Klee: Illini come undone

Klee: Illini come undone

MINNEAPOLIS — The pressures seem to be getting under the skin of the Illinois basketball team. Nerves are fraying. Tensions are rising.

After Saturday's 77-72 overtime loss to Minnesota, Bruce Weber suggested that win or lose — he can't really win.

"They're all hard to take," Weber said after Illinois suffered its third straight loss. "When we win it's hard to take (because) we have to listen to the critiquing. What's the difference?"

Frustrations reached a fever pitch after the Gophers earned payback in front of 14,625 at Williams Arena. Illinois (15-6, 4-4 Big Ten) had stolen their first meeting, 71-62 in double overtime at the Assembly Hall in December. Meanwhile, after a 4-1 Big Ten start, Illinois is spiraling the wrong way with the toughest part of the schedule still to come.

Thanks to a 15-2 run, the Illini had built a 58-53 lead with 2:20 left in regulation. But the lead fizzled and the Gophers (16-6, 4-5) tore through overtime for their fourth win in five games.

Weber's beef was with a foul whistled on Meyers Leonard. Down three points, Minnesota guard Austin Hollins took the unorthodox approach and drove to the basket. He made a contested layup, drew a whistle on Leonard and made the free throw with four seconds left. A last-ditch three-pointer from Illinois came up short and overtime ensued.

Was it a foul?

Weber didn't think so. Or, if it was, the coach wondered how a "bump," as he called it, could be whistled after 39 minutes, 56 seconds of wrestling that doubled as basketball.

"Difficult call, difficult basket, difficult game to deal with," the Illinois coach said. "You battle all game and you're physical and you let people grab all over and you get him with a hip (check) at the end. ... But we should've done better with other parts of the game."

"I was just happy to hear the whistle," Hollins said. "Then to see the ball rolling around on the rim, I was just happy it went in."

Saturday's meltdown, however, is the small picture. In the big picture, the Illini are quite average: 4-4 this season in the Big Ten and 48-48 in the conference A.D. (After Dee).

Saturday's defeat left the locker room numb. Still, players and coaches promised these Illini aren't finished yet. That remains to be seen.

"It was kind of like the Wisconsin game (being up by four and losing a late lead)," D.J. Richardson said, adding, "We really didn't deserve the one back at home (against Minnesota)."

"I still think we're the better team," Brandon Paul said after scoring a game-high 28 points. "We might see them down the road."

Give the Illini this much, at least: they won't go quietly. The Matto chart read like this: Illinois 47, Minnesota 29. Unfortunately for Illinois, hustle points don't count as real points.

"We fought. That's all I can ask from my kids," Weber said. "I'm very proud of them. I'm proud of my staff for what they did tonight."

Leonard scored his seventh double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. The big man wasn't available for the overtime period; the foul Weber questioned was Leonard's fifth.

"That's huge. There's no doubt," Weber said. "He's one of the best players in the league."

Leading into the game, coaches said the Illini enjoyed one of their better weeks of practice. And The Barn had been a place of healing, Illinois having won nine of its last 10 trips to the ol' gem. All of that was just talk and useless stats as the team slumped to the locker room with No. 10 Michigan State rumbling into the Assembly Hall on Tuesday.

"Now we'll see what we're all about," Weber said. "Tubby (Smith) got his kids to respond. Now we'll see if we can respond."


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RPeterE wrote on January 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

"Now we'll see what we're all about," Weber said. "Tubby (Smith) got his kids to respond. Now we'll see if we can respond." Bruce Weber suggested that win or lose — he can't really win. "They're all hard to take," Weber said after Illinois suffered its third straight loss. "When we win it's hard to take (because) we have to listen to the critiquing. What's the difference?"

Bruce Weber needs to depart ASAP, resigned or fired because he is clueless.

Dan Bloeme wrote on January 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I can't believe Weber said what he did after the game. Even worse than his remarks last year when Bruce said he was hoping he could find some magic to get his team to play well. He's not D-1 head coach material.

