Carter remains 'key' to Illini's season

CHAMPAIGN – The game was over hours ago. Illinois had lost 63-57 at Michigan State. The sounds from inside the wild Breslin Center were no longer ringing in Warren Carter's ears.

No more taunts from Michigan State's student section, the Izzone, poking fun at his spiky hair. No more trumpeting from the Spartan band. No more from that guy in the first row with the cowbell. (Thank goodness.)

Tate: Influential AAU coach seeking 'olive branch' with Weber

CHAMPAIGN – If AAU basketball has become the marginally legal proving ground for the college game – a modern revelation reported in a recent Washington Post expose – the transformation isn't across the board.

The University of Illinois hasn't played that game. Fact is, it isn't even clear whether Illini coach Bruce Weber and leading AAU coach Larry Butler are on speaking terms, much less back-slapping buddy-buddy.

Smith serves up sweet revenge

CHAMPAIGN – Jenna Smith indicated Thursday that her sparkling play against Minnesota had little to do with an eagerness to show off for her home-state team.

But the Bloomington, Minn., native's play served as an apt rebuttal to that argument.

After win, time is right for major test for UI women

CHAMPAIGN – If Illinois' 64-54 women's basketball victory against Minnesota on Thursday accomplished anything, it might have alleviated any pressure for the Illini's next game.

That comes Sunday at Ohio State, the country's fifth-ranked team and the Big Ten's two-time defending champion.

Journey good so far for UI wrestlers

CHAMPAIGN – They couldn't be coming off a better trip. Both on and off the mat.

A week ago, Mark Johnson's Illinois wrestling team was hanging out at the White House. With the help of congressman Dennis Hastert, a one-time wrestling coach and friend of the program, the Illini got to see the president's home.

Illini Insider

A weekly review and preview of Illini sports:

Tate: Next two games will determine fate of Illini

MINNEAPOLIS – For all the good fortune that has followed Illini basketball in the 21st century, the most unexpected development came back in 1999 when Lon Kruger's Big Ten cellar dwellers (3 wins, 13 losses) shocked 23rd-ranked Minnesota 67-64 in the Big Ten tournament.

That was the first of three unbelievable triumphs at the United Center – No. 17 Indiana and No. 11 Ohio State followed – and that March revival ignited a streak of eight years and 16 consecutive victories against the once- proud, now-downtrodden Gophers.

Empty nest for Gophers

MINNEAPOLIS – Maybe it was the city traffic, slipping down from its peak when Illinois and Minnesota tipped off at 6 p.m. Maybe their cars wouldn't start due to the 19-degree temperature.

Or maybe it was because the Minnesota Timberwolves were in town.

Illinois' focus turns to Badgers

MINNEAPOLIS – In between sniffing his nose and coughing, Bruce Weber prescribed a remedy for what ails the Illini.

Their 64-52 win against Minnesota on Wednesday night at Williams Arena made them feel better, sure, but it was more like a quick fix, not a cure.

Illini report card

Grading the Illini's win over Minnesota: