Illini Tale of the Tape: Illinois vs. Georgia Bulldogs (12/19/2009)

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Now it’s time for another Illini Tale of the Tape, where I re-watch Illinois basketball games from last season with the purpose of breaking down what went right and wrong collectively and individually, and then use these notes to provide analysis of what Illini players and coaches can improve upon for the 2010-2011 season.

Today brings us to the Georgia loss in December.

To get a feel for what Illini Tale of the Tape entails, check out these posts from recent days:

Western Michigan vs. Illinois (12/13/2009)

Vanderbilt vs. Illinois (12/8/2009)

Boise State vs. Illinois (12/5/2009)

Illinois vs. Clemson (12/2/2009)

Wofford vs. Illinois (11/24/2009)

Presbyterian vs. Illinois (11/21/2009).

Let’s get it started.

Illinois Fighting Illini (8-2) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (4-4)

Where I Was For This Game:

At home, basking in my eighth-grade team’s first victory of the season (on a buzzer-beating jumper) earlier in the afternoon. I was hoping the Illini would keep the good feelings going, but that wouldn’t be the case.

What I Remember from This Game:

Illinois playing in Georgia, but having a substantial advantage in fans at Atlanta’s Gwinnett Center.

Illinois playing inconsistent and breaking down for most of the game, until making a late rally that was too late for their own good.

Illinois getting pounded on the interior by Howard (aka Trey) Thompkins while failing to contain the dribble of Travis Leslie and others.

Illinois (i.e. McCamey) letting some walk-on starter (Ricky McPhee) get off to a hot start.

Former Georgia head coach Dennis Felton sitting in the stands, even though he had been fired from the University the previous summer and replaced by then-Nevada Head Coach Mark Fox, who faced the Illini in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

Things That Stood Out/Surprised Me During This Second Viewing:

Did not know that Illinois was 5-0 all time against Georgia before this contest, with the Illini pounding the Bulldogs a year earlier at the United Center.

Forgot that Mark Gottfried (former Alabama Head Coach) did color on this game. When this game happened live, I thought Gottfried had a bit of an SEC bias/slant. We’ll see if this seemed to be the case nearly six months later. Looking back, I think Gottfried called a good game, so my apologies (I must have been frustrated by Illinois’ play at the time). On the play-by-play is Eric Collins, who used to work for a cable sports network in Chicago.

Man, the stands were empty for this game even though this game was just 50 miles from Georgia’s campus.

Thompkins didn’t even start this game, due to having wisdom teeth pulled. It wouldn’t matter as we abuse the Illini inside.

Didn’t realize some of the guys who’ve came out of the Atlanta area in recent years, including Wake’s Al-Farouq Aminu, Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks, N.C. State’s J.J. Hickson, Michigan State’s Chris Allen and Florida State’s Chris Singleton (of course, Dwight Howard as well). Gottried may be on to something, saying that it will be key for Fox to recruit Atlanta if he wants to be successful at Georgia.

Talking about the SEC (specifically the early season impact of John Wall at Kentucky), Gottfried compares him to LSU’s Chris Jackson (that is, the Denver Nuggets’ Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), who had 50 points on the road against Florida as a freshman in the late eighties. Did not know that impressive accomplishment.

The Illinois-Georgia occurred on the same day that Duke blew out Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden and Butler defeated Xavier with some questionable and controversial time-keeping at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

First Half Commentary

Collins open the telecast saying that this game is a battle of two teams looking to come of age. Gottfried lists Mike Davis and Georgia sophomore power forward Howard Thompkins as the players to watch. Thompkins was averaging 18 points and nearly 7 boards in Georgia’s four wins prior to the Illini game.

For reference’s sake, Georgia’s starters are:

G Dustin Ware (Sophomore), G Ricky McPhee (Junior), F Chris Barnes (Junior), F Travis Leslie (Forward) and C Albert Jackson (Senior).

● Offense: Trail 11-9 at under 16. Tisdale is off to a hot start going 3-for-3. Besides that, the Illini are generally sluggish and careless with the ball, as McCamey has two terrible turnovers that lead to 5 Georgia fastbreak points. Illinois is 4-for-6 but with two turnovers. It’s always good, though, when the Illini look to get Tisdale involved early (see the Vanderbilt game).

Down 4 (19-15) at the under 12. The offense doesn’t look nearly as crisp in terms of ball movement as it had in the last two games (victories against Western Michigan and Vanderbilt). Paul has been guilty of attacking outside of the confines of the offense and McCamey has yet to show up and take direction of the offense. Illinois is 6-for-12 from the field, but lacks a bounce to its step.

Illinois take a 20-19 lead at 10:14 in the midst of a 9-2 run. The Illini are starting to look interested here, with getting Tisdale touches a big key. The Illini lead 25-23 at the under-8 as the Illini have continued to be active, especially Davis, and even forced Georgia to try some zone. Still, some mental errors (forced Paul shot, bad McCamey timeout, McCamey’s failure to see the whole court) have stopped the Illini from having a slightly larger lead. You get the feeling that Illinois should be building on this lead, but something doesn’t feel right.

Down 29-27 at under 4 as Illinois has failed to extend the lead. The little things are costing the Illini as Illinois has several sloppy turnovers in this stretch. Davis and Tisdale have been good with 16 points combined (8 apiece) but all of their points have come from jumpers. On the contrary, Georgia has 20 points in the paint (compared to two for Illinois). As this game picks up in physicality, it’s going to be harder for the Illini bigs to hit those shots. A key stretch here, where Illinois needs to tighten things up on both ends.

Illinois is at least able to keep this game tied at the half (32 up). Overall, a very inconsistent half on offense, with everything perimeter based and few attempts to get the ball inside. Illinois’ overall effort was better than I originally thought, but too many mental mistakes are piling up.

● Defense: A slow start indeed as Illinois trails 11-9 at under-16. Georgia is 5-for-6 from the field and may be up bigger if it wasn’t for three turnovers. Paul is off to a difficult start, struggling to contain Leslie, though he does make a nice steal in the passing lane. Paul, McCamey and Davis look like kids who are a bit tired/distracted around the semester break.

