BKB Pregame Intel:Illinois Fighting Illini

Last time The Cats' lost 58-47 in a game where Vedran Vukusic shot 1 for 15 due to some nifty defensive play by Illinois. Tonight Northwestern aims to take advantage of an Illinois team that could be reeling due to a pair of losses. Will NU break the Illinois Assembly Hall streak, and keep the Illini on the Big 10 ropes?

No Fans, there is no joy in Mudville
neither is there any in Champaign as the Fighting Illini are digging themselves a hole in the Big 10
People are alarmed; we're alarmed,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.
but Weber thinks he's figured it out --
"You create luck by your energy level and competitiveness," [Daily Illini]
Now its time to figure out how to get that energy rekindled, and stay there - an easy formula, one they've seen recently, according to forward Brian Randle:.
[The Buckeyes] came at us. They showed us how you're supposed to play, regardless of whether you're at home or on the road. We know that, but it's up to us to come out and play.''[Brian Randle-Sun Times]
Everyone knows the NU offense is based on Vedran Vukusic's scoring [more on that later], but there's been some agressive play of late by some of the "other" players on the Wildcats and that just might become the makings of another NU upset, something the Cats done on the road on the road this year. [Just ask Seton Hall, Purdue, Minnesota, etc.]

Add just 2 days to prepare for NU's offense and you put the Illini in a bit of a bind;
They're playing a little more man-to-man defense than they have in the past but they still mix their zones in—1-3-1 zones, matchup zones, 2-2-1 zones," Weber said. [Chicago Trib] "If they get us down by eight or 10 late, I'm not sure if we have enough offensive weapons to come back."
True coach speak, but this isn't the same Illinois team that could kill you inside and outside from three or more different players like last year. There are reports that the Illini are even practicing under a 15 second shot clock - trying to speed up their play.

So what to expect from the Illinois team tonight? First off they'll probably try to use James Augustine to again take out Vedran...
"Their offense goes through Vukusic, and [last time] we did a nice job on him," [Weber-Daily Illini]
Then maybe its the Hope offense [see below], maybe its bombs away, maybe ...
The Team
Start off with the "Hope" offense,
"Hope Dee makes a 35-footer." [Bruce Weber-Daily Herald]
And that's part of the problems the Illini are having right now, its seems that as Dee Brown goes, so goes Illinois.
(Weber) says I'm not showing energy or playing with enthusiasm," Brown said. [State Journal-Register] "I have to go back and play the way I play. He said to go back to being Dee Brown."
He has to pass and cut through the defense and use his screens to get points, either himself, or off an assist. Last time they played the Cats, Brown overshadowed Vukusic with 18 points.

The question now is whether he's lost some of his zip.

One observer, John Supinie of the Copley News Service wonders if Weber has to tweak his rotation to give Brown some rest, and put the team on James Augustine's back.

OK, Dee Brown aside, there's still James Augustine, one of the two big forwards at Illinois - he drew the defensive job against Vukusic last time, VV scored less than 5.

"Augie" also is a half a rebound from averaging a double-double.

And Brian Randle up front, along with Shaun Pruitt are also capable of taking over a game if the Cats let them get and play inside.

You also can't forget that "other" guard, Rich McBride, and his 9 .5 points per game. He's the other outside threat [24 of 66 from 3], he just doesn't rebound as much as Brown.

The big guy off the bench is guard Jamar Smith - averaging 6.7 ppg, and over 40% from the arc [18 of 44].

Illinois big weakness may be their other backups - Chester Frazier is Brown's backup guy, but he's not considered a scoring threat. With Frazier, the Illini give up the shooting, but get defense and a point guard who passes, distributing the ball around.
The Last Word:
Bill Carmody - [Talking about Illinois and Ohio State]
Its going to be a pretty tough week for us...the speed, the shooting the quickness of both teams is pretty daunting. We're playing pretty decently now so its as good a time as any to go on the road. [Big 10 Teleconference]
Bruce Weber
"We need to come home and get a good feeling,'' Weber said. "We need great energy -- and great fan energy -- [tonight] and Sunday against Indiana. It's so key. I hope it's the best medicine, so we can cure a lot of things and have a great finish." -- [Sun-Times]
And a guest comment - Skip Myslenski
Can Illinois regain its footing at home against Northwestern and Indiana? [Chicago Tribune]

Coach Roy's Purple Reign 'Cat'egories:
The Big Gun #11 Dee Brown
14.8 ppg
Deadeye Dick #40 James Augustine
61.5% shooting
The Bomber Brown*
176 Attempts
33.5% made
Off the Boards Augustine
9.1 rpg
Charity Stripe #33 Rich McBride
92.3% made
Super Sub #31 Jamar Smith
19.4 mins, 8.8 ppg
2 rpg, 30 assists
Pickpocket Brown & Augustine
B-38 A-35 steals
Helping Hands Brown
137 assists 71 TO
Mr. Defense Augustine
19 blk, 146 defrbnds
Notes: * Sub, #31 Jamar Smith is shooting over 50% from the arc.

Expected Starters 


PPG+ RPG+
Guard
#33 Rich McBride [Jr 6-3]
#11 Dee Brown [Sr 6-0]
9.5
14.8
1.9
3.1
Forward
#42 Brian Randle [RS So 6-8]
#40 James Augustine [Sr 6-10]
8.3
13.3
5.7
9.1
Center
#55 Shaun Pruitt [So 6-10]
6.0
5.6

Totals: 51.9
25.4


Off the Bench
[Big 10 Stats, Have Played in most games, or Averaging 9+ mins]:

Games -
Starts 
Minutes PPG+ RPG+
#31 Jamar Smith [G Fr 6-3]
#41 Warren Carter [F Jr 6-9]
#44 Marcus Arnold [C Jr-r 6-8]
#3 Chester Frazier [PG Fr 6-2]
10-0
9-0
9-0
9-0
18.6
9.9
9.0
13.2
6.7
2.7
2.1
1.8
2.1
2.7
1.9
1.3
Totals:
10.1
13.3
8.0
Notes: Weber has 9 players he uses regularly - tonight's starters for Illinois have started every Big 10 game this year.
Challenges for the Wildcats:
  • Play one more good game on the road - even if Assembly Hall hasn't been very kind
  • Get out front early - that shooting issue comes back, has to make those early shots.
  • Free up Vedran - last time James Augustine did a good job on D, so good it messed up his shooting too.- VV needs 2 points to make 1500, and 3 3's to become the top 3 point shooter at NU.
  • Tim, Vince, Craig, Sterling, Evan - time to step up and make baskets - especially the long shots. OSU feasted on those 3 pointers.
  • Maybe also Its time for the Bernard & Mohamed show - just like they did in HS.
  • Points in the Paint - stop them, get ours
Other than the above, the key to stopping Illinois seems to be to wear down Brown and keep Augustine off the glass. Do that and we might make this one very, very interesting.

Game Starts at 7:00 PM Wildcat Time
Television:
  • ESPN+ Wayne Larrivee and Shon Morris
  • WCIU in Chicago
Radio:
  • WGN 720 AM, [the flagship station of Northwestern men's basketball] with Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand
  • NUSports
  • XM Radio 197
Gametracker: NU Sports

You can also Chat in the New Purple Reign Free Chat room


Statistics from the Illinois official site
Links are to the original story source of the quotes
You can send your comments or "back door" information
to Coach Roy
or on AIM: CoachRoy74
Go Cats
Beat 'em All!
Talk about it on the Purple Boards
[Click Here]
Copyright 2006 by PurpleWildcats.com/Purple Reign
Quotes Copyright 2006 by original holder as noted

Purple Wildcats Top Stories

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