Klee: Not tough enough

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If there was a light at the end of the crimson-lined tunnel late Thursday, the Illini had to squint their weary eyes to see it.

But this proverbial tunnel — unlike the one inside Indiana's Assembly Hall — seems to stretch along without an end. It just seems repetitive, the same ol' same ol', game after game.

"You're playing against a Top 20 team on the road. You played your butt off. We've done it all year. We're close," coach Bruce Weber said after No. 23 Indiana beat Illinois 84-71.

Close, however, isn't cutting it in A) the Big Ten standings B) a fan base running on fumes. After starting 4-1 in conference, Illinois (16-8, 5-6) is in a freefall without a parachute. Thursday's was its fifth loss in six games — with three of the next four on the road.

"Gotta win games. But these are not easy games to win," Weber said. "The regret should be two weeks ago (a loss at Penn State) and Sunday (Northwestern). That's where the regret should be. Not today."

The Indiana (19-6, 7-6) crowd wasn't as loud as some years, though it seemed to be as influential as ever. Assembly Hall was sold out with 17,472 fans, most of them participating in a "White Out." A security detail of seven officers — campus police, hired hands, etc. — stood watch over the Crimson Guard student section for the final four minutes.

And the hosts ridiculed the visitors with chants of "Er-ic Gor-don" and "Shut-up-Bruce!" as the Hoosiers took the lead in the all-time series 84-83. Thursday's result marked Indiana's largest margin of victory in the series since an 88-57 win in 2002.

The crowd, however, wasn't what got under the skin of the Illini coaching staff.

The foul count did. Weber emphasized the free throw discrepancy: Indiana shot 42 (and made 35) while Illinois shot 15 (and made 12). Star big man Meyers Leonard had 15 points at halftime but eventually fouled out — even while playing the role of tackling dummy throughout.

Hey, but it's the Big Ten, right?

"He got bopped a little bit. You just wish he would get a couple calls when people bop him," Weber said. "But they don't seem to want to call that. They just call the hand-checks on the perimeter."

"We're going to keep that to us," Indiana coach Tom Crean said of their game plan against Leonard. "We could see them in the conference tournament."

At one point during the first half, when Brandon Paul earned his second personal foul, Weber turned to the bench and said, "Joseph!" An assistant coach reminded Weber that Bertrand already had a pair of fouls, too.

"The fouls in the first half, they probably were legit," Weber said. "I'm not sure about the fouls in the second half, to be honest."

In rekindling at least some of its tradition, IU has forced its way to the line. The Hoosiers entered the game fourth among power conference teams with 17.9 free throws per game.

"It's the same thing we did against Minnesota," said D.J. Richardson, who led Illinois with 19 points. "We kept sending them to the line."

And what has been the staple of Weber's teams — sound defense — has broken down in the past two games. Northwestern formed a layup line in Sunday's 74-70 win in Champaign. And Indiana became just the fifth opponent in Weber's 303 games at Illinois to score 84 points in regulation.

"We've got to get better on D," Tracy Abrams said. "We can't trade baskets."

All of those stats and complaints mean little in the end, however. There's been no rhyme or reason to these unpredictable Illini, who own a better record against ranked teams (3-2) than the 10th-, 11th- and 12th-place teams in the Big Ten (2-2). But at least one thing's true at this point, for any number of reasons: "Gotta win games," as Weber put it.

"Go home, get on the bus, get ready for Michigan," he said. "I told them I'm not mad at them. I'm mad because of Sunday and a couple weeks ago. That's all I'm mad at."

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Lanphier wrote on February 10, 2012 at 1:02 am

This has just turned into a joke....The ones I feel bad for is the players. These kids commited to play for a coach that could make them progress as a player, teach them how to be better players and better men....And Weber don't do either...He takes cheap shots at them every chance he gets....And has no idea how to change offense when the other team changes D....

 I think even the most die-hard fan has just gave up on the coaching issue, and while we realize that this is Webers last go  around with the Illini, it isn't soon enough...Air force for godsake fired their coach mid  season....This has to be done now if we are going to salvage any recruits......If AD Thomas wants some of the recruits we are losing game after pathetic game, then he needs to do something EXTREME to show them he is serious about winning...That would do it.....

 I don't want to give up on the team, but this really isn't good for the health, I am being serious.....Some of us live and die Illini Hoops (sad isn't it?) and when my stomach starts to get pains in it from watching it, and I'm 45 imagine what it is doing to Loren Tate.....

