Tate: It might be time to start worrying

Tate: It might be time to start worrying

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Illini killers JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore are gone and the third musketeer, Robbie Hummel, wasn't himself Saturday.

But that didn't prevent Purdue from spanking Bruce Weber's Illini for the sixth straight time, 75-60, at newly revamped Mackey Arena. Purdue reserves scored 36 points for the third consecutive game, and no Boilermaker recorded more than four field goals. Hummel had two on six shots.

What we've seeing are smoke signals warning of dire times for Illinois in the next two months. Somebody set the emergency brakes on early-season savior Sam Maniscalco, his ankle slowing him to a zero-production walk. And for all of Meyers Leonard's potential, the Illini encounter stretches when they can't get the ball to him in scoring position (four field attempts, two baskets) and he was never a factor in Mackey.

Worst yet, the Illini are developing a turnover tendency that releases rivals for breakaways. These are the baskets that enliven rival fans and turn close games into thunderous stampedes.

Lightning struck the herd shortly after halftime Saturday as Leonard sat down with three fouls, the Illini essentially playing without a center or a point guard.

Emerging from an early 21-14 deficit, Purdue erupted for a 41-8 blitz that began with three unanswered treys and reached a crescendo with a string of layups off Illini turnovers. In a riotous two-minute period from 14:12 to 12:08, the Boilermakers capitalized on miscues by Tyler Griffey, Tracy Abrams, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson twice to run the score up to 52-29. Somebody brought out the smelling salts and the Illini started to revive after it reached 56-31.

But the defense never recovered, Purdue shooting 71.4 percent in the second half.

Unanswered questions

What is Weber to do? Where can he find the punch to help D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul? How can he bolster this inept defense?

The coach moved Joe Bertrand into the lineup Saturday but the redshirt sophomore contributed four turnovers to the team total of 17. Tracy Abrams got 24 minutes subbing for Maniscalco, but was no threat (he missed his only shot).

Illinois has a shortage of ballhandlers and setup passers. When Purdue used weakside help to double on Leonard, quick reversal passes weren't forthcoming. The game loosened up in the last nine minutes, the Illini garnering 29 points to make it respectable.

"It's Groundhog Day, the same old story," Weber said. "Purdue took it to us in the second half again. They only missed six shots after the break (15 of 21, including seven layups in the first 11 minutes). We didn't take care of the ball. We can't guard layups off turnovers.

"Purdue came from the weak side and pinched Meyers, and we didn't look to the corner."

The 82-75 win against Gonzaga at home is now a distant memory. In seven games since, Illini fans have found themselves disappointed in three losses and grumbling about shaky wins against St. Bonaventure (48-43), Cornell (64-60) and Minnesota (81-72 in 2OT). That amounts to too many unacceptable performances to think it can be turned overnight.

And yet, in looking ahead, Illinois' only January road games are at Northwestern (Wednesday), Penn State and Minnesota, a trio of likely second-division teams. But don't expect anything positive until the Illini quit handing the ball over for easy layups.

Tate's tidbits

— In an incredibly balanced effort, none of Purdue's nine scorers attempted more than eight shots, or made more than four field goals. It was a faceless offense. And no Boilermaker had more than three assists or more than two turnovers. In another oddity, there wasn't a single blocked shot in the game.

— Whenever you hear about a stunning upset, check the three-point shooting. Wisconsin went 3-for-28 in losing at home to Iowa. Nuff said.

— You knew this already but, yes, Simeon's Jabari Parker is clearly a one-and-done collegian, and would probably go straight to the NBA if allowed. He was just named MVP at Pontiac. And his 6-2 junior classmate, lefty Kendrick Nunn, would be an excellent pickup if Weber can land him.

— Mike Tisdale has been waived by the Maine Red Claws in the Development League. Another former Illini, Gene Cross, is an assistant coach with the Iowa Energy in the NBA's 16-team minor league.

— Everyone links the success (13-0) of Missouri with its four-guard lineup, but center Ricardo Ratliffe made key baskets in a 78-74 battle with Illinois, and did it again in Friday's 75-68 win over Old Dominion. Ratliffe tied the game at 65-65 and 67-67 before Marcus Denmon carried the Tigers to victory in the final minute.

Mood check

Why I Feel OLD ...
What’s this? My 41st trip to West Lafayette for an Illini basketball game, and the Illini have lost 30 of them. They’ve lost on a questionable officiating call, a failure to foul with a three-point lead, by blowouts and blown leads (like last year). This routine is getting old.

Why I Feel YOUNG ...
Simeon’s 48-47 defeat of Peoria Manual on Friday at Pontiac was one of the year’s most exciting high school games. Jabari Parker was great (21 points) and yet Manual had two good chances at the end to win it. It brought back positive memories of great games I’ve seen.

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


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crackerman wrote on January 01, 2012 at 8:01 am

It's really hard to keep from verbally bashing Weber! Go Illini!

butkus50 wrote on January 01, 2012 at 8:01 am

After however many years, this is Weber's team and illustrates what a terrible job he is really doing. He finally has some good athletes but they apparently do not fit his coaching style.If you cannot guard man/man, play some zone. If the full court press is just token and not working, quit.

Weber just stands on sideline the entire game yelling and complaining. Don't blame the fans for yelling and complaining about Weber!



Moonpie wrote on January 01, 2012 at 9:01 am

Ah, Weedhopper, let us sit at the feet of Moses Saint Tate and Klee Klub for wisdom.


