Tate: Now, Illini in deep water

COLUMBUS, Ohio – From all indications, Ohio State junior Evan Turner will become the Big Ten's first consensus National Player of the Year since Glenn Robinson (a 30-point scorer) at Purdue in 1994.

But as brilliant as Turner was again Tuesday night at Value City Arena – 16 points, 12 rebounds, five assists – it was the deadeye long-range shooting by junior Jon Diebler that repulsed a gritty Illini effort.

Diebler cashed 21 points via seven treys, all in the first 24 minutes, and Thad Matta's quintet joined their female cagers and the football team as Big Ten champions, 73-57. Diebler closed the half with a trey and started the second half the same way, providing a 40-33 lead the Buckeyes increased in the final 10 minutes.

That was the one thing the Illini couldn't afford. They might have been able to withstand the swift penetrating skills of the other Ohio State lankies, but not when Diebler was counting by threes. Demoralized and outquicked, the Illini were outscored 25-12 in the last 14 minutes. The driving Buckeyes shot 24 free throws to the UI's five.

For the season, it appears prep teammate Demetri McCamey could prevent Turner from sweeping Big Ten all-games titles in scoring (19-plus), rebounding (9-plus) and assists. In five more games, 30 to 25, the UI's McCamey has 60 more assists and needs seven Sunday against Wisconsin to set a record for conference play.

Off, running

Illini concerns about a tendency for slow starts were quickly erased as the underdogs, who drained six treys late in the 62-60 loss to Minnesota, bagged 5 of 6 in spurting to a 21-16 lead Tuesday. But McCamey drew his second personal at the 10-minute mark and, when he sat down, William Buford turned a Jeff Jordan turnover into a slam that ignited a rip-roaring 12-0 outburst featuring breakaways by Buford and treys by Diebler, who was 1 for 7 in his previous game.

UI coach Bruce Weber, with no other choice, returned McCamey quickly but the Buckeyes were rolling, and the Illini didn't catch up until McCamey bagged a trey at 30-30.

Still, Ohio State led 37-33 at the break as the Illini cooled down.

In something of a surprise, Matta employed a man-to-man defense for much of the game. After shooting 44.8 percent in the first half, the Illini went 10 for 31 thereafter and were clearly outclassed by the dashing, slashing Big Ten champions.

Meanwhile, Minnesota fell for the second time to Michigan, 83-55, in an astonishing rout that saw the Wolverines rebound from awful showings against Penn State (55-51) and Illinois (51-44) to shoot 60.4 percent with just four turnovers against the mesmerized Gophers. That assures Illinois of a bye in the Big Ten tournament and a Friday afternoon slot at Indianapolis.

Tate's tidbits

– Purdue got big mileage out of Carl Landry, as did Penn State from Stanley Pringle, but junior college transfers in the Big Ten have been spotty in recent years. Two of five seniors honored at Ohio State on Tuesday night, P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons, made modest impacts as juco acquisitions, which has been the case for Illini senior Dominique Keller and his predecessor, Rodney Alexander.

– Former Boilermaker Stephen Scheffler holds the Big Ten record for field goal percentage in a full season with 69.8 percent. Ohio State junior Dallas Lauderdale won't attain the necessary 125 baskets to be recognized, but he entered Tuesday's game with 90 field goals and a 76.9 percentage (he made his only attempt) ... while shooting 43.8 percent this season on free throws.

– How's this for a successful system? Wisconsin beat the three Big Ten leaders at home, lost to them on the road, lost once each to Illinois and Minnesota, and is 8-0 vs. the bottom dwellers ... for an 11-5 audit. Illinois went 8-1 against the bottom five, a fact that won't impress the NCAA selection committee.

– Indiana takes a 10-game losing streak to Purdue tonight, the last seven coming by an average of 21 points. Champaign's Verdell Jones III has 94 free throws in conference play, 22 more than runner-up Turner with two games to play. In league play, Jones has 51 assists against 52 turnovers.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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kzimmer001 wrote on March 03, 2010 at 7:03 am

Illinois is not in hot water, Loren. Bruce and Mike Davis told us all just last week that they were in the tourney, what's the fuss?

myattitude wrote on March 03, 2010 at 8:03 am

From the title of the story I assume Loren thinks Illinois will have trouble making the NCAA. I agree and would like to have seen a bit more of his thoughts on the issue.

If Illinois makes the NCAA, I expect one game and out at best.

jeffh wrote on March 03, 2010 at 9:03 am

I've thought for most of the season that the free throw disparity is ridiculous, and last night was another example.

Simply put, every time an opponent drives and we guard him, a foul is called on the Illini defender, but our guys taking outside shots are pushed and grabbed with impunity.

And two fouls called against Illinois on 3 pt. attempts? Loren I doubt you believe that all of our 3 pt misfires were simply bad technique and no OSU defenders touched the shooter.

bluehavana wrote on March 03, 2010 at 9:03 am

Illinois doesn't work the post much, doesn't pound the offensive boards, and almost never initiates a fast break. Any of these would eventually generate fouls, and subsequently, free throws. Watching our offense settle for threes is tough. Ohio State shot several also, but it was clear their offense worked the ball inside out several times for threes.

