Break finally goes UI's way

Break finally goes UI's way

To read grades from the Michigan game, click here.

CHAMPAIGN – Stu Douglass is right-handed.

So when the Michigan guard launched a left-handed runner at the final buzzer, Illinois should have felt comfortable the shot wouldn't go in, right? Not these snake-bitten Illini.

"I was like, 'Nooooo,' " senior Mike Davis said.

The Douglass prayer glanced off the front of the rim, allowing Illinois to escape with a 54-52 win Wednesday at the Assembly Hall.

Sure, it was a two-pointer, not a three, but the Illini aren't in a position to test fate in overtime. Close games aren't their specialty.

Illinois (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten) improved to 2-5 in games decided by five points or less. And there were sweaty palms throughout the Assembly Hall when Michigan had possession of the ball with 14 seconds left.

The Wolverines (16-11, 6-8) got off two shots in the final four seconds – a three-pointer from Evan Smotrycz that missed, and Douglass' last-second prayer that missed.

"If it takes a bounce to the right it goes in," Bruce Weber said.

"That would have been something," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I joke with them because the SportsCenter highlight is always a dunk. That would have been a SportsCenter highlight."

Douglass said he thought his shot was going in. Frankly, so did the Illini, who finally caught a break in a close game.

"This is an extremely important win for us," senior Mike Tisdale said. "Last year Minnesota came in here and took our NCAA bid. It was kind of the same thing this year."

"Now if it comes down to Selection Sunday, they (Michigan) can't get in ahead of us," Davis said.

For the first time in weeks, three seniors were invited to the postgame interview session with media. Weber brought Tisdale off the bench for a better matchup with Michigan's small lineup. He had 12 points and eight rebounds. Davis had a game-high 10 rebounds.

"I'm going to bring everything I've got (for the rest of their final season), and I know these guys next to me will," Tisdale said.

Perhaps most important, Demetri McCamey looked like a version of the old Demetri McCamey. He had 18 points, his highest total since going for 23 at Wisconsin a month ago. If Illinois is to advance to the NCAA tournament, it needs that kind of performance from McCamey.

"I think tonight I got out of (his slump) a little bit," said McCamey, who was in kindergarten the last time Michigan won at the Assembly Hall (1995).

"I'm happy for them (the seniors). It's been a tough go," Weber said. "Mike Davis hasn't been perfect, but he has played hard. He's played with good energy for probably three weeks. The other two have had struggled. But they stepped to the plate."

Despite the win, there was a feeling of déjà vu for an Illinois team that still doesn't look comfortable when the score is close. Weber said the team was "tight" in the locker room before the game, and that nervousness extended past tipoff.

"I hope there's no pressure (at Michigan State on Saturday)," Weber said. "You could feel the pressure tonight. Even the crowd, it seemed like the air was thick."

What happened
Illinois made it 13 straight wins against Michigan at the Assembly Hall with an inspired defensive effort and a boost from the home crowd. As a result, the Illini prevailed in a late-season trap game like they experienced last season against Minnesota. And Illinois finally won a close game. The UI had been 1-5 in games decided by five points or less.

What it means
Another low-scoring basketball game between Illinois and Michigan meant the hoops squads failed to reach the scoring total of their football teams in November. Nathan Scheelhaase's Illini and Denard Robinson's Wolverines combined for 132 points in triple OT. The basketball teams were short of 132 for the fifth time in their last six meetings.

What the Illini said
"Just play basketball. Have fun and enjoy the game. And shoot the ball, don't second-guess, just shoot, shoot, shoot. And find your teammates when they're open. But just play basketball. You've been through this situation and you've been through a slump, so just play basketball." -Demetri McCamey (18 points) on Bruce Weber's message to him

What the Wolverines said
"That's a smart move. We're lying when we say Jordan Morgan is 6-8. And I think Tisdale is definitely 7-feet. ... That's what I would do when you're playing against a smaller team and you have a height advantage." -Coach John Beilein on the Illini's use of an effective high-low offense

What's next
Michigan State will have revenge on its mind when Illinois visits Breslin Center on Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN). ESPN's College Gameday will broadcast from East Lansing, and Illinois upset the Spartans on Gameday's visit to the Assembly Hall last season. Tom Izzo's program has been involved in all but one of Gameday's Big Ten broadcasts.

Comments

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peterborich wrote on February 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm

On to Michigan State....gulp....

illiniphil85 wrote on February 17, 2011 at 1:02 am

I guess all that really matters is it's a W unless you bet on it, but this team has some real issues to deal with. The Illini are like CBBs version of the Edsel.

peterborich wrote on February 17, 2011 at 1:02 am

By the way, 4 points in the last 6:34 at home? Ouch and Baaaaaaaaaaaddddddd........

jjohnson wrote on February 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

I'm usually mister positive, but I disagree with Paul Klee; the second half defense was terrible -- those were lay-ups Michigan was making, and our forwards (I love Billy Cole, but . . .) got burned so many times on the backdoor that I thought the hinge would break

cpm124 wrote on February 17, 2011 at 11:02 am

Underclassmen please transfer... Bruce Weber destroys talented basketball players. This team has some highly talented players but they spend most of the time on the bench and if they make a mistake Weber pulls them. They will never learn that way and they will never develop into the players that they can be. McCamey is a very talented player but he has not improved under Weber and it's sad to think what type of player he could have been in college had he actually been coached.

Zentrails wrote on February 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm

My God, you are an idiot, cpm124.

ax474 wrote on February 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm

What kind of fan would encourage the players on his own team to leave? This is mind boggling! And this is after a win!

The team got a win, and that is all that matters. Lets see what happens in East Lansing on Saturday and the rest of the season before we jump off a cliff.

cpm124 wrote on February 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I am a basketball fan. There are some of the most talented players in the NCAA on this team and they are fighting for playing time. That shouldn't be. I'd actually like to see highly talented athletes achieve the most they can at the highest level possible than to see that talent wasted. McCamey is a perfect example. He has NBA lottery talent but I believe that he has been so poorly coached that he may never reach his potential. That I find very frustrating.

JCIllini1988 wrote on February 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I am just as frustrated and disappointed as anyone with the Illini this season but the hate some of you have for Weber is ridiculous. Why in the world would you want our best talent to transfer? I am assuming the reason you are not a Weber fan right now is we have lost too many games (even though we have won 20 games every season under Weber except one and tht was the season Indiana stole Eric Gordon) I don't know about you but I want that to change, I want to win 25 games a season again. That won't happen if our best talent transfers. Do you really hate Weber so much that you want our best talent to transfer which will result in this program being terrible? Do you really want to see this team be at the bottom of the Big Ten? If your answer is yes because it will get rid of Weber your not a true fan. True fans hope and pray for the best and want the best talent to come to their team. Either you're a true Illini fan or your not, you can't be both.

shahn wrote on February 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Let's just let people have their say without tearing into them.

headiqe wrote on February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm

It was apparent that either Doyle or the other BTN guy covering the game wanted MI to win with the seemingly intentional attempts at pulling the infamous announcer/free throw jinx by calling out both DJ's and Cole's streaks right before the front end of their respective 1&1 attempts...

crackerman wrote on February 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Tim Doyle is a TOOL!!!!!!!!