As the Daily Herald's Lindsey Willhite points out, the 17-8, 5-5 Fighting Illini have failed to score more that 60 points in the past 4 games. They still managed to win 3 of the 4, including a 59-49 win Saturday against the Minnesota Gophers.
Still, Coach Bruce Weber has set a goal of 21 victories, a mark that lets them finish 9-7 in the Big 10, and which he believes would give the Illini another NCAA Tournament bid...
And to add injury to the insult of scoring under 60, the Illini have been forced to use two different lineups lately - subbing Trent Meacham for their PG Chester Frazier, and guard Jamar Smith for forward Brian Randle. All told, the Illini have used 7 different starting lineups, 3 during the 9 Big 10 games they've played.
The Frazier-less lineup is 3-2 so far in the Big 10.
Playing some D
Illinois has been playing pretty good defense lately - against the Gophers they allowed only 31% shooting from the field, and 16.7% shooting from the arc. Minny took 18 3 points shots too.
According to Jim Molinari, the Gopher coach, the Illini's anti-3 point perimeter defense was "incredible."Any time you shoot poorly, defense has a lot to do with it. They made us take contested shots. [quoted in InsideIllini.com
Illinois coach Bruch Weber also thought Saturday's effort was good - especially since it was a team effort....We've definitely done a good job on defense here the last three or four weeks, and I think they understand that that's going to be the difference maker if we're going to win or lose games. [quoted in InsideIllini.com]Looking Ahead ?
The Illini get to face a scrappy Northwestern team, who have played well at home at times - in a match that means a lot to both teams...Every game's huge-it's the biggest game of the year against Northwestern, said Weber [quoted in InsideIllini.com They do things that you ordinarily don't face on a day to day basis. They're going to play 40 minutes of zone.But they also have to look ahead a bit - Saturday is Indiana, a team that will have revenge on their mind. Weber would have liked to add a couple of plays for Saturday, but working on breaking the Wildcats defense to priority.
The Illini coaches are a little worried about the team thinking ahead, altho they don't say anything....
Facing the NU 1-3-1 Zone
One more challenge for Illinois, and it also prevents Weber from adding some new stuff for Indiana next Saturday. NU's zone makes it hard to get the ball inside, so you have to pass the ball around until someone gets open....It's a game where Jamar (Smith), Rich (McBride), Trent and even Warren (Carter) can get some open three-pointers but they have to make the shots. - Weber [Chicago Tribune]Injuries?
Who among the Fighting Illini hasn't been hurt this year
- Chester Frazier - Didn't play last Saturday due to Turf Toe. He's also been battling a groin injury all season. They hope he's available for NU
- Richard Senwau - Out
- Brian Randle is playing though a bout with plantar fasciitis [tendon injury in your foot]. He's missed some games [Indiana and Purdue] and was limited to just 20 minutes against Michigan State.
- Jamar Smith - missed 6 games due to a high ankle sprain, and is just now starting to make his long range shots.
- Warren Carter has also missed games during the year.
This week's trips to Northwestern and Indiana loom large.Jamar Smith on breaking out of a 11 for 60 shooting slump:He told me ... I was a shooter, and I needed to shoot. No matter how many you miss
|The Big Gun||#41 Warren Carter||13.0 ppg/6.3 rpg|
|Deadeye Dick||#55 Shaun Pruitt||54.4% FG Avg|
|The Bomber||#33 Rich McBride||156 att/55 from the arc|
|Off the Boards||Pruitt||7.4 rpg|
|Charity Stripe||Carter||70.4% of his FTs [76-108]|
|Super Sub||#31 Jamar Smith||8.7 ppg in 22.9 mins|
|Pickpocket||#3 Chester Frazier+||33 Steals|
|Helping Hands||Frazier+||4.8 assists per game|
|28 blocks, 104 def boards/
14 blocks, 109 def boards
|Guard||#1 Trent Meacham [6-2 So*]+
#33 Rich McBride [6-3 Sr]
|Forward||#41 Warren Carter [6-9 Sr]
#42 Brian Randle [6-8 Jr*]
|Center||#55 Shaun Pruitt [6-10 Jr]||11.5||7.4|
Notes: *Redshirt Players
+ Chester Frazier had been starting at Point Guard but is not expected to start against NU.
|C #21 Brian Carlwell [6-11 Fr]
G #25 Calvin Brock [6-5 So*]
G #31 Jamar Smith [6-3 So]
F #44 Marcus Arnold [6-8 Sr*]
PG #3 Chester Frazier [6-2 So]+
|24 - 0
25 - 9
19 - 6
24 - 1
Notes: +Injured prior to Minnesota game - with Turf Toe
Challenges for the Wildcats:
- Keep the Illini under 60 Points for the 5th straight game
Play super tight defense - make the Illini shoot outside
- Try to put Smith back in a shooting slump?
- Forget the hype, one game at a time, one half at a time.
Game Starts at 6:00 PM Wildcat Time
- ESPN2 Terry Gannon and Stephen Bardo
You can also Chat in the New Purple Reign Free Chat room
- WGN 720 AM, Dave Eanet and Shon Morris
- WNUR's 89.3FM - also MP3 (high quality)
- NU Sports.com Live Broadcast
- Illini Sports Network [WIND 560 in Chicago] - 47 stations: Brian Barnhart, Jerry Hester, Loren Tate
Links are to the original story source of the quotes.
The Pregame Intel Report is based on media reports of NU's next opponent
Beat 'em All!
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Quotes Copyright 2007 by original holder as noted