Wenalway wrote on March 03, 2010 at 10:03 am

Once again, the pseudofans blame the officiating. This happens after every loss. I was even ready to amend that statement to every close loss, but 16 points is not a close loss.

I am disappointed this column didn't build on the rabid frothing of the day before. If Illinois does not make the NCAA tournament, I expect nothing short of a "Network"-type reaction.

IlliniHimey wrote on March 03, 2010 at 11:03 am

Loren, I could not agree more. Zook should be fired for this.

kevinwood wrote on March 03, 2010 at 12:03 pm

http://alioneye.com/2010/03/03/in-response-to-loren-tate/

CuttyBuddy wrote on March 03, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I'm sure RG will give BW a raise after what he would describe a sign of support for an outstanding coach. Maybe for the 2nd tier of 1A BB, but not at this level. How many times do we need to hear that the team/player isn't good at this or that? Bruce you can't coach at this level and until you realize it is YOU who is at fault for not coaching these kids and help them improve. You are so good at blaming others and not taking the responsibility. Be responsible and resign, PLEASE!!

rtrott wrote on March 03, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Bruce you can't coach at this level and until you realize it is YOU who is at fault for not coaching these kids and help them improve. You are so good at blaming others and not taking the responsibility. Be responsible and resign, PLEASE!!

______________________________________________________

I'm pretty sure Bruce Weber coached a team to the national championship game and the sweet 16 the year before that. He also helped improve the likes of say, Deron Williams. When Coach Weber came to Illinois, it after Dee and Deron's freshman season. Bill Self left after Dee and Deron's freshman season. Are you telling me that Bill Self helped develop Dee, Deron, Augustine, Powell, Luther (the last 2 being sophomores when Self left) through their underclassman years and they didn't progress any further when Bruce took over? They were eliminated in the 2nd round in Self's final season here, and the 2 years after Bruce COACHED and helped IMPROVE those players to make the sweet 16 his first season and the national championship the following season. Yes Bruce has taken a step back and I don't want to hear the crap about how those were Self's recruits, we all know that. But Weber was the one who developed and coached those players to the national championship game.

Illinigrad wrote on March 03, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I guess it could be Sharks 3 and Illinois 0 when all is said and done.

JelaniBoline wrote on March 03, 2010 at 8:03 pm

At the risk of being considered one of the "crazies" that vexes Loren so, I think it's fair to say that there is a growing impatience with the basketball program.

I don't think anyone expected a win last night. So, in that sense, it's hard to be disappointed. The problem is that these match-ups tend to highlight how far the Illinois basketball program has fallen from the heights attained during the period 2000-2006.

If you ask any Illini fan if they are happy with where the basketball program has been the past four years, I can't imagine that any would answer in the affirmative.

The reality is that we are not a nationally-relevant program anymore. And we haven't been for four years. The only thing preventing a massive outpouring of frustration is the promise of vastly improved recruiting. But make no mistake, Illini nation will find it hard to accept another three or four years like the last four.

I think the next two years are pivotal. The Weber regime must show the fans that they are capable of leading the program back to national relevance.

If that doesn't happen, the "crazies" won't be the only ones howling.

Wenalway wrote on March 03, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Z/zerocred -- you lost me with that question. I'm not sure what you want.

I'd ask you about something from another thread, but then the post would be deleted.

illiniphil85 wrote on March 04, 2010 at 11:03 am

JelaniBoline,

Great post. I'm tired of hearing how great a coach BW is. I don't judge a coach on what they do with a stable full of studs, I judge them on what they do on the down years. The promising recruiting successes are the only thing keeping me from putting a For Sale sign up in BW's yard. Unless those recruiting successes start translating to successful seasons, Something needs to change.

lmo wrote on March 04, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I thought the effort level was ok in the game against OSU, but the players are just so limited talent-wise (compared to OSU's players). The big guys cannot do anything right (offensively) under the basket, the guards cannot penetrate and only McCamey can pass, and are not in sync in the defense, leading to a lot of open shots. Unfortunately, in the end recruiting is more important than who is the better coach (and Matta is pretty good too). We all complain because we had high expectations but the team seemed to underachieve. Well, how about we reconsider the level of talent of this team and start thinking that they actually overachieved? Last year team too (Frazier and Meachan had no talent, but they could defend and run the motion offense much better than the new guys).

Wenalway wrote on March 04, 2010 at 1:03 pm

And yet, none of that stops the N-G from proclaiming the team as worldbeaters after it opens the season with a convincing win at home against Alabama Peninsula State.

RPeterE wrote on March 04, 2010 at 2:03 pm

So Bruce wants to blame the sharks for his miserable coaching performance? What a LOSER! Weber is unable to motivate players, get them to play with full effort and effectively, or harness the talents of his gifted players like Paul. Weber lucked out getting handed the 2005 team who were Bill Self recruits and didn't need Weber to motivate them as they already had the hunger that great players have. Weber just had to unleash them and let them play and they (&Self) made him RICH! Wonder if Illini Nation will EVER know what it's like to have a REAL coach not some wannabe.