Smile Politely

Please do feed the animals

The guards passed around the arc, finding no cracks in Northwestern’s defense. And thus Illinois’ first two possessions yielded no fruit.

On the third possession, a big touched the ball. And lo, there was a basket. On the fifth possession, a big touched the ball. And there was a basket.

A synapse fired in the collective Illini brain. Big = basket. Forty-five minutes later, Mike Tisdale had a career high 31 points and Illinois had a W.

Coach Bruce Weber’s contracting player rotation has now disenfranchised Richard Semrau, Dominique Keller and Tyler Griffey. That means it’ll be Tisdale and Mike Davis doing the work inside. The rest of the guys on the floor will have to figure out how to get the ball to them.

One lesser-chronicled reason for Bill Cole’s increasing minutes (he played a personal best 28 on Wednesday) is his ability to feed the low post. Jeff Jordan’s penetration and passing earns him as much playing time as his more publicized defense.

The three other guys, DJ RIchardson, Brandon Paul and Demetri McCamey played tentatively Wednesday. On one possession, McCamey shied away from an interior pass from the right wing, instead finding Mike Davis at the high post. Davis then threaded the needle, getting the ball to Tisdale on the box. I viewed this play from about 12 feet away, and was fascinated that Davis made the same pass McCamey eschewed — from a much more difficult angle.

The high-low looked great. Tisdale returned the favor with a neat bounce pass through the lane which Davis immediately bobbled out of bounds. (It would have been Tisdale’s only assist on the night.)

The unit that moved the ball most effectively versus the Wildcats:

1. McCamey
2. Richardson
3. Cole
4. Davis
5. Tisdale

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody suggested Illinois improved on defense as the game went along because the Illini got in rhythm on offense. This unit also performed the most effective possession of zone defense that Illinois has played all year. How was it more effective than any other possession which failed to yield a bucket? Because the ball movement stopped. Northwestern may have been confused. Whether they knew exactly what to do, they were incapable of doing it.

The zone was 2/3, meaning Cole and Davis defended the wings while Tisdale set up base camp in the lane. This works much better than a 3/2 in which Davis and Tisdale have dual responsibilities.

The inference I take from Wednesday’s game is that Bill Cole makes Tisdale better on offense and defense. Now that Cole has seen the inside of the media room, I expect him to become more of a fixture there.


This trend of recruiting younger kids… where will it end?

Jerrance Howard enlisted his brother Tyrone in the campaign. Tyrone, along with fellow dads Kurt Roos, Bruce Miller and Brett Elliott brought along an entire team of Peoria’s class of 2018.

The Richwoods Knights include Jokobe and Jaylin Howard, Griffin Darrow, Luke Miller, Brayden Elliott and Leyton Roos. some of them are in 3rd grade, and some in 4th. No word yet as to their growth plates.


Jim Burr’s narcolepsy rarely affects game outcomes.

Some people think the officiating was lousy on Wednesday, and that the refs made ridiculous calls clearly favoring the Wildcats. But let me say this in defense of the guys in stripes: Jim Burr does a great job. I mean, for a guy his age, isn’t it impressive that he can get up and down the court sometimes?

John Shurna’s hand may be a part of the ball, but because Shurna shoots wrists first, and launches from the lettering on his jersey, Shurna’s hands are also a part of his abdomen. So I understand those calls.

Allowing Shurna to barrel through a planted Brandon Paul makes less sense. But maybe the stripes think Shurna’s elbow is also part of the ball.

Ed Hightower does a great job too, when you consider that he has to keep one eye on the game and one eye on the TeeVee camera.

Ed Corbett maintained a friendly banter with the Northwestern bench while cautioning Bruce Weber to stay inside the coaching box. Weber steamed visibly, but his complaints fell on deaf ears.

I mean that figuratively, of course. Jim’s hearing is as good as any man of his advanced years.

My old law school buddy Michael Falk’s dad Rich is the Big Ten director of officials. He’s also an old Northwestern guy, having played and coached for the Wildcats.

Talk to The Hand, Bruce.

For most of the game, this cuddly relationship resulted in great calls for the Wildcats. Shiny new assistant coach Tavaras Hardy, still wet behind the ears, nearly blew it when he complained about a call near the end of overtime. Corbett nearly blew a gasket when he realized his pals on the NU bench had a loose cannon in their midst.

“Don’t talk bad on me!” Corbett stammered as he descended on the coaches. Carmody, back turned, encouraged Hardy to quietly be seated.

The frame froze as Corbett stood glowering over the bench. He huffed and puffed. Perhaps he contemplated a technical. But then Corbett collected himself. He gathered his emotions. He gathered all his energy… but not his eloquence.

“Don’t talk bad on me!” he repeated. It’s funny when people can’t talk good.


I was just about to interview Brian Randle when the Illinois media staff hustled him away to a preferred media outlet.

This worked out well, as I was able to get the eloquent and gorgeous Anastasia Harold Randle all to myself. She gave me an update on the newlyweds’ adventures in Israel.

I discovered things I might not have learned from the quiet giant. For example, Brian likes Shepherd’s Pie.

Mrs. Randle


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