According to Head Coach Bruce Weber, at this time of year a win is a win and you move on. That's what the Illini will do on Saturday. Don't think for one minute that All-American pg Dee Brown "struggled", but he was just as important as freshman Jamar Smith's threes. Brown finished the game with eight rebounds and ten assists. Don't forget Brown has been through the wars at Illinois and knows that when a teammate is "feeling" it - you feed it. For those that feel they know the game - don't be so quick to point out Brown's field goal percentage. More that four times a game the Illini got caught up with the shot clock ready to expire and Dee was the player shooting the ball to avoid the turnover.
Weber talks about playing the game and that's what his Illini did last night. "It's the NCAA tournament; you play at that magic level," he said. The true freshman was at that level. "One time in the second half I was telling them to be patient and Smith got it and shot it right away. He looked at me and ran down the court smiling," said Weber. Not only was Smith in the groove, he answered the call during big runs by Air Force. They cut the lead to 39-38 and Smith came up with a big three. Smith finished the night with 20 points on 7-10 shooting, with 6-9 from three point land.
Just because the threes came at such a big time in the game, let's not forget about the play of sophomore Brian Randle. For the first time in a long time Randle was a factor on offense and was looking to attack the rim each time he receive the ball. Now both players will need a repeat performance on Saturday because I'm sure from a scoring standpoint, seniors Brown and James Augustine will put up better offensive numbers.
For now the Illini will need a great defensive performance and some hot shooting if they want to reach the sweet sixteen next weekend. With Weber at the helm - he'll have the Illini prepared.