Sinned58 wrote on January 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I am disappointed. To me it does not matter if we are 15-3, the point is that we are not cohesive. We have no easy games and I am afraid that we will go the way of the football team. No one should hate the coach, but clearly he is not the one for the job at Illinois. We need someone to inspire the team to greatness. I cringed when I saw Maniscalco come on the floor after we had played so well. I just wanted to scream because you can say he is improved all you want, he is a loose cannon that cannot read the floor. It is not a crime to want Deron and Dee, augie, roger and uther type players. For 2 million dollars we should have them coming out of our ears. Complaining does not mean we do not love Illinois, we do. That is why it hurts so much to see a great program disslove before our eyes. Also, like Richard, we give credit where credit is due: Brandon, Meyers, bravo. I am sorry that you fouled out Meyers, with such an inane foul but before that you did superb. Is there an Augie out there for us? I hope so. I miss him. I guess bruce will have to play the bench to death until they start thinking like 1 with many parts.




#5Sinned58 wrote 24 min 14 sec ago

this is my first post here this year and i hope most of you agree with my comments. is anyone besides me sick of weber calling time out with 5 seconds or less on the shot clock to set up a play? the possession that he did this game, i could see at 20 seconds on the shot clock that the offense was going no where...all standing around and paul dribbling out front. call time out at 20 seconds and tell them to run some offense instead of waiting to set up and inbounds play for a desperation shot. everyone is goint to comment on the foul with 4 seconds to go in the game...it was a bad call by the ref but why is leonard any where close to him.did weber and all the assistant coaches get in our players faces and tell them they cannot foul in that situation. if they did and the player still fouled you know what..these are webers players so i guess he recruits players that have no basketball sense. last point...i have watched hundreds of games when in the last 5 seconds of a game a guard dribbles down the center of the court and either scores on a layup or dishes off for a wide open shot....why do we have paul dribbling down the side court and stopping for a contested 28 footer with stll 2 seconds on the shot clock. i would think weber would practice a play taking the ball the length of the court with 5 seconds to go in a game to get a better shot. we had this game won in the last 30 seconds if we just would have had an average jr. high coach running our team tonight. amazing that weber gets paid close to 2 million dollars a year. when weber watches all of his film does he ever notice that the good teams catch the ball and shoot a 3 and his motion offense we have to catch the ball and "turn" and shoot. there is a big difference on which shot is easier, i have been a devoted season ticket holder since 1976...please dont let me go to my grave with weber our coach.





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Lanphier wrote on January 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

With no disrespect to Matt Helman at all....If Weber would spend as much time coaching during practice and stop distracting our player who are either gaurding a player with the ball or are in the act of shooting themself,by yelling and screaming, as he did working on that dang chart we may be a bit better...That chart is a waste of time and effort IMO, why not just put smiley face stickers or stars by the players name on a chart in the locker room.....

If Mike Thomas and Illinois wants to salavage this year, and more importantly the next 5-7 years to come, they need to release Weber tonight.....At least if a top recruit can see that Illinois is doing everything possible, even if it is a unorthodox method,like letting Weber go mid-season, that they are doing what is best for the team and players by finding a coach who can win regularly for the Illini....Many posters have said it would turn off some prospects if this was to happen, but if something doesn't happen now and the reigns are not turned over to Wayne or Jerrance, until a permanent replacement can be hired (even if the new hire is one of those two) its going to show recruits : Hey we want to win, and we want to win NOW...And we will do everything we can to create excitement, and a positive enviroment surrounding the program...And we want you to help take us to the next level....No disrespect to Bruce Weber the man, but as a coach he is in way over his head.....This statement he made tonight is unacceptable, to fans, to players, their families and student.....

