"Cedar Knob; bunch of mites. Run you off the boards. You gotta push ‘em back! Make ‘em chuck it from the cheap sheets. Watch out for that purgatory they call a gym, not shot 10 foot in. That'll do." Wilber ‘Shooter' Flatch, from the movie Hoosiers.
Ah yes, good advice from Shooter, advice that helped Hickory win the Indiana State Championship, overcoming great odds to do so.
A great movie. And again, great strategy.
Shooter might say the same thing if he were looking at Iowa's Saturday match up against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
While Illinois might not be ‘a bunch of mites', they certainly do not possess the traditional Big Ten size in the paint, something that is not necessarily new to them.
But they can run you off the boards of you are not careful.
In all games played this year, Illinois is second to Iowa in rebounding margin and they are second in the league in offensive rebounds.
F - 40 James Augustine (So., 6-10, 225, 11.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg)
F - 43 Roger Powell (Jr., 6-6, 220, 12.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
F - 42 Brian Randle (Fr., 6-8, 200, 4.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
G - 5 Deron Williams (So., 6-3, 210, 12.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.1 apg)
G - 11 Dee Brown (So., 6-0, 175, 13.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.8 apg)
Off The Bench
C - 1 Aaron Spears (Fr.-r, 6-9, 260, 1.8 ppg, 0.9 rpg)
G - 4 Luther Head (Jr., 6-3, 175, 9.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
G - 25 Jerrance Howard (Sr.-r, 6-1, 200, 1.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg)
G - 33 Rich McBride (Fr., 6-3, 210, 5.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
F - 34 Fred Nkemdi (Jr., 6-6, 220, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
F - 41 Warren Carter (Fr., 6-9, 205, 2.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg)
C - 45 Nick Smith (Jr.-r, 7-2, 240, 8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
C - 50 Jack Ingram (Jr.-r, 6-10, 240, 2.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
As you can see, Illinois basically has two big men that factor significantly into their offense. James Augustine is tough down low and in my opinion, underutilized to this point in the season for Illinois. He is a hard-nosed competitor that will fight for every rebound and he usually gets them. Much like the problems Iowa has feeding the post, Augustine needs to get more touches for this Illinois club.
Nick Smith has been a solid contributor off the bench, although some Illini faithful might say that his production has been inconsistent and it might be easy to get him in a foul mood on the court, a trait that plagues him from time to time.
Where Illinois is loaded, per usual, is on the wing and in the backcourt. Dee Brown is among the best point guards in the league and backcourt mate Deron Williams might be a better all around player. He suffered a broken jaw earlier in the season, but has been back playing for the past few games.
Roger Powell is a dangerous slasher and a great athlete, and at 6-6, he can mix it up on the glass. Luther Head is another solid player for Illinois and a great athlete. Brian Randle starts but is still learning the ropes in Big Ten play and at 6-8, 200, he can be pushed around a bit inside. Richard McBride is yet another 6-3, athletic guard for the Illini.
Teams that have had success against Illinois in recent games have mixed in a healthy diet of zone defense. The Illini seem content with shooting early three-point shots in their half court sets and not allowing their ‘motion' offense to set up.
As far as Iowa's offense is concerned, I think this game sets up well for what they like to do: Pound it inside, score in the paint and get to the free throw line. Iowa has been to the line 104 times in three Big Ten games, far and away the most of any team in the league.
Illinois has been to the line 52 times in league play. They have attempted 75 three-point shots, the most in the league through three games. So as you can see, the Illini have been working it from the outside a bit more than first year coach Bruce Weber would probably like in recent games. Illinois went to the line just six times in a recent HOME loss to Purdue.
That is giving up on your offense, or not giving it a chance to work in the half court. I would expect Illinois to try and make a commitment to getting the ball inside against Iowa, but I would guess they might have some difficulty with that, as I look for Iowa to play zone defense in large doses for the second straight game.
That strategy worked well against Minnesota on Tuesday night, as the Gophers were just 3 of 10 from long range in each half against the Hawkeyes. The Gophers are making just 23.7% of their three-point attempts in league play.
Illinois is making just 26.7% of their three point attempts, so you can imagine Weber's frustration with his offense. That is where Shooter's ‘No shot 10 foot in' comes in to play.
But there is usually nothing Illinois enjoys seeing more than an Iowa team coming into Assembly Hall. Illinois has won 15 of the last 17 games against Iowa on their home court. One of Iowa's wins came 17 years and two days ago, the thrilling 91-88-overtime contest where Iowa trailed 61-39 in the second half.
I don't expect for Illinois to have a LOT of success in the paint, but I do expect for their three-point shooting percentage to be better than it has been as of late. It's their home court after all, and again, they just seem to play lights out against Iowa in their building. Maybe Iowa has something to do with that as well, because most of those 15 losses have not even been close and in many instances, Iowa has been handed their worst defeat of the year in Chambana.
This game will also be the toughest crowd that Pierre Pierce has faced this year. It might well be the toughest crowd he faces all years, as far as taunts and jeers are concerned. Before the season started, the Big Ten placed an emphasis on schools controlling such verbal assaults from their student sections.
I highly doubt that the ‘Orange Krush' is going to step to those marching orders.
If you have to travel to Illinois, it might be best to do it early in the season while teams are still looking to hit their February groove.
But by my recollection, there is no good time to play Illinois in ‘The Purgatory they call a gym'.