Today on Writing Illini: an examination of the night the Braggin’ Rights died, at least for one year, during a convincing Missouri victory over Illinois at the Scottrade Center.
This game is also known as Alex Legion’s last stand.
Anyways, make that two straight and four non-conference losses for the Illini.
Where I Was for This Game: Feeling good, watching from the comfort of home, as I began a long Christmas holiday off from work. You know what would have been a great way to start my near two-week vacation? A 10th straight Illinois victory against Missouri. Of course, that was not to be as the Illini were terrible with the ball (22 turnovers) and seduced by Missouri’s up-tempo game, never establishing itself in the half court.
What I Remember/Was Hoping from This Game:
● Really wanted to see Illinois rebound with sharp mental and physical execution following an upset loss to Georgia that was full of breakdowns.
● Wishfully thinking that the Illini would exact some revenge on Missouri on the behalf of the Marquette basketball program, which lost a heartbreaker to the Tigers in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Besides Illinois, Marquette and Michigan State are two programs that I like to watch.
● Looking for the freshmen (Paul and D.J.) to bounce back after rough games against Georgia. They wouldn’t, as Richardson really struggled and Paul had some freshman mistakes (but did play with good urgency in the second half).
● Illinois really getting blitzed in this affair, similarly to the way the Illini pounded Missouri 12 months earlier in the Braggin’ Rights Game. ESPN’s Steve Lavins describes the Illini as getting repeatedly “punched in the mouth” and “taken to the woodshed” on this night.
● Mike Tisdale playing really soft in the post, with several chances to dunk the ball up-close but opting for the layup and missing. Tisdale was actually one of the better Illini, with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but you’ll understand what I’m talking about when you see how he missed some of his shots in the second half.
● Being impressed by Missouri freshman guard Michael Dixon, who figures to be a pain in the collective arse of Illinois hoops in the next three seasons. Steve Lavin will describe Dixon during the telecast as having “moxie” and a “Tasmanian devil.” Dixon only started this game because Missouri guard Zaire Taylor had the flu.
● Starting to have serious doubts about this Illinois team making the NCAA Tournament, already pulling