Illinois beat Michigan 54–52. In each half, the Wolverines hit 1 of 9 from three.
That pretty much sums it up.
Illinois’ peignoired lass wielded a defiant crucifix at the looming NIT. Garlic breath helps where a breath of fresh air is not available.
Most people seemed to regard the Illini performance as anything but a breath of fresh air. Bruce Weber even spoke of “tension in the building.”
But because I’m nuts, and don’t know dick about basketball, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Illinois played pretty well. I’ll add that Bruce Weber did a great job of coaching, and then I’ll pass you what I’m smoking.
Before I get to any of that, though, I’d like to congratulate Michigan coach John Beilein.
I’ve had a hard-on about covering Michigan games since my first Beilein presser at Crisler Arena.
Wednesday night’s game gave me no relief. Michigan was fun to watch.
Academically, they compete only with Cal and UVa for dominance among the Public Ivies. Basketbally, they run backdoor cuts better than Princeton.
Michigan suffered the misfortune of an 11% shooting night from distance. They should have won.
But that’s the way the ball bounces. Now, to our local heroes.
Illinois’ sixth man, Bruce Weber
Bruce Weber started a smaller line-up to match the smaller Wolverines. You can regard that move as brilliant or fearful. I like it that he started a line-up for a reason, rather than just starting the same old line-up against whoever.
I also like it that Weber made a drastic change when he realized his first idea was either brilliant but not working, or stupid.
He subbed in Mike Tisdale, and directed the lads to attack the basket with a series of alley-oops from the key; a simple high-low.
The Wolverines caught on eventually. Beilein even went so far as to say they expected it. “We’re lying when we say Jordan Morgan is 6’8″ but I think Tisdale really is seven feet.”
Beilein adjusted. Michigan plugged the leak.
That’s probably why Illinois stopped scoring in the second half.
Weber drew up set plays during time outs. Sometimes it worked perfectly (lob to Tisdale). When it didn’t (Richardson for three), it wasn’t due to bad planning. All that we can ask from the coach is that he direct his players to get the wide-open look.
So kudos to Bruce. These are areas in which he needed to improve, and he improved.
There is one battle plan that still has him stuck in the mud. It nearly killed him Wednesday.
He left DJ open from free. i.e. Weber chose to send no one to rebound on Richardson’s crucial late game free throw.
At the other end, Michigan got a lay-up. Weber sticks to this stratagem despite its routine failure.
Not all of Weber’s attention to detail involved plays, or even basketball.
I spotted one particular moment of human kindness.
During a late timeout, Weber stepped out of the huddle to direct a waterboy toward parched 90 year-old referee Jim Burr.
Yes, Jim Burr.
Refreshed, Burr was able to trot up and down the court once again, blind to almost everything.
Old people are so cute.
SECONDING THE MOTION
I think the problem with Wednesday’s second half offense is that the motion ran smoothly. Apart from Jereme Richmond, the guys moved pretty well, and made the cuts and passes they’re expected to make. Yes, the ball only went in the goal nine times, but is that really the point?
If the motion hadn’t run smoothly, I assume Weber would have made some other adjustment.
Richmond, almost as if he were a stupid internet reporter, appeared to pine for a simple post-up game. The consequence of that style can be serious ass-kicking — blowing out the smaller, weaker team. But it’s not excruciatingly complex to run, so where’s the challenge?
That can be next on Weber’s adjustment agenda.
Peoria’s AJ Riley was on hand again, this time accompanied by former Wisconsin Badger DeAaron Williams and Candace Quinn. Peoria’s Max Bielfeldt came too. So did Chatham-Glenwood’s Peyton Allen.
Even Donna and Wendy were there. How do old school punk girls get seats in A section? Wouldn’t you like to know?!?!