The problem is that Moses and Klee Klub have hyped a team that has potential and talent, but babies, too. Young kids who aren't ready yet for the Big Ten. And a big guy who ain't Bill Russell yet. Instead of hyping Foul Machine Leonard to the NBA, they should be urging him to plan on another season at Illinois after this one -- he needs it. What's the guy done other than feast on a couple of cupcakes?

Gee, folks, Klee Klub and Moses now wring their hands -- but you could see this coming weeks ago and they should have discarded the hype machine during the pre-conference schedule.

But, it's the Sleepy Gazoo. Legends in their own minds.

oskeewowwow wrote on January 01, 2012 at 9:01 am
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The most troubling thing about the loss to PU is that it was the first time I've seen this team quit. Shades of last year's team. Very unnverving considering the level of competition will only get better from here.

illiniart wrote on January 01, 2012 at 9:01 am

Sorry Loren, but you are late to the party.  Many of us started worrying 5 - 6 years ago when Bruce demonstrated that he could not recruit top players.  The reality is that BW is a great guy who is in over his head and belongs in a mid-major program.  There was a reason he was passed over for head coaching jobs for 18 years.  There is also a reality that he has one offense that he runs regardless of the talent mix he has on his teams.   Once the other coaches have figured that out, he appears to do little to make adjustments. 

The season is not lost yet, but the signs are not good.

toddalan1975 wrote on January 01, 2012 at 10:01 am

I think Illinois needs to cut its losses and fire coach weber.   Have coach Mclain take over with coach howard and see where it goes.   I don't think coach howard is ready to lead a program like Illinois but he needs to stay and recruit and learn.


Weber can't motivate these kids and this team has too much talent to be wasted!

787 wrote on January 01, 2012 at 10:01 am

How many years are left on Bruce Weber's contract?

Can the program survive that long?

ATLIllini wrote on January 01, 2012 at 10:01 am

Bruce Weber continues to steal money from the University of Illinois at the rate of a couple of million per year. The guy has no business coaching a major conference team. When Dee and Augie left and his teams collapsed, we were told that he needed to get his players in. When is overmatched teams failed, we were told that he needed to recruit better. Now we have gobs of talent and a center that would be a lottery pick if he played in a competently-coached offensive system, and could still be despite playing for Weber, and there is no excuse.

The problem is that Bruce Weber is a bad coach. He can't motivate his players. His offensive system is atrocious. Yeah, it's Groundhog Day, Bruce. But it's been like this since 2006. Just do the honorable thing and quit. Stop stealing your paycheck.

Salt Life wrote on January 01, 2012 at 10:01 am
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You've done a good job desribing the situation with Bruce Weber. It's always excuses and always next year with Bruce. Thank God we have a new AD (Guenther's gone) that won't put up with Weber's BS excuses or with Illinois mediocre overall Big Ten record since 2006. That's 6 years now and Weber still hasn't brought Illinois back to national prominence much less seriously challenged for the Big Ten in recent years. Thomas won't put up with that. Barring miracles, Weber is as good as fired at the end of this season, having been exposed as an incompetent coach. Weber's better suited as assistant or D-2 coach.

GreenWave1233 wrote on January 01, 2012 at 4:01 pm
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The facts:  Since 2006 the Illini Basketball Program is not getting better (Groundhog Day...His(Weber's) words not ours. Sums it up don't ya think?

                  Weber has ONE offense and you will learn it regardless of your talet set.

                  Weber has ONE defense and you will play man to man and like it.

                  Illinois Basketball is too predictable and has been since 2006 regardless of the talent that has been brought in.

                  Illinois Basketball I.Q. is ALMOST the worst in the B1G.......that's on the coaches folks!

                  Krueger did more with less talent.

                  Self got more talent to add to Kruegers recruits and left Weber with no excuses.

                  Weber has the most talent and the program is worse???????

You tell me what the problem is.............................

CecilColeman wrote on January 01, 2012 at 6:01 pm

The problem obviously is Weber. Toss in the belief that Jerrance Howard  and the rest of the staff are recruiting all these great players to come to Illinois.  If so, WHERE ARE THEY??

Two and three years ago Weber blamed anything and everything on McCamey - even though most of the guys on the floor with Dimitri were really not "Big 10 caliber" talent.

Bruce wanted some sort of point guard to back up McCamey for 3 years. So we watched walk on Jeff Jordan. Now that McCamey is gone we have fifth year transfer (from Bradley) Maniscalco hobbled by bad ankles (as if he wasn't slow enough already). Back up point guard Abrams can't score (or run an offense). Either can Egwu or Shaw or Griffey.

Again, where are all these great athletes Jerrance (and Bruce and Jay and Wayne) have been bringing in? 

Illini have lost 5 out of 6 at the United Center, 3 in a row to Mizzou, 6 in a row to Purdue and Wedneday could be the third in a row at Northwestern.  What Weber and his staff have done to a Final Four program since taking it over makes the Zook era in football look sensational.

Mike Thomas - are you watching?

jules61 wrote on January 01, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I actually e mailed the new a.d. and hope he actually reads his mail.  as much as I hate to do it, I have to admit that Bruce's time may be over.  I think he has gone as far as he can go.  Someone on another blog site mentioned the old Maryland coach Gary Williams as a possibility. Anyone know what he is doing lately?

MAC654 wrote on January 01, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I've always given BW a pass because of the awesome job he did with the 2004-05 team.  But I was very concerned with the recruits that he secured after the national championship game...  i was expecting some 5 star recruits to build on the momentumn of the run.,,,,