He is paid 1.7 miilion dollars per year to win at this level, and take the heat, not play the "woe is me card"....Yes ,he wins the lottery once every year, think about that....and can still not land the Top recuits in the state...Why? Because they can see the writing on the wall...Do you think a one and done guy wants to come here and sit behind an upperclassmen like Shaw and Henry are doing...NO ! They want one year to showcase what they have to NBA scouts, and win a National Championship.....Mr. Weber with all the negativity and your lack of williness to change to accomodate the players that you, yourself have recuited....With clean conscious how do you cash your check every pay day?

Foo_G wrote on January 29, 2012 at 11:01 am
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I was just thinking the same thing about the Matto chart.  It doesn't always tell the story.  Just keep your eyes open and its obvious who's playing hard and getting after it.  Assigning arbitrary values to these "hustle plays" doesn't seem to be motivating anyone -- players or coaches (otherwise we might see more of hustle guys like Mike Shaw).  Yet it always gets brought up in the post-game interviews.

The key is to promote an attitude in the program that encourages competition to develop the drive and desire in every player on the roster to get after it and hustle all the time.  This was the number one reason that we were successful under Bill Self.  Now, in a regime that hangs their hat on defenseive toughness, we aren't seeing it.  We saw glimpses of it early this season because there was a level of competition amoungst the players who were hungy for minutes.  Now that the rotation is set in stone, that internal competitive fire has been extinguished.  It's all about attitude surrounding a team and program -- AND OURS SUCKS!

Lanphier wrote on January 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

Also please allow me to add...To the players, we as fans, supporters, boosters and alumni, are very proud to have each and everyone of you in an Illini uniform...You have showed us true heart and soul throughout this topsy turvy season....Please be assured ,that the negativity surrounding the program this season has nothing to do with any of you....We are very happy you have chosen The University of Illinois to attend, and play basketball for, and we understand this must be very difficult for you as players to have to endure. I can tell you that the booing at the games, at least from everyone I have spoke with have said that in no way was it directed at you.....

 We feel that you, and your families deserve much better than what you have been recieving and hopefully you will stick it out with us until a decision is made for the better, as the afore mentioned are hoping if a change is made within the coaching ranks, that you will stay an Illini, and thrieve from what a possible new coach could bring....I am sure its no secret to any of you what is brewing, as you had the unfortunate benefit of hearing at the United Center, and at home a few times...We have seen the gritty play and the hard work that you do out on the floor, and it must be extremely hard to do at times when you must feel that your own fans have turned against you....I can once again assure you that is not the case...We very much respect your play and hope you will stay with us, and bring us home a National Championship that has eluded us for so very long....And we believe that you ARE the right players to do this......Thanks again, for suiting up for the Fans of The Fighting Illini....... 

MOillinifan wrote on January 29, 2012 at 7:01 am
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Has everyone seen enough?

I am am tired of the losing...I am tired of the close games...

FIRE coach Weber?  It is time... 

oandb wrote on January 29, 2012 at 8:01 am

The call was brutal. Only a jackass makes that call with four seconds left from near half court. The ref three feet away did not blow his whistle. Solid games by Meyers and Paul. Brandon really fought hard after a poor start. What is up with DJ? Passing on a wide open three was stunning. Betrand wet the bed again. Sam will be a solid coach one day. If anyone thinks that Egwu will be ready by next year keep dreaming. Awful position, late to the play. and plays with hands, not body.

When Meyers leaves this team is in big trouble. 


illinidaffodil wrote on January 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

I agree with all of Coach Weber's comments per Klee's article. I'm proud of our guys and all our coaches and staff. If you stand back at look at how some of these young players have developed just in the arc of this season ( a result of quality coaching and their own commitment)--yes, there are slip-ups, but basically it is definitely two good steps forward since the start of the season. I really appreciate everyone's hard work and Coach Weber's gifts and resilience. As I think Coach Few of Gonzaga said after playing us, Coach Weber is one of the best coaches in the country. Put that in your pipes and go nuts, but it's true. I'm also most pleased that most of our players have higher than 3.0 GPAs.

