Road Woes Continue For Fighting Illini

The Fighting Illini basketball team has played a number of quality games this year as their 18 wins indicates. But when they are bad, they are really bad. At Wisconsin Thursday night, the bad Illini showed up and suffered an embarrassing 63-50 loss to the struggling Badgers. Poor shooting and defense doomed the Illini as everything seemed to go wrong.

Illinois held Wisconsin star Trevon Hughes without a point, but Jason Bohannon, Marcus Landry and Jon Leuer scored 20, 16 and 15 respectively. Those three outscored the entire Illini team. Bohannon made six straight three point shots. Coach Bruce Weber was not pleased.

"Three guys outscored us. Landry, Leuer and Bohannon had 51, so they beat us 51-50. Bohannon was struggling, but he got going. We lost him. It was horse shots. They ran a play and he got the first one down. But the next two, we just totally lost him. Now you let him get his head up.

"Landry was one of the best players in the league last year. He hasn't played up to the way they thought, but he got going a little bit. And then Leuer didn't do anything at our place, but he gets 15."

Demetri McCamey got the Illini off to a quick start. He fed Trent Meacham for a layup and hit a three and a long 2 to give the Illini a quick 7-2 lead. But from then on, the Illini repeated their Minnesota lethargy. Defense was shoddy, rebounding was poor early with no blockouts, and shooting was as cold as the Madison night. But unlike the Gopher game, Wisconsin was hot from the field.

"I thought we had good energy at the start," Weber remembered. "We took it to them, and it was 7-2 at the first time out. That was the time we needed to make them start doubting. But that's when Bohannon made a couple shots, Landry got some putbacks and now it's 12-11. I think they made a 10-2 run. Then we shot some quick ones.

"Once we started missing shots, we broke down on defense, our body language was horrible. You let one guy get five threes. And then Landry gets three putbacks. Davis didn't box him out. That's 21 points out of their 37."

Weber had plenty of talking points at halftime with the Illini already down 12 points. Unfortunately, they discovered no solutions to their doldrums as Wisconsin quickly pushed the lead to 15 to start the second half. Illinois closed to ten on a three by McCamey and had a chance to get back in the game. But despite an obvious upturn in energy and enthusiasm, the Illini could never get any closer.

Trent Meacham continued his struggle from the field. He finally hit two threes at the end, but it was far too late to get his confidence back. Alex Legion got down two free throws and a jumper early but went downhill from there. Weber wonders whether they will ever produce the outside shooting the Illini need to keep defenses honest.

"If they can't step up, maybe we have to look to somebody else."

Mike Davis finally began to show some energy and confidence in the second half. He corralled 9 of his 11 rebounds and 10 of his 14 points after the break. Chester Frazier scored no points, but he was a demon on the boards with 13. Demetri McCamey was the only other Illini in double figures with 12 points.

Illinois shot only 33% from the floor for the game compared with 43% for Wisconsin, down from 50% at halftime. Weber is as frustrated as Illini fans for the poor shooting on the road, but all he can do is hope they break out of it soon.

"We're gonna miss shots, that's part of basketball. There's not much you can do until you make some shots."

There's a lot Weber would like to do, including taking his frustrations out on the team. But he knows he must keep their confidence up as there are a number of important games yet to play and goals that are still reachable.

"I've got to be careful. I can't panic and go crazy because we play Purdue and we can't lose them. We've got to keep our heads on straight.

"The season's not over. We can't get down. We've got a big game on Sunday. We've got to get that thing and then find a way to win on the road. It's not gonna be easy Sunday for sure against Purdue. They're playing much better. We beat them the first time, so we've got to match their intensity."

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