CARBONDALE – For five years, Matt Painter watched Bruce Weber pass out T-shirts at summer camps and unload bags from the team bus. Weber was a head coach acting like an assistant. A hungry one.
The lessons from the School of Weber have turned out to be handy for Painter. In his first year as head coach, Painter has led Southern Illinois to a 24-3 record, a Top 25 ranking and an almost-perfect Missouri Valley Conference record. Only a loss Monday at Northern Iowa kept the Salukis from finishing 18-0 and matching Oklahoma''s Valley record ... set in 1928.
Scott Brew would like nothing more than to be there Sunday as Illinois tries for an undisputed Big Ten title.
But the five-hour drive from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Columbus, Ohio, doesn''t fit into the 1995 Illinois grad''s busy schedule.
Since Sujay Lama arrived on the Illinois campus in 1998, he''s had the Illini women''s tennis team moving toward elite status.
With Thursday''s 5-2 victory against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., he hopes his team is ready to make the next step.
INDIANAPOLIS – For much of the last three weeks, the Illinois women''s basketball team''s shooting has been more crooked than an Enron executive.
Thursday''s 39.3 percent effort in a Big Ten tournament first-round loss to Mich-igan extended the Illini''s string of sub-40 percent games to six. The last time Illinois broke 40 was a Feb. 8 win against Indiana (44.6 percent).
Football coaches script their plays based on the upcoming opponent''s tendencies. Basketball coaches break down offenses by watching videotape. Hitters study pitchers. Pitchers study hitters.
In some ways, rewind and pause have become as important as X''s and O''s. And no sport is exempt.
INDIANAPOLIS – When Cindy Dallas flips on the television or returns to Champaign-Urbana next season to watch her alma mater''s women''s basketball team, she hopes not to witness a repeat of the season just completed.
If there are lessons to be learned from an underachieving, 10-18 season – Illinois'' worst since 1991-92 – Dallas knows they are extensive.
News-Gazette staff writer Jeff Huth''s weekly review and preview of Illinois sports:
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Nick Smith and Luther Head!
Be honest, now. How many times have you mentally thrown in the towel on those two? How often have you questioned Nick''s attitude and demeanor? Where did you stand when Luther was going through his early-season run-ins with the law?