws, Beilein chimed in. “He tripped over his own man, Zelton!” he shouted to ref Zelton Steed.

For all you know, this is part of Beilein’s complex strategy. He might get a call next week.


Alex Legion had a good game. He collected three rebounds and a nifty assist in only seven minutes. A sprained ankle kept him from padding those stats.

Jeff Jordan continues to impress. He does almost everything right. His mid-range jump shot is beautiful. His defense suffocates. He rebounds aggressivly. He never stops working.


Lots of downcourt passes led to nothing, or turnovers. It’s been a dozen years since Matto hit Awvee Storey for a halfcourt lob-dunk. Nice to see the ballhandlers pushing things, but tonight they pushed too hard.

Demetri McCamey usually swishes his game-opening three. This time, it hit the rim before banking in off the glass.

I will be marginally surprised if Zack Gibson does not, under Beilein’s superior tutelage, mature to a Big Ten Player of the Year by his senior season.


I’m impressed that Wayne Larivee stopped by practice this week. Until now he’d done all his research by reading the pre-game Quick Stats sheet, and it showed.


ABOVE: Abby Flesher made a headband from scraps in her crafts class at Chatham-Glenwood.

BELOW: King TJ McMorrow, asked to divulge the provenance of his regalia, pointed to his consort, proclaiming “his mom.”

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