 The kids deserve so much better than what they have now.....Did anyone listen to his Pre-game speech, what a work of art...."Nobody thinks we can win, Nobody...Nobody thought we could win at Wis. either)....He may as well said...."Nobody likes me, nobody...Are you guys listening....Now go out there and.....I don't know just go out there"  That is how bad its became, Weber is a joke of sorts and is embarassing the University with every interview he gives.....Break out the duct tape and use it on him.....If he was such a great guy he would have the players vote on rather they want him to stay or go, and do what they want....But there comes a time when doing something thats not common practice is needed

PeterE wrote on February 10, 2012 at 2:02 am

I agree the kids (players) deserve better coaching and development than they have received. They have the talent and athletic ability that the right coach could turn into a winner and contender. Bruce Weber is not the right coach for the kind of athletic players on this team and now top players from Chicagoland and the team have begun to realize that. More Illini will transfer away (like Head) and the top recruits from Chicago will now think twice about coming to play for Weber. There may likely be decommits for 2013 and increasingly top recruits will shun Weber and stay away while he is here.

bluehavana wrote on February 10, 2012 at 7:02 am

Just read again the last short paragraph of Paul's column.  How uninspiring is that?  

Meyers is a bit aloof, Tracy does need to develop a little more.  But these talented guys are what there has been precious few of during the Bruce Weber era.  Chasson Randle is just the latest example of program forwarding talent unable to be secured by a Bruce Weber staff.  Brandon, DJ, and carryover Sam bring a bigger desire to shoot 3's when the heat is on than anything else.  It is a trait that may come from within, but is also encouraged by the offensive philosophy of Bruce Weber. (Fire up 3's at will.)

The Hoosiers did receive a better officiated game last night.  But I am not among those that think it was just handed to them.  Watching the replay late last night, it was amazing how many possessions Illinois never moved the ball inside the 3 point arc.  Not many fouls called in that territory. Zeller is much more polished as a first year player than Leonard is a 2nd year talent.

I give the Illini credit for playing hard.  The last few minutes weren't the best, but I appreciate Henry and Egwu's minutes, and wish for more of the same in coming games.

oandb wrote on February 10, 2012 at 8:02 am

Zeller a "more polished player" than Meyers. What a joke. Until the refs took control  of a tied game Meyers beat his a$$. Period. Zeller is a nice player with no post moves. He will improve. 

As for Weber the fact that he benched Meyers last year is stunning. We all know of his love of Tisdale and Cole but to sit an NBA first round pick is mind blowing. Where would Leonard be if he had Danny Manning at KU as his coach? Meyers played like a star last night and will get rewarded with a nice NBA contract.

Bruce lost the game Sunday not the players. By not playing the bench he lost the game. Horrendous coaching decision and that one game may keep us out of tourney.

Big Ten refs are a joke. Last night proved that once again. Meyers never gets a call while hand checks are called on the Illini. They took control of a HUGE game and helped dictate the outcome.This problem needs to be addressed by Delany.

I still wonder why Weber never changes his defense. He has to be the only coach to run the same d all game long.

 

 

ipsofacto wrote on February 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

You missed it! BW had the full court press on for like 2 or 3 plays. I thought i was having an out of body experience? It didnt work because that IN kid with the crazy long name just outraced everyone and broke it easily himself and we quickly went back to getting back on D.


I agree we should have played more bench on Sunday vs Northwestern, but i am not sure it would have won it for us, unless one of them got inspired and went on a tear.  The whole team just basically mailed that game in and didnt show up. Young team? beat NW at home earlier? Superbowl sunday? afternoon game? who knows. I felt a lot better about the coaching when i later heard reports that BW spent the pre-game, half-time, and most time outs yelling at them to play with some passion. Because they sure didnt and someone needed to tell them so. Uggh! NW and Penn St. At some point i hope this team learns that Champions dont overlook teams and allow bottom feeders to derail them.

rocko wrote on February 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

The 4th foul on Leonard was the turning point and it was brutal.  12 minutes left, DJ buries a 3 to tie the game and it's waved off for a phantom illegal screen and sends our dominant player to the bench.

42 free throws to 15?  16 fouls to 30?  Are you kidding me?  A freakin' travesty. 

No surprise though, it's been that way in that asylum for 40 years.

bigal wrote on February 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

It's way too early to panic, folks. The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out in August and won the World Series. The Giants were 7-7 and won the Super Bowl. The Illini, despite a tough schedule, are still poised to make a big run in the NCAA tourney.

Moonpie wrote on February 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

Just asking, but is it really Weber's fault? Seems to me Myers Foul Machine Leonard is not as good as the Sleepy Gazoo hype, is a whiner, and other Illini players just lack the grit and heart. Could Izzo or Coach K really get that much more from this soft group?