Down 19-15 at the under-12. The energy is not there at this point as the Illini are struggling to contain the ball and starting to get beat inside on the boards (Thompkins’ presence is taking shape). At the start of under 16, Georgia had 4 assists on its first 6 baskets. This Illini team struggles when having to guard for sustained periods in the shot clock. Georgia is shooting 57% (8-for-14 early).

Out of under-12, Gottfried says this is a good Illinois defensive team (they’re not today, nor are they one of Bruce Weber’s better defensive teams with the Illini). In the next four minutes, the Illini play like a concerned defensive team, moving their feet and doing a nice job of doubling in the post. Some mental breakdowns (McCamey failing to close on his man) has led to some physical breakdowns. Interestingly, we’re starting to see a chess match here as Georgia is looking to make this a half court game focusing on running the high low and pounding the ball on the inside while the Illini are looking to run out of their defense and push the tempo. Good Illinois defense forces a three-second call leading into the under-8. Illinois is getting killed 13-6 on the boards, and both teams are shooting around 50%.

Trails 29-27 at the under 4. Georgia is pounding the ball inside, where the Bulldogs have an astonishing 20-2 advantage in point paints. That does not bode well. The Illini are trying to counter with quick post doubles, but started to break down mentally and physically at the end of this stretch.

Great on-the-ball and team defense out of the under 4 leads to a rushed and badly missed Georgia three-point attempt. The game is tied at 32 at the break as Illinois has a rough time of it in the interior.

● Bruce Weber: Sensing that his team’s energy is not there early, brings Bill Cole off the bench out of the under 16. Trying to mix and match for energy, with the use of Cole, Jordan and Keller, and pulling McCamey and Davis for spurts following ineffective play.

Great strategy at 10:14. Following a 5-0 Illinois run giving the Illini a 20-19 lead, Weber has Richardson and Paul trap at half court, ultimately forcing a Georgia timeout. Good job of trying to sustain some defense off of recently-improved offense.

Illinois seemed to be gaining some momentum but lost it between under-8 and under-4. Weber actually had a longer leash for Alex Legion, who had a turnover, failed block out and missed jumper on three straight plays. Has probably had Tisdale on the bench too much at this time (trying to keep him from picking up a third foul) and Davis is being overextended down low a bit. This is the type of game where you wonder whether Richard Semrau and his bigger body could have stolen some valuable minutes and given you a presence inside to combat Georgia’s interior prowess. Has decided to go to Griffey rather than Semrau. This game is turning with Georgia pounding the rock inside. Also surprising that Cole hasn’t played that much in this half.

Weber does bring Cole in at the under 4 timeout, with Griffey still on the floor. Also gets Tisdale in with 10 seconds left and two fouls for an attempt to get an Illini a score. Good try, but an open Tisdale jumper is blocked.

Overall, seemed like he was trying to find a lineup that could provide a consistent stretch of ball in the first half. Wasn’t able to, with his players not complying and having a bunch of mental breakdowns. Georgia Coach Mark Fox has done of better job of establishing tempo in this game as the Bulldogs have executed a game plan focusing on pounding the rock inside.

● Demetri McCamey: Sloppy handles at 18:25 when he carelessly dribbles with the ball way too loose while going into the lane. The slower McPhee makes the steal and then hits a long pull-up two on the break, with Davis slow to recover and close out on the shooter. Bad turnover there as Georgia leads 6-4.  At 17:28, is slow to recover on a ball screen set for McPhee, who gets into the middle of the defense and kicks out to Dustin Ware for a three and 9-7 Georgia lead. This occurs right as Gottfried says that Ware is going to be a key player for Georgia. Ware with five points. A lazy pass at 16:55 to Paul at the top of the key leads to a McPhee steal and turnover. That’s two turnovers.

Misses first shot of game at 15:35. Long on the attempt, but a really good use of a pump fake at the free throw line to create space and an open look.  Replaced by Jeffrey Jordan shortly after. Back in at 12:39 and assists Jordan on a secondary transition jumper. Way too lax on a missed McPhee three that is eventually rebounded and scored.

Following a nice assist to Davis, McCamey is way too slow to cover a Georgia player on the perimeter, ultimately resulting in another defensive breakdown and interior bucket for Jackson. At 8:47, Georgia leads 23-22. Poor job of seeing the court roughly 25 seconds later as McCamey pushes the ball but does not notice Davis, who has gotten behind the defense and could throw down a slam. Davis is wide open for several seconds under the bucket before McCamey even notices. A case there of having his eyes locked on one area as opposed to viewing the whole court. Commits a mental gaffe at 7:53 when Richardson dives for a loose ball on the floor. McCamey calls for a timeout when the Illini had a good chance to get a break. Makes up for the mistake out of the 20-second timeout, hitting his first bucket (a three) against a 3-2 Georgia zone for a 25-23 lead at 7:28.

At 6:55, misses a good interior post opportunity to Davis, with the possession eventually leading to a Legion turnover and Georgia transition bucket. Does not look focused in the first half.

Hits a tough floater at 1 minute left in the half to give Illinois a 32-30 lead. Great penetration there and an even better job of hanging in the air against Georgia’s big men to get a better look.

Overall, McCamey needs to pick it up in the second half, especially in terms of aggression, decision-making and movement on defense. His inability to contain the dribble and quickly close-out on shooters has been a problem in this game and early in the season.

● Brandon Paul: As Weber is heard screaming “Come on Brandon,” Paul fails to get over a screen for Leslie, who gets into the lane and hits a fading jumper for a 2-2 game. Paul struggles on next possession, as Leslie beats him baseline and draws a blocking. Paul seems a step slow early in the game (especially in terms of sliding his feet and guarding without the ball). A couple of possessions later, gets beat on a dive by Leslie but is bailed out by a Tisdale block. Looks a bit sleepy in first four minutes. At 16:55, does a poor job of meeting the basketball on a lazy McCamey pass, resulting in another McPhee steal and fastbreak point. 11-7 Georgia. Makes an active play in the passing lanes at 16:22 anticipating and stealing a pass, which leads to a break. Showing good body control, Paul lets the defender blow by him before going up for the shot, which is stripped though. Mike Davis  makes a hustle play to track down the ball and feed the trailing Tisdale for a dunk.

Back in the game at 13:10, makes a nice pop back move but misses the jumper. That shot was not really within the context of the motion offense (and was a bit forced). Paul is guilty of this at times, getting away from the offense. As Weber can be heard calling for motion, Paul attacks from the wing, with a forced dribble drive that leads to a foul and two free throws that are made for a 17-15 lead. That play is a good example of Paul’s explosive first step, but also his ability to stray from the offense early in the season.

Picks up an offensive foul on Leslie at 10:39 as the Illini seem to be picking it up. Good job of absorbing the push-off and selling the impact with a bit of a flop. Terribly rushed shot on the baseline at 8:35, fading away early in the shot clock and throwing up an air ball that had no chance and ultimately led Tisdale to go over the back and commit his second foul. Out of control there.

Comes back in for Legion at 5:13.  Just before the under-4, overpenetrates and has the ball stolen. Immediately on the other end, he is late to close out, with his player blowing by him. Paul is able to make up with his speed, coming from behind to knock the ball out of bounds and lead to the under 4.

Overall, a rocky first half for Paul, who is looking like a freshman resisting the offense and struggling to contain on defense.

● D.J. Richardson: After assisting on a Tisdale jumper on first possession, hits a three at the top of key on second possession. Got a friendly roll as the long shot bounced off the back of the rim before falling in. Good job there of coming off a screen, taking one dribble and getting into his shot when open. 5-2 Illinois. At 18:30, gets caught behind a screen on a Georgia inbound, leading to an open corner jumper that is drilled by Dustin Ware. Misses a corner three at 16:32. Nice ball movement there by Illinois as McCamey makes a bounce out of the double to Paul, who immediately swings it to D.J. for the open look. He’s been hitting those shots early in the year.

Returns at 11:30. Strong on-the-ball pressure at under-8 leads to a steal and Illinois floor. Nice play by D.J., who got on the floor for the loose ball. Illinois had a fastbreak opportunity there but Richardson may have panicked in calling the timeout. Actually, it was McCamey who called the timeout.

At 4:51, is a bit too aggressive with his defense at halfcourt, allowing the Georgia player to get dribble penetration and kick to some reserve named Slovarich for a banker lay up and 27-25 deficit.  Aggressive dribble drive is swatted away at 4:06. Good first step there but really didn’t blow away after that point.

Great on-the-ball defense out of under 4 nearly forces several five second calls. Responds on first Illini offensive possession with a three from the top of the key to give Illinois a 30-29 lead with 2:13 to go. Good decision and stepping up there with the shot clock running down – Richardson took that possession into his own hands.

Overall, Richardson has looked good offensively in stretches (a familiar them early in the year) and then been a bit quiet at times. Defensively, he has given good effort but had a couple of breakdowns.

● Mike Davis: Poor closeout early in the game on a McPhee jumper. Rushes and nearly air balls a top of the key jumper at 17:09. No lift there and was fading to his side. Weber is unhappy as no one was under the glass to rebound. Nice hustle at 16:15 as he recovers a ball that is stripped from Paul on a layup attempt and then fires it to Tisdale for the dunk.

Gets on the board with a top-of-the-key jumper at 14:57. Illinois down 14-9. As the ball reversed the ball there, Davis showed good patience, looking to reverse the ball, seeing it was not there and then calmly squaring and rising off the sagging defender. Great lift. Overaggressive on next defensive possession, as he tries to steal a pass at the top of the key. Thompkins is unable to take advantage after getting in the lane, as he fires a pass this is deflected out of bounds by the Illini. Weber immediately yanks Davis for Dominique Keller. Comes back at 13:10 for Tisdale. Nice baseline help defense bails Jordan out when Leslie beats him and ultimately leads to a secondary Jordan jumper at the other end at 12:33. Failure to box out at 11:38 leads to Georgia offensive rebound and 19-15 game. Simply got overpowered there by a stronger Georgia big. Nice feed at the top of the key to Keller on next possession, leading to a shooting foul and under-12.

Hits a top of the key jumper at the 10:50 mark for a 19-18 game. That’s the type of offense Illinois should run more. The play started with Richardson hitting Tisdale down low, and the Illini big dribbling to the middle (setting up a possible hook) before kicking to the open Davis. Good inside-out basketball, with Davis showing a smooth touch. Hits a running fastbreak banker at 9:10 to give Illinois a 22-21 lead. Nice job of filling the lane there on a break, with the assist man McCamey showing patience, good body control and a deft touch on the pass to Davis.

Great job hustling, running the court and blocking a Thompkins layup at 6:42 on a fastbreak attempt. Unfortunately, Legion does not put a body on Thompkins, who gets the offensive rebound and score. Commits a bad reaching foul at 5:19 while hedging a screen far away from the basket. With the exception of that mistake, Davis has picked up his concentration, as he buries a baseline floater to tie the game at 27 with 4:38 to go. Davis and Tisdale lead Illinois with 8 points. On next possession, gets caught a bit too high on the post defense, but is fouled when the Georgia player pushes off upon the entry pass. Misses a jumper on the next possession, though, as Griffey passed up an open shot and put Davis in a bad position. Gets posted up on next position, with Jackson scoring an easy left layup for a 29-27 deficit at 3:06.

Late on ball screen recovery at 44 seconds, leading to a Thompkins jumper and a 32-32 game. Looked tired there and worn out. Has logged a lot of minutes in the first half. Misses an awkward floater on the next end. Illinois would have been wiser to run some clock there. Luckily, Georgia has a terrible turnover at the other end.

Overall, Davis picked up his activity after the first couple of minutes and really had a solid first half, staying on the court for the majority of the game with Tisdale having two fouls and making some high-energy plays. His effort was typically good here, but Davis does have stretches where it just seems like he isn’t bringing it. Has struggled a bit guarding on the interior as Georgia’s stronger and more physical big men have been getting easy position.

