COLUMBUS, Ohio — Andres Feliz’s Illinois basketball career came six years too late to have had the experience of trying to deal with Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.
The Basketball Tournament changed that. There was Craft doing what he did so many times to other Illini guards in his time in Columbus. The four-time All-Big Ten Defensive Team pick and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year gave Feliz a taste. Hounded him the full length of the court on one possession to force a turnover.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Feliz said. “He’s a good defender trying to be a tough guy just like I am. … He’s trying to make me better, at the same time we were going at each other.”
Feliz, of course, had the upper hand at the end, in helping House of ‘Paign to a 76-68 victory against Craft and Carmen’s Crew. Most of their statistics were a near perfect match. Feliz had eight rebounds and five assists. Craft hauled in seven boards and dealt five assists of his own.
Feliz nearly quadrupled Craft up points-wise, though, with a 15-4 edge.
The former Buckeyes’ point guard said he “loved” the matchup.”
“I hope that’s kind of what it feels like to play against me — just constantly being aggressive, being around the ball,” Craft added. “That was fun. I let him know that. I hope the best for him. I hope he gets a great opportunity in his first year as a professional, and I told him to stick with it wherever he goes because he’s got a fun game and was fun to play against. I give him props.”
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Craft wasn’t the only one to praise Feliz’s play. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla did the same during Wednesday’s broadcast.
“I thought he was underrated this year in the Big Ten,” Friachilla said. “I really did. He was kind of the heart and soul of a really good team. They had (Ayo) Dosunmu and they had big Kofi Cockburn, but this kid is going to play overseas for a long time. He’s got great character and is a good, tough player.
“I love this kid, Feliz. If he doesn’t have an agent, I’ll represent him.”
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Malcolm Hill hit double figures for his second straight TBT game, putting up 11 points on Carmen’s Crew after scoring 15 in the team’s opener against War Tampa this past Saturday night. The No. 3 all-time leading scorer in Illinois history did so despite having one of his less efficient performances, going 4 of 14 from the field overall and 2 of 6 from three-point range.
House of ‘Paign coach Mike LaTulip had nothing but praise for his former teammate after the game, though. Hill’s points mattered, of course, in an eight-point victory, but they weren’t his most important contribution.
“I can’t say enough about Malcolm Hill’s leadership,” LaTulip said. “He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but my goodness. I walked up to him in the locker room after the game and just kind of looked at him like, ‘That was incredible.’ He kept guys together. Keeping guys together in the huddle. Keeping guys together on the court. Malcolm would be the first to tell you that wasn’t his strong suit early on at Illinois, but he’s clearly turned a corner and has really helped our team.”
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Michael Finke and Mike Daum didn’t coordinate their headbands for Wednesday’s game like they did Saturday in House of ‘Paign’s opening round victory against War Tampa. Finke went with a black headband. Daum chose white again.
They still got confused for one another, with Frischilla talking up Daum’s game with Finke on the court in the first half.
“People have definitely mistaken us for one another,” Finke said. “The headbands we both wear probably don’t help either.”
Finke’s only got an inch on Daum at 6-10 and 235 pounds.
They both currently have beards, and their hairstyles are nearly identical. Not “man bun at Illinois long” for Finke, but long enough a headband — and they both go with a take on the Ninja-style banned in the NBA — is a necessity.
“The bad thing is I have to have it on,” Daum said about his headband. “My hair is too long. I probably need to get a haircut. I think that was the first like five text messages I got was, ‘Get a haircut.’ I’m going to let it flow for right now.”
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House of ‘Paign started the second half down a board in the rebounding battle with Carmen’s Crew. It was a focus of halftime, and one that saw the Illinois alumni team outrebound the reigning champs in the second half in the come-from-behind victory.
So was continuing to be smart on the offensive end.
“I thought we did just such a good job of being stubborn on offense and making sure we were taking the shots that were right for us,” Daum said. “Sometimes even in that first game we played (against War Tampa) we just got a little lackadaisical on offense coming down and throwing up some stuff when we could get better shots. We were just stubborn on offense. We didn’t settle for an OK shot. We got great shots.”
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The Elam ending didn’t really come into play in House of ‘Paign’s first TBT win against War Tampa. A 19-point lead heading into the final 4 minutes of that game made the typical high-level ending rather mundane.
The lead Wednesday against Carmen’s Crew was just four points.
“Whenever you’re playing a close game, adrenaline pumps a little more,” House of ‘Paign “grad transfer” Kyle Vinales said. “We’re basketball players. This is what we live for. We love competing. It’s fun. That’s what we do.”
The way Carmen’s Crew scored in bunches in the first half also meant House of ‘Paign couldn’t relax during the Elam ending. Even when it came down to needing just one more score.
“Even when we were just two points away, the game’s not over yet,” Daum said. “Crazy things have happened They could hit two threes, and the next thing you now it’s a tie ball game and they’re right back in it. I thought our guys did such a good job of being present and being in the moment.”