Losing is not something Illinois fans and coaches are used to. Each game the coaches lay out a blue print on what needs to happen in order for them to be successful. Yesterday, Weber had a great game plan but just came up short. ''I asked them to fight and play hard, and we did that for the most part. It doesn't do us any good. We're 0-4 in the conference. We're not that good right now. Well, I don't want to say we're not that good; we're just not playing well,'' said Weber.
Illinois was without starting point guard Chester Frazier who sat out with a strain to the rib cage area, but didn't miss a beat when freshman Demetri McCamey was at the point. During most of the game the team looked better on offense and there seemed to be a lot more movement than in past games. Stating the obvious here - if Illinois had played this way all season they wouldn't have a four-game losing streak going. The effort was there yesterday, but when they needed a stop or a big basket they came up short.
For those who remember Weber's first year at the helm - he had a difficult time getting his young team to buy in to what he was teaching. They were not used to Weber's style or knew what motion was about. Former Illinois Coach Bill Self ran more set plays and focused more on the high-low game. But if you remember that year, Illinois went to Bloomington after struggling to find themselves. They figured it out and from that point on, because of the execution and the outcome, the rest of the season ran a lot smoother. Sure, yesterday they lost the game and there's no such thing in Big Ten play as a moral victory, but this was the best Illinois has looked in a few weeks.
They finished the game with only 11 turnovers, which kept them in the game and gave them a chance to win. They were 13-21; that's not great but a little improvement from their season and Big Ten low of 59%.
We must give credit to the entire men's basketball team for not getting caught up in the Eric Gordon show, and special credit should go to Senior Brian Randle and junior Calvin Brock. They did a tremendous job on the freshman guard. They both held him to 4-of-10 shooting from the field (8-of-10 free throws) for the game. Senior Shaun Pruitt led the Illini in scoring with 14 points.
Up next for Weber and his crew will be Wednesday with a date from the Michigan Wolverines.