● Mike Tisdale: Cans a corner jumper on the first possession of the game, after Illinois runs some patient offense and burns 30 seconds. Nice dribble drive and kick by D.J. Richardson, who got the assist. Gottfried says he was impressed with Tisdale during the team’s workout earlier in the day, calling the Illini center “smart” on the floor. At 18:05, Gottfried’s man Tisdale drills an opposite corner jumper off another pass from Richardson. Nice job there by Tisdale of setting a back screen and then popping out in shooting position. Illinois leads 7-6. Tisdale shooting 62% on the year. Follows up on the ensuing defensive possession with a block of Leslie, who flashed from the block to the free throw line and then beat Paul on a dive to the bucket. Forces a travel at 17:01 as Thompkins enters the game. Excellent job of getting up and down the floor at 16:15 results in a two-hand slam and 11-9 game. An offensive foul on the ensuing Georgia possession leads to the under-16.

Fouls Thompkins at 15:14, leading to a three-point play. Tisdale was late to recover there, but the entire Illini defense was out of position. Once again, poor containment, this time by Richardson, leads to penetration and a breakdown. Thompkins hits the free throw and Georgia leads 14-9. Mike Davis was also late from the weak side. Shows good energy at 14:20 when he nearly tips in a Cole miss from three (shortly after snagging a defensive rebound). Replaced by Davis at 13:10, Tisdale is showing good focus and endurance early.

Returns at 11:30. Nice assist at 10:50 with a kick out to open Davis at top of key. Comes back on the next possession to drain a jumper himself from the top of the key for a 20-19 Illinois lead at 10:22. Good movement by the Illini, with Tisdale in shooter-ready position. Illinois stretching the defense and forcing a Georgia timeout. Following the timeout, Georgia’s Albert Jackson hits a tough half hook over Tisdale and a doubling Davis. Good offense there was slightly better than Illinois defense that is at least getting involved and moving its feet. Georgia up 21-20 at this point. Basket was basically created by Jackson’s upper body strength, which works to the disadvantage of Tisdale on the following offensive possession. After getting the ball in the post and making a beautiful up and under to free some room, Tisdale is slightly bumped, causing him to completely overshoot a wide-open and makeable layup. A few minutes later, he commits an over-the-back foul and will sit for most of the half with 2 fouls.

Back in the game with 10 seconds left, has an open jumper off a screen from McCamey blocked. Was a bit slow to get that shot off, which was blocked by Georgia’s Chris Barnes, who has made some energy plays.

Overall, good first half when on the floor, though foul trouble limited his activity in last 10 minutes. Has brought good energy and been aggressive on offense. It also helps that he has gotten touches (albeit on the perimeter versus in the paint).

● Bill Cole: First Illini off the bench out of under-16. Replaces Paul. Misses an open three at 14:20. Shot was too slow to develop there.  Gets some more time late in the half but fails to do anything that stands out in first half.

● Jeff Jordan: Second Illini off the bench, replacing McCamey at 15:08. Commits a foul at 12:50 when he was slow to move his feet. Cans a secondary transition jumper at 12:33 on a nice feed from McCamey, making it a 16-13 Georgia lead. Has been stepping into his jumper with confidence early in the season.

● Dominique Keller: Third Illini off the bench, replacing Davis at 14:25. Gets a good open look from three at 13:44 as the Illini run some patient offense. Shot rattles in and out. Good look just didn’t fall. Nearly makes an over-the-top steal on the block during next Georgia possession, but was a bit late, leading to a Georgia interior score and 16-11 Illinois deficit. Coming out aggressive, using a headfake on the next possession to throw up a wild floater and draw a foul, which is inexplicably called on the floor.  As Weber is calling for more energy, Keller gives up post position to Thompkins, who receives an entry pass and is fouled at 12:14. Thompkins hits one-of-two free throws for a 17-13 Georgia lead. One of the few Illini with energy early.

Out of under-12, makes one of two free throws for a 19-16 deficit. Comes back in at 8:14. Nice up fake on the baseline on first offensive possession creates space for a drive and shot that is swatted against the glass. Way too soft on shot attempt. Looked as if he was shying from contact.

Nearly turns the ball over at 1:19 with a rushed drive into the lane. Ball is knocked out of bounds to Illinois.

● Alex Legion: Fourth Illini off the bench, with 8:23 to go.

Makes a tentative pass at 6:50 that is stolen by Thompkins and then fails to put a body on Thompkins following a Davis block, leading to a put back and 25-25 game. He’s going to get a quick hook, you would expect, but Weber rides him a bit longer. Nearly dribbles the ball of his foot on next possession and then is short on a jumper. Play was run for him but couldn’t hit it off the screen. Legion looks really stiff in his upper body as Paul reports to the scorer’s table.

● Tyler Griffey: Fifth Illini off the bench at 4:11. Passes on three that leads to a forced Davis shot.

Misses a block out at 1:36, giving up an offensive board and foul. Too bad there as Illinois forced the shot clock to under five seconds. Georgia hits one of two free throws to tie the game at 30, and Griffey is replaced by Keller. Gottfried makes an important point about Griffey needing to get his hands up for the rebound. He seemed more concerned about finding man to get a body on as the ball caromed by.

Overall, the bench has failed to have the scoring or energy impact in the first 20 minutes that it had in previous games against Western Michigan and Vandy.

Second Half Commentary

ESPNU cameras show the former Georgia coach Dennis Felton on camera at the start of the second half. When I think of Felton in relation to Illinois basketball, I go back to the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, when the number-four seed Illini nearly were upset by Felton’s thirteenth-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. It turns out that Felton was at this game scouting for the Phoenix Suns.

● Offense: No rhythm in the first four minutes as the Illini get outscored 12-4 in the first four minutes. A couple of forces by Paul and Richardson and a Tisdale turnover haven’t helped. Georgia is the aggressor and Illinois will now have to play catch up. A quick two fouls on Tisdale brings him four and means plenty of time to sit this half.   

Illinois does a nice job out of the under-16, going on a quick 5-0 spurt to force another Georgia timeout. Illinois trails 45-40. Better ball movement here on last two possessions. The Gwinnett Center sounds like the Assembly Hall as the Illini have picked it up. McCamey is rolling with seven straight points as Illinois trails 49-47 and has the momentum at the under-12. If it hadn’t been for three Keller mistakes (a bad turnover, quick shot and poor interior defense), Illinois may have tied or taken the lead here.

