Last night, dramatically, Cole and Jeff Jordan played the role of condom to Wofford’s offensive orgy. The Terriers were having their way with the Illini. They hit all their shots (really, they began something like 8 for 10 from three) and allowed no rebounds of any kind — leading that category 28 to 15 at one point.
It was gross. One had a sickly feeling about one’s local orange-clad heroes.
Nothing was working for the Illini. The ball movement stunk. It was the same old passing around the arc, with no movement inside. Only DJ Richardson’s long-range gunning kept the Illini close. (He hit four of five treys in the first half, and five of six for the game.)
But then these two junior reserves showed them — the opponents, and their own teammates — how it was gonna be. It started in the first half, when Jordan began penetrating and dishing. To that point the team had just stood around. At one point, I watched both freshmen guards simultaneously standing flatfooted at the wing. I was amazed to not hear Bruce Weber scream, “MOTION!”
But the dramatic stretch came in the second half, when Cole went apeshit on the the Terrier guards, while Jordan glued himself to the inside of Junior Salters’ jockstrap.
Salters hit 5 of 11 from three-point range for the night — but not against Jeff Jordan. It’s harder to shoot when you’ve got gloves on. Jeff Jordan wrapped himself around Salters like a glove.
Jeff is still off-limits to the press. So I patted him on the arm and told him how much I wished I could get his comments. He chuckled good-naturedly.
Bill Cole stuck around to talk, though. Because of the late game and early flight to Las Vegas, I asked Bill’s dad (Mike White-era Illini Terry Cole) to make sure Bill didn’t go straight home after his shower.
Demetri McCamey led the scoring, but that just shows how misled you’d be if you looked at only at scoring stats to determine MVPs. For example, McCamey hit the enthralling last second bomb which gave the Illini halftime momentum, but it was Mike Davis who forced the turnover from which that millisecond possession derived.
Like the Northern Illinois game, this one was in question. Like NIU, it became freakishly easy towards the end. And that allowed some players to pad their numbers. (Davis finished with 16 and 11.)
But that’s only because two guys left it all on the floor, and they weren’t the ones invited to the postgame presser.
Al Calavicci, from Quantum Leap, now coaches at Wofford
Keep in mind, the thing that won this game was not offense. It was not defense. It was not freshmen. It was not juniors.
It was balance.
For the first time in years, Illinois demonstrated that it has fearsome offensive weapons – the kind that can keep them in a game. And we found a pair of defensive stoppers, who can take the other team out.
This is exciting.