Illiniwek11 wrote on January 29, 2012 at 11:01 am

Hey Illinidaffodil-

A response to your entire comment can be summed up in one line from the movie, "The Rock":

"Losers always whine about doing their best.  Winner go home and f**k the prom queen."

Foo_G wrote on January 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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"I'm also most pleased that most of our players have higher than 3.0 GPAs."

So does Ohio State, and they adapt and WIN!  We're stuck in a rut and there's only one way out.


"If you stand back at look at how some of these young players have developed just in the arc of this season ( a result of quality coaching and their own commitment)..."

How has Myke Henry developed this season?

Mike Shaw?  (Maybe he's developed sores on his ass.)

Tyler Griffey?  (He's really blossomed, huh?)

DJ?  (Is passiveness considered a development?)

Nnanna Egwu?  (Got a lot of pre-season hype.  Where's that now?)

Tracy Abrams has really only been the only guy to develop at all during the course of this season.  Meyers is remarkably better from last season, but hasn't shown any noticeable improvement over the last 2 months.  Brandon Paul has finally started to knock down shots and consistently play the aggressive style that we've seen glimpses of for the past 2+ seasons.  Bertrand was showing the ability to be a consistent and valuable contributor at the start of the season, but he was shut out of the rotation until the Mizzou game and didn't get to show what he was capable of.  Now we see it because he's getting minutes.  That's been the only change.

bluehavana wrote on January 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

A short conversation between Bruce Weber and Mike Thomas should occur, and have absolute clarity moving forward for this basketball team.

Perhaps the greatest on court mistake of this coaching staff is not developing young players during the cupcake early schedule.  Tough to see a learning curve during the Big10 season.  But, Coach Weber should tell Thomas he's going to focus on the young guys for the future of the program.  

That, more than any other singular action, could help preserve his job.  I will gladly accept several more games exactly the same as the Minnesota result if I know the young talent is getting minutes. 

Any game with Maniscalco over 20 minutes and Griffey over 10 prevents the development of better & younger talent.

smartines wrote on January 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I think DJ Richardson was 1 for 7 or something like that from 3.  He was OBVIOUSLY off and Weber refused to sit him and put Henry in.  Anybody would have been better the Richardson.  That's why he passed on the wide open three late in the game.  Even he knew he was off and passed on the shot.  Even Griffey had a better chance of making a three.  

Richardson is not so good that he automatically plays the entire game.  

And then Weber subs in Abrams so again we have Abrams and Maniscalco at the same time.  They can't shoot! That's such a weak lineup,it's a liability.  


tonyjb37 wrote on January 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm
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This Illini team is weak a bunch of sissies that dont have the heart to get it done on the court they care more about how they look in their uniforms then how they play ball. Of course they are not the only weaklings associated with the team, the coaches are everything and more then what the players are. The players are a reflection of their coaches and a product of their enviroment. Fire Weber and all the coaches now and get rid of all the non players and completely clean house that is the only way to get rid of the Weber curse. So just do it Illini forfeit the rest of the lost season and go out and find new coaches and players. Start fresh.

jimbo2009 wrote on January 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm

There's only one thing worse than a whining player on the team (we all know who that is) and that is a whining coach!

floridaturbo wrote on January 29, 2012 at 5:01 pm

How hard is it to say to the team, "if they take it inside the three point line, don't contest it?"  The Illini get the ball with a one point lead and four seconds on the clock.  That game was just given away, and it never should have happened.

butkus50 wrote on January 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

How many more games do we have to watch with Weber walking up/down sideline yelling at players and refs? Look at replay at end of Minn. game, DJ looked over at Weber with 5 seconds left and next thing the gopher was driving by DJ to basket for 2 and fouled for one more. Good job Weber; if he were fired tomorrow, it would not be too soon. This is a business as Weber makes well over a million dollars per year and we should demand results for that kind of pay. We have some very good talent but are at a tipping point, if a change is not made soon, we will not recover quickly.

read the DI wrote on January 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Has he been fired yet?

michiganderillini wrote on January 30, 2012 at 7:01 am

Wever has got to work with Meyers at ignoring the referees.  He was whining at the ref on one call when it was his own man that bumped his back on a rebound.  All Weber has to do is assign one of his assistant coaches the task of pulling Meyers out of the game if he even glares at a referee.  After Meyers has been sat on the bench a few times he will develop the habit of ignoring the referees and keep his mind on the game.<BR>

Think of the referees calls as weather related.  Sometimes its windy and sometimes its not.  Life is not FAIR and neither is the calls.  Hopefully they will all balance out eventually. 

