Memory Lane: Last trip to Nebraska
EACH WEEK, WE'LL TAKE A LOOK BACK AT A MEMORABLE MOMENT IN ILLINI HISTORY, THANKS TO THE WORDS OF THE NEWS-GAZETTE
This week: There was crying in basketball the last time Illinois visited Nebraska in men's basketball.
Headline: Emotion bowls to surface after blowout
Date: Feb. 18, 2012
By BOB ASMUSSEN
LINCOLN, Neb. — If it isn't rock bottom, you can see it from here.
Desperately needing a win to keep its life-support NCAA tournament hopes going, Illinois visited a school in even dire circumstances. And got blown out.
Trailing 24-16 midway through the first half, Nebraska went on a 26-2 run to take control. Led by Bo Spencer's 27 points, the Huskers cruised to a 23-point win. Their three previous Big Ten wins were by a combined 19 points.
"There's a lot of tears in our locker room," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Once they made the run, I think the weight of the world just kind of caved in on our guys."
"We really hit rock bottom tonight," Illinois guard D.J. Richardson said. "We showed tonight that we looked as worse as we can look."
Before Saturday, Nebraska had lost four in a row and 10 of its last 13. It was coming off a humbling loss at Penn State. Which followed a humbling home loss to Michigan.
The last thing on the minds of the 7,820 who showed up was a lopsided victory. Not in basketball. Not for on-the-hot-seat coach Doc Sadler.
Not that Sadler was too giddy after the win. His team is still sub-.500 (12-13) with a string of difficult games left to play. The reason for the outcome was simple enough to figure out.
"We just made shots and they didn't," Sadler said.
Nebraska hit 56 percent from the field and half of its 20 three-pointers in building a 31-point lead in the second half.
While Nebraska pulled away, Illini center Meyers Leonard sat on the bench and sobbed.
"When those kind of emotions come out, I think it shows guys care," senior guard Sam Maniscalco said. "Guys want to win."
"Everyone was sad," Richardson said. "That's good that you see a lot of people in there crying."
The players understand the pressure on Weber. Not that they agree with it.
"Coach is doing a fine job," Richardson said. "He keeps apologizing and saying it's his fault, but it's not."
"It's not Coach's fault," freshman guard Tracy Abrams said. "He didn't play the game for us. We've got to execute the little things."
Illinois has lost five in a row and eight of its last nine. It won't get any easier Tuesday, when the team visits Ohio State.
The Illini will have today off, then reconvene for the trip to Columbus.
"Try to clear our minds," Richardson said.
They want to forget Saturday's loss. And fast.
"They just kicked our butts," Richardson said. "Hopefully, this puts some fire up to our butts."
The question, of course, is what happens to Weber at Illinois. Weber was asked about his future after Saturday's game.
"I'm going to coach every day that I can and I love it," Weber said. "I love coaching. I love coaching these guys. It's been a hard week on our players. It's been a hard week on our staff."
A snippet of success — any win — would make them all feel better.
"I don't enjoy losing," Weber said. "It's been a long stretch here. I'm sure somewhere in my career we've had this many losses in a stretch. It's disappointing. I like our kids. I like what they stand for. We just can't muster a win. I hope it comes sooner than later."