Trail 57-51 at under-8. Illinois had tied the game at 50 with 10 minutes left but went brain dead. Richardson and McCamey forced several shots that lead to easy buckets for Georgia on the other end. Quite simply, the Illini are getting badly out-executed on both ends.

At under-4, the Illini are down 66-63 with 2:01 left. Illinois has the momentum and is making a furious rally (an 8-2 run), with Cole and McCamey providing sparks. McCamey is at the line for two shots, where he makes one of two. Illinois eventually gets the lead with 30 seconds left, but fouls Thompkins, who puts Georgia in front with 2 free throws for a 68-67 lead. McCamey gets a good look in the lane and misses, and Thompkins hits two more free throws. A McCamey three at the buzzer does not draw iron and Illinois loses 70-67.

Overall: Illinois’ offensive execution was great in the final four minutes, getting good looks, but the Illini weren’t always able to convert when it mattered (the story of the game). As for the other 36 minutes, Illinois was up and down on offense, playing well in spurts but also shooting itself in the collective foot with poor decision making, inopportune turnovers and a lack of urgency at times. Keller and Tisdale stand out as two players who really hurt the Illini with poor stretches of play in the second half. Illinois shoots 45% for the game and is 33% from three (5-for-15).

● Defense: Gottfried starts the half saying he’s interested in seeing how Illinois comes out defensively, adding that Georgia got the ball wherever it wanted in the first half. The Illini lack the energy and effort that Gottfried is calling for, as Georgia scores on its first three possessions. Another sluggish start is rearing its ugly head. Illinois trails 44-35 at the under-16, as the Bulldogs are getting easy interior touches and are the aggressor. Collins says that this Georgia team struggles scoring (averaging 63 points a game), but the Illini wouldn’t let you know that. The Bulldogs with 12 points in the first 4 minutes as Leslie is starting to get going while Thompkins and Jackson are men among boys in the paint.

Better effort out of the under-16 as Illinois goes on a 5-0 run and then shows a full-court press out of a Georgia timeout. The Illini immediately force a turnover. The Illini outscore Georgia 11-4 in this period to trail 49-47 at under-12. Defensive intensity has picked up, though Keller has been a bit slow on several plays. Jordan has been providing good defense. A key stat, however, is this: Georgia has 32 interior points, Illinois 10.

Trails 57-51 at the under-8 after having tied the game at 50 with 10 minutes. Quite simply, the Illini can’t contain the dribble, which is leading to easy Georgia penetration and post touches for Thompkins, who is having a field day in the lane but leaving some points at the charity line. Got to tighten it up on the perimeter if Illinois wants to win. Thank God Georgia is 2-for-10 from three, or the deficit could be in the teens.

With 2 minutes remaining after the under-4, the Illini have picked it up as of late defensively, with some good swarming defense on the interior on one possession and a Davis steal on the next possession leading to a Georgia foul of McCamey on the break. The Illini still trail by three (66-63) as a result of some breakdowns on the perimeter and slow recoveries inside. Still, the Illini have a chance to steal this game away from Georgia and nearly do at the end. Leading 67-66 with 30 seconds, Tisdale fouls Thompkins and Georgia eventually seals the game with four free throws.

Overall, Illinois’ defensive intensity was great when making a furious comeback late, but flat-out spotty in the prior 36 minutes. This game revolved around Illinois’ inability to contain the dribble or stop Georgia from scoring at will in the paint. The lack of interior strength was apparent as Georgia outrebounded Illinois 37-29 and Thompkins had 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting. A lot of breakdowns hurt the Illini.

● Bruce Weber: Can’t be happy with energy or composure coming out of the half. Brings Cole and Keller in for early energy. Is going to need to get something out of one of these guys with the foul-plagued Tisdale done for a long time.

Good coaching at 14:37, bringing full-court pressure out of a Georgia timeout and 5-0 Illinois lead. Georgia turns the ball over. Weber doing a better job here of making this game to the liking of the Illini, that is, a quicker pace rather than a physical slugfest on the interior.

Out of under-12, brings Tisdale back in with four fouls. Gives Davis a break. Needs to get Keller out, who is killing Illinois. Gets him out at 8:53 for Griffey.

Illinois is down six out of the under-8, with the execution in the half court on both ends falling apart in last four minute spark. Weber has had to go with weird lineups with Tisdale in trouble (including too much Keller, who has been ineffective), but is going to need to find someone who can help right the ship here. Comes out of the under 8 with all starters except Richardson, who is replaced by Cole. Nice execution out of the under-8 as Illinois gets Tisdale an interior look and score.

With Illinois down three with 2 minutes left, Weber has found a spark in Cole, who nearly makes a steal after McCamey hits one of two free throws. Like the fact that Weber is forcing the game here, bringing pressure as Georgia is struggling to hold on. Good half court execution at 1:12 when Illinois gets the ball to Davis, who screens McCamey at the top of the key and then dives to the hoop upon receiving a pass from Tisdale. Weber can only put his hands on his head as Davis has his shot blocked by the 6-4 Leslie. Good use of a timeout at 22.2 seconds as the game is tied at 67 with Thompkins having one more free throw. Drawing up a play for the offensive end here as Thompkins hits the second for a 68-67 lead. Fox forces Illinois’ last timeout when he brings soft 3-quarters court pressure at 17.5 seconds left.

With Illinois down 68-67 with 17.5 seconds left, Gottfried says the play should be for McCamey, with Davis the next option. Gottfried then provides insight that Weber worked on side inbounds plays at the pre-game walk through. Weber has Jordan to pass in the ball at 17.5 seconds left. Illinois tries to set up a ball screen for McCamey, who doesn’t take and eventually gets good penetration before missing a good shot in the lane. You can live with that shot.

Lack of a timeout hurts Illinois after Thompkins hits two free throws to give Georgia a 70-67 lead. McCamey is left to take a contested three that does not draw rim, and the Illini are upset. Unlike future games, Weber did not burn any timeouts early in the half after Illinois made baskets during runs, so it wasn’t any one’s fault that the Illini were out of them there. It happens sometimes, especially when the game is back and forth in the final minute.

Overall: Despite the big comeback at the end, Illinois didn’t deserve this game, as the Illini weren’t sharp. Weber, McCamey and Cole almost helped them steal one at the end, but it wasn’t meant to be due to Illinois mental breakdowns all game long. Weber’s strengths at drawing up plays out of timeouts were apparent late in the game; however, he went too long at times with Keller and Tisdale, especially when they were struggling miserably in stretches in the second half. Would have liked to see someone like Semrau get a shot earlier in this game to help stem Georgia’s interior advantage. Weber just couldn’t seem to get his guys to play with the needed intensity over the course of the game, and a nice comeback goes to waste.

● Demetri McCamey: Poor defensive sequence against McPhee with 18 minutes left. Is late to a close out, but McPhee misses another open three. Following a Georgia offensive rebound, McCamey overcommits on his ball denial and McPhee beats him on  a back cut for a 38-34 Georgia lead. Seemingly mad, McCamey takes it at McPhee on the next possession and draws a blocking foul. Misses a three-pointer off an inbound curl play at 17:37. Weber trying to get McCamey going. Good on-the-ball pressure on McPhee forces a Georgia timeout at 17:12.

Good job on transition at 14:37, hitting a streaking Davis for a dunk and 45-40 game. Good dribble drive off a stutter dribble and use of his upper body at 14:00 leads to a banker and and-one. McCamey hits the free throw at 13:56 to cut the game to 47-43. Collins tells us that McCamey went to the same high school as William Gates from Hoop Dreams. In the first half, he said McCamey went to the same high school as Isaiah Thomas. OK Collins. We get it. McCamey went to St. Joe’s. Anyways, McCamey shows even more body control on the next possession, getting out on the break and hitting a floater for a 47-45 game. Really picking it up as he hits a spinning floater in the lane at 12:20 to cut the game to 49-47. Took him a good 20 minutes to get going but now he’s rolling (better late than never I guess).

After playing under control for last couple of minutes, forces a drive and banker at 9:30, which leads to a Georgia transition three from McPhee and a 52-47 lead. Noticeably quiet in next couple of minutes.

Nice job of splitting the screen at 6:23 and then hitting a lefty layup at 6:23 cuts the game to 59-55. Just as he gets two, McCamey gives up three on the next possession with terribly lax defense on a McPhee. Failing to get up on his opponent, McCamey is a good 3-4 feet off of McPhee, who is just standing there before he eventually decides to face up and bury a 27-foot three. I know McCamey has had a hard time containing the bounce, but you need to provide more ball pressure there. Anyways, Illinois trails 62-55 after just Georgia’s third three of the game. Good penetration at 4:08 leads to an open Cole three. All of a sudden McCamey is aggressive – problem is, you can’t turn it on and off when you want. That’s usually a recipe for disaster. Hits a three off a Cole rebound and assist with 3:04 left to cut the game to three. Good job there of initially setting up a three for Cole and then getting into shooting position. Is starting to do whatever he wants (why so late?). Gottfried says McCamey has ice water in his veins.

Shooting two free throws out of under-4, makes one of two to cut the game to 66-64 in favor of Georgia. Gets a huge and-one off a Davis block with 35.6 seconds left. Great body control and concentration on the fastbreak layup. Good ball fake by McCamey made it appear that McCamey was going to pass to Richardson. Collins describes McCamey as “Chicago tough” (didn’t Bill Self coin that term). The Illinois fans at the Gwinnett Center are going crazy. Just as Gottfried says that he doesn’t think McCamey will miss the free throw, he complies and drills it for his 21st point. Illinois leads 67-66 with 35.6 seconds left. Gets an open look in the lane with 6.6 seconds left and Illinois down one, but misses the floater. A difficult shot given the pressure, but you can live with the look, not the result. Just didn’t go. Thompkins hits two free throws on the other end to give Georgia a 70-67 lead. McCamey misses a difficult, contested three with 3 seconds left and Illinois loses.

Overall: Leads Illinois with 21 points, and had a good second half. Was clearly the best player in the game in the last four minutes and in other spurts in the second half, but wasn’t aggressive enough early in the game. Defensively, McCamey was bad and struggled with the less-talented but gutty McPhee. Also had 5 assists and 2 turnovers, which is good considering he had 4, 6 and 6 turnovers in his last three games. In short, dominates at times, but not enough. Needs to be more consistent in his 37 minutes.

● Brandon Paul: Forces a baseline drive on Illinois’ first drive and looks like he has nothing going on the play. He hits a ridiculous floater on the play. Another one of those plays where you’re wondering what Paul is doing but his athleticism takes over. It looked like Illinois was looking to isolate Paul on that play. Game is tied at 34. Gottfried commends Paul’s courage there. On ensuing defensive possession, Paul fails to contain Leslie, who gets to the rim, draws Paul’s second foul and hits two free throws. Nearly turns the ball over on next possession against the 2-3 zone. The ball is deflected out of bounds. Paul then fires up a three that fails to draw iron as the shot clock expires.

Back in with 8:53, air balls an open corner three.

Forces a contested jumper and then travels at 6:50 mark. Just as Illinois seems to be picking up momentum this half, such mistakes kill them. Doesn’t play the rest of the way, as Weber goes to Cole, who has been more of a stabilizer.

Overall: Finishes with 4 points in 15 minutes but looked like a freshman on the road tonight. Way too out of control, and just 1-for-5. An ineffective performance. But remember the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.

● D.J. Richardson: Nice head fake and baseline drive at 16:40 allows D.J. to get to the basket. He gets hung up in the air though and misses a chip shot layup. Forces a jumper that leads to a Georgia transition break, Leslie basket and Tisdale foul (his fourth).

Misses a wide open three off the inbound at 14:30. That shot would have been huge for momentum, with Illinois trailing 45-40. Ultimately, Keller gets the offensive rebound and turns the ball over, leading to a Georgia dunk and getting the Georgia fans at the Gwinnett Center to cheer and drown out the loud Illinois fans.

Gets burned by Leslie at 9:46, allowing baseline and letting the Georgia guard to hit a hanging floater in the lane. Keller was late with help there as Georgia leads 51-49. Forces a wild floater at 9 minutes with Illinois down five. Poor shot selection.

Gets caught too far out against Ware with 3:34 left, leading to more penetration and a layup for a 66-60 game.

Overall: A quiet game, with just 6 points (2 threes). Also looked like a freshman at times, forcing some bad shots and struggling to defend/contain the dribble.

● Mike Davis: Quiet in the first four minutes but finds Keller for a layup at 15:13. Good pass at the free throw line to Keller on the baseline. Gets a transition dunk on the next possession. Poor defense at 13:43 leads to Georgia penetration and offensive rebound. Atones later in the possession by picking up a loose ball (caused by Jordan pressure) and hitting McCamey for a fast-break layup.

After missing a baseline jumper with a little more than 10 minutes that would have tied the game at 49, responds on the next possession with a baseline floater to tie the game. Nice use of the screen and roll game there with McCamey, who made a nice strong pass.

Has had a quiet second half, but makes a big steal at half court with a little more than two minutes left, hitting McCamey on the break. McCamey is fouled on the play and will be shooting two free throws out of the under-4.

With 1:12 left, finds himself with the ball under the basket against the smaller Leslie after a nice dive and strong feed from Tisdale. Davis goes up way too soft as Leslie swats his shot – a game-changing play there. Give Davis some props on next defensive possession as he blocks a Thompkins shot that leads to a McCamey fastbreak layup and chance to take the lead with a free throw at 35.6 seconds left.

Overall: Just 4 points in the second half (12 for the game), but did log 38 minutes with Tisdale in foul trouble. Struggled on the interior defensively for the most part, although he did make a few hustle plays. As is the case with Davis, needs better consistency in terms of his effort. Needs to get stronger as well as physical Georgia post players gave him problems. Way to soft on shot that was blocked by Leslie, who definitely made the play of the game there.

● Mike Tisdale: Gets posted by Thompkins (who starts the second half) on first possession of last 20 minutes, and gives up an easy two. Late help defense there from Mike Davis. 10 points for Thompkins. Gives up an offensive rebound at 18 minute mark to Jackson, who simply went over the much taller Tisdale. This board will eventually lead to a Georgia basket and 38-34 Illinois deficit. After an unforced Georgia turnover, Tisdale inexplicably does not shoot an open jumper out of a screen and roll with D.J. Richardson. Instead bounces the ball to the block, where Davis has not yet gotten to, and turns it over. Needs to shoot it there. Tisdale has come out soft in the first couple of minutes. 6 turnovers for Illinois; 9 for Georgia at this point. At 16:49, picks up this third foul against Albert Jackson, who got the ball down low after McCamey gave up penetration. Jackson simply abused Tisdale with his upper body strength, and hits two free throws for a 40-34 Illinois deficit. Draws an offensive foul on Jackson on next possession. Picks up his fourth foul at the under-16 timeout as Leslie attacks the basket on the break and gets the hoop and the harm. Poor job of moving the feet by Tisdale, who will sit for a good stretch.

Surprisingly back in the game at 11:26 despite his four fouls. Plays for about 30 seconds before getting replaced by Davis.

Back in at under 8, scores on a nice hook in the lane on Illinois’ first possession. Good job of Illinois reversing the tables here, and finally going inside. Great touch there on back-to-basket post move that cuts the game to 57-53. Following a Paul turnover, provides little resistance on Thompkins at 6:33, with the Georgia forward hitting a high-arching baseline fade away. When you’re 7-1, you need to make an effort to block that shot, or at least throw your hands in the air and get off the ground to makes its already-difficult trajectory even more difficult. Thompkins with 17. For the second time in the game, Tisdale makes a great up and under, step through move, this time at 5:40. Having an open dunk, Tisdale gets slightly bumped and air balls the shot. That was just terrible. Tisdale’s lack of upper-body strength was apparent there. Tisdale’s head is in the clouds as he turns the ball over on the next possession with an interior pass from the top of the key that was just not there for Davis. Tisdale and Cole are then late recovering on the next possession, as Georgia’s Leslie gets a three-point play opportunity out of a nice interior back from Thompkins when facing the double. That was more Tisdale’s fault as Cole had to cover a player at the free throw line and at least hustled to Leslie. Illinois trails 64-55 when Leslie misses the freebie. Absolutely lost at 4:16 mark as he leaves Jackson wide open under the basket. Luckily, Jackson misses the bunny. Tisdale has really struggled since returning to the game here. Misses an open corner jumper at 2:23 that would have cut the game to two. Looked like he had no legs there. To his credit, Tisdale was active on the previous defensive possession, using his length to alter several Georgia interior buckets.

Provides good interior help for Davis, forcing a tough Thompkins miss at 1:12. Fouls out at 22.2 seconds when Thompkins gets the ball inside and bulls through Tisdale. A questionable foul there, as Thompkins created all of the contact. However, Tisdale’s body seemed to collapse upon the contact, making it look as if committed a foul when feeling the compact from Thompkins. An 83% free throw shooter, Thompkins hits two to give Georgia a 68-67 lead with 22.2 seconds left.

Overall: Foul trouble limited Tisdale to 23 minutes. Was good when on the floor in the first half, with 8 points. Terrible in the second half, with just 2 points and a soft performance physically and mentally. Struggled with Georgia’s interior upper body strength. Needs to watch this game this summer when hitting the weights.

● Bill Cole: Enters for Paul at 17:03. Hits a banker in the lane at 16:07 off of good penetration by McCamey. Then gets posted up by the smaller Leslie, who scores an easy layup. No resistance.

Good recovery on a ball screen at 14:44 as he forces a missed jumper by Georgia’s Slovarich.

Back in at 8:53, gets a garbage bucket on a Paul air ball from three. Good job by Cole of hustling from the top of the key to track that ball down and lay it in. Illinois is down 55-51. Called for a blocking foul at 8:23 as Thompkins scores a bucket set up by bad containment from Jordan.

Good activity at 7-minute mark. After Leslie beats him, Cole recovers to deflect his shot. He then gets on the floor, comes up with the ball and hits McCamey. Fouls Leslie at 5 minute mark when Tisdale is slow to recover out of a double. Good offensive board work at 4:46, leads to Georgia foul. Hits two free throws to cut the game to 64-57. After Jackson misses an easy layup, Cole makes him pay, with a three out of the corner to cut the game to 64-60 with 4:08 left. Misses a three at 3:04 but gets the long offensive rebound, kicking the ball out to McCamey for a three and 66-63 game.

Nearly stills a Georgia inbound pass after a McCamey made free throw with 2 minutes left.

Overall: Great energy late in the second half almost helps Illinois steal the win. Along with McCamey, Cole was Illinois’ best player on the floor late in the game. Finishes with 9 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes, doing a lot of good little things and bringing needed energy to a team that needed an infusion of some.

● Dominique Keller: Enters at under-16, which begins with Leslie completing the three point play and extending the Illinois deficit to nine (45-36). Gives Illinois some energy with a score on the interior at 15:13 for a 45-38 game. Good offensive rebound of a Richardson missed three at 14:26, but throws the ball away at the top of the key, leading to a Leslie dunk and 47-40 game. Bad cross-court pass there. Takes an open but rushed three early in the possession at 12:40, with Illinois down two and having momentum. Shot draws iron. Not good shot selection there, but was open at least. Follows up by getting sealed on the next Georgia possession, allowing an easy Thompkins layup and 49-45 game. Absolutely no resistance as Keller has been a momentum killer twice in this spurt.

Out of under-12, Keller forces and badly misses a baseline bank shot. Is trying to play way too fast and do a million things at once, rather than letting his opportunities come within the flow of the offense. Is really hurting the Illini with his decision-making in the second half. To Keller’s credit, he comes back with a defensive rebound and offensive rebound off a McCamey missed three at 10:48. Good attack of the glass there. Nice box out on nice defensive possession leads to a deflection out of bounds, and the ball to the Illini. Gets caught on Ware at the half-court line with 8:53 left and plays way too close to the Georgia guard, ultimately allowing the speedster to burn by  him and feed Thompkins, who is fouled in the post. Poor job by Keller in terms of moving his feet.

Overall: Unable to sustain recent streak of good games off the bench. Finishes with 3 points and 6 boards in 16 minutes. With Tisdale in foul trouble in the second half, Keller failed to seize the day and made a lot of costly mistakes. Definitely, a rough game for Keller, who was like Tisdale in that he let his physical mistakes affect his mental approach to the game in the second half.

● Jeff Jordan: Enters at 14:36. Good ball pressure at 13:23 creates loose ball and generates Illinois fastbreak layup for McCamey. Good baseline help on next defensive possession makes up for poor post defense by Keller.

Poor job of getting back on defense and closing out on a McPhee three with 9:23 helps Illinois fall behind five. Gets burned by freshman Vincent Williams on dribble drive at 8:03 leading to a Thompkins bucket.

Overall: Nothing special, and nothing too bad to say. Provided some stability at times during his 11 minutes. Struggled at times containing the dribble.

● Tyler Griffey: Checks in at 8:53 for maddening Keller. Steals some seconds before under-8.

Overall: Played just four minutes, picking up a foul and that’s it. Was hesitant tonight on two shot opportunities that he passed up.

Play of the Game: With Illinois down two with a 1:12 left in the game, Davis gets the ball down low after diving off a screen. With the smaller Travis Leslie on him, Davis tries to play with too much finesse, getting his shot blocked by the Georgia wing player. While Illinois would take a brief one-point lead 40 seconds later, Davis’ miss was symbolic of a game in which the Illini missed golden opportunities, failed to convert when it mattered and were a step slow (see Tisdale’s fifth foul on Thompkins).

Some Discouraging Things about This Loss:

● Way too many mental gaffes (Keller and Tisdale).

Got pounded on interior.

Couldn’t contain the dribble.


Up-and-down in terms of focus and energy.

Failure to seize the day (i.e. missed opportunities such as late game misses by Davis and McCamey in the lead).

Unable to handle any prosperity (just when Illinois was seizing momentum in parts of the second half, the Illini would give it back with dumb turnovers or poor fundamental play).

McCamey’s inconsistency in his approach to the game, and his total lack of defense.

Freshmen playing like freshmen.

The fact that Illinois needed to make a comeback against a struggling opponent during a road game that was actually more like a home game.

Weber sticking with struggling Keller and Tisdale at times, when someone with a decent upper body like Semrau may have provided some semblance of interior defense.

A Few Positives

Cole providing nice energy.

Illinois showing some promise during its comeback.

McCamey taking over the game late.

Player of the Game: It’s hard to name an Illini when you lose. The player of the game was really Georgia’s Thompkins, a rising NBA prospect in the 2011 draft. Bill Cole was a positive for the Illini with a really strong energy effort that would eventually translate to a starting role. If  I had to name one Illini, I would pick Cole over McCamey, who was just too bad defensively and not assertive enough early in the game.

Overall: Illinois loses to another team it should have beaten, 70-67. Ultimately, this game boiled down to missed opportunities and way too many breakdowns. Especially disturbing was the up-and-down nature of Illinois’ focus as this game was there for the taking in the second half. Ultimately, Illinois would fall into this trap all season long, playing with spotty energy and focus and then try to make up for it with furious comebacks.

Well, that’s it for another Illini Tale of the Tape.

Man, these losses take much more time than the wins.

That does not bode well as the Bragging Rights’ loss to Missouri is up next.

Until tomorrow.

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Tags: Alex Legion Bill Cole Brandon Paul Bruce Weber D.J. Richardson Demetri McCamey Dominique Keller Georgia Bulldogs Georgia Bulldogs Basketball Gwinnett Center Illini Basketball Illinois Basketball Jeff Jordan Jeffrey Jordan Mark Fox Mike Davis Mike Tisdale Richard Semrau Travis Leslie Trey Thompkins Tyler Griffey

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