Foo_G wrote on January 30, 2012 at 8:01 am
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The fact that Weber is constantly whining and complaining to the officials is not helping anything.  It rubs off on his players.  If you look around at most of the really good coaches, they have the ability to remain composed in the face of adversity -- in this case, poor officiating.  (Lon Kruger was a great example of this.  He never got rattled on the sideline.)  When we are on the short end of a questionable call, we need to let it go. Focus on coaching.  Focus on teaching.  Focus on bearing down on defense.  You have to learn to play through adversity.  Redirect that negative energy into playing winning basketball.  But, the coaches don't provide that sort of message or leadership, so we see it from the players as well.  Whining about it is counter-productive.  But, it's a major component of Weber-ball.  I would speculate that maybe it's a product of the Keady coaching tree, but Painter is usually pretty good about remaining poised and staying in control.

ipsofacto wrote on January 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

Maybe i am just getting tired or used to it, but i am leaning towards giving Webber a pass on this one, because he did everthing we have come to expect. And it so frustratingly came down to one play. It should have never been that close, but when you boil it down he just plain got outcoached and Tubby's bench made Tubby look like a genius. Subbing in shifts and wearing out the oposition? we should have been the ones doing that, like since November. It did seem like Webber actually, tried to sub a little more. But not being able to get in the flow, no magic bullet appeared, like on the Minnesota side.

Minny did all the things we dont, they pressed, they cleared out lanes down low, they attacked the basket, they dished and made backdoor cuts and they pushed the ball up the court. So yeah, typical anemic Illinois offense with 4-6 guards playing "chuck the rock" from the cheap seats and when there off, were are screwed.   This offensive system has already bored the hell out of me for about 3 years. We seemingly dont have personel who can pass and make it work, so maybe throwing a new wrinkle in here or there might generate something positive.

At this point in the season, i am guessing that our weakside rebounding on a missed 3-pointer, cannot exceed 12%. I dont care who it is, but we desperately need a big body in there making picks, blocks, rebounds and freeing up Leonard to score points and dominate. Having Leonard setting screens for guards who cant penetrate, out near the 3-pt line, is the equivelent to having your best player serving as the waterboy. 

But all that being said and expected, it comes down to some jackass at half-court blowing a call that at best should have been a no call. You know the play from your playground days, some wanna-bee no talent hack plowing into you, going underneath your arm, throwing up garbage and desperately praying for a foul.  No bad call, Leonard gets out of the way, Mr. trash misses, we win the game.

DaisyJ wrote on February 04, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Weborn will be back,,unless from here on out he loses every game. Why do I say this..first , the money is twice the awful buyout  Zook cost the U of I. Second, he will not lose every game from hear on out. Third, he has most all coming back next year along with what he is adding. And those coming back are going to be better despite his coaching. Fourth, you have to have another guy ready and that takes some time to be right in the choice. Am I happy about it ,,no,,but it is what will happen. Now here is the long and short of what is going on in Weborns head. Like the article says,,even when he wins, it feels like he has lost as he is critizised up one side, down the other, and rightfully so. Then when he loses he really hears it and hard. People have grown tired of his no zone stance, his manic substitution patterns, his discovery that Sam cannot play, that Bertrand can and we are seeing that Henry also can play, but With stubborn Weborn, it has taken too long to do any good for this year. And of course, he has never figured out that Leonard belongs under the basket and the motion offense is a real hard thing to watch.