We won't know what to think until Mr. Moses Tate tells us how to think.


I imagine his column throwing Weber under the bus is coming soon enough.

illinifan20 wrote on February 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I watched the Illini game last nite and we didnt do too bad....The Indiana Hooiers are just well coached and more decipline than the Illini players.  The ref's did lose the game for us.  We just didn't play tough defense and didn't play a tough offensive game plan.  Why isn't Griffey getting any playing time?  Griffey started the first 4 or 5 games and now he is benched.  I still believe we have good players but the coaching is not any better across the board.  Coach Weber runs players in and out too much or pulls them to quick if they make a mistake.  But, it also depends on who makes the mistake if they come out or not and for how long.  Some like Griffey seem to never return.  Hopefully Griffey stays, but I believe he will leave the school at the end of the season.  If so, the question will have to be why?  We need to recruit good players that can play in Weber's system.  In my opinion that means going out and getting the best student athletes we can.  They just dont all have to come from, "The Chicago School System."  Those that we lost to other schools like Kansas, UConn, Kentucky, with the excepition of the suburbs schools, those players stayed one or two years and left for the NBA.  We dont want that.  We need those players like I stated before that fit into Weber's system and not necessarily those that have "NBA" so called talent.  The U of I needs good student/athletes who go to class, dont have to be babysitted to make sure they do their class work and are able to graduate on time and be successful in their future endeavors.

rfalato wrote on February 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Moonpie,


Really! Come on man....This isnt even Tate's column and you have to bring your garbage into it. Enough is enough as far as I am concerned and if you dont like what he has to say, dont waste your time reading it! IThat's how I feel about your posts and will start taking my own advice! Go Illini!!

Moonpie wrote on February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm

rfalato--I'm always happy to hear someone disagree and make a strong counter argument. But all you have done here is the predictable conservative hate tactic -- call my view garbage. Climb out of the bubble. Unplug Fox Fair and Balanced. Realize that you aren't always right and neither is Tate.

bluehavana wrote on February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm

IlliniFan20,

I disagree with, but am very interested, in the viewpoints you posted.  

Tyler Griffey is not a difference maker in my view.  Rarely does he have the ability to get open, and even then it is from the 3 point arc.  Illinois already has entirely too many players willing to shoot from 22 feet and beyond.  Similarly, I agree that the one and done guys are a lot of work for the end result.  But, they are often difference makers.  When you mention we don't need the NBA types, those are exactly the kind of athletes that make elite programs in the NCAA.  Rarely is there an NCAA champion that doesn't have 2 or 3 NBA players to be on the roster.

Bruce Weber's inability to competitively recruit top rated talent is the primary reason our teams have been mediocre in recent years.  The 4 year good guys like Tisdale and Cole do not advance a program.

Let me know if I'm not reading you right!

 

DaisyJ wrote on February 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Ok, I told you weeks ago, before Bertrand and Henry finally got their chance, that they should be out there most of the time. They are the second coming of Mark Smith and Eddie Johnson. Both are smooth, both are steady, both are good scorers, but both are most of all with their head in the game, all the time. Sure, Henry got beat a few times, even traveled a few times, but sorry that Weborn took so long to see his talent. It is there big time. Bert and Henry down deep have to think this clown Weborn just does not get it..We see he does not. Just look at their face, they are bidding their time until the clown wakes up. Never have I seen such madness from a coach. It is telling that Weborn never played them much all year and then discovers them all of a sudden. Geez!!

 

Stop playing Sam. We have three guys that can play point if needed, Paul, Richardson, and Abrams.

I watched the game a second time. To think that Weborn has to think that the refs were not right to call us for the fouls is incredible. Really incredible. They were fouls like Richardson says. Is WEborn feeling ok..He seems to have lost it.

Chitown wrote on February 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I know it's crazy.  I know it's out of right field.  But bigal might be right.  Remember he said it.

michiganderillini wrote on February 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Why is everybody surprised about the discrepancy in foul calls?  Indiana penetrated and Illinois did not. No penetration means no fouls.  Penetration draws fouls.  When Illinois does go the line it's because someone penetrated.  How many times does DJ go to the foul line? Paul is the only real penetrator. Where did Joe's penetrate and pull up go?  Meyers still waits too long to make a move giving the double team time to get to him.

I mostly blame Webers "keep it outside" quasi-weave motion offense.  A pick just leads to a lateral pass while other teams are trying to take into the lane.  I don't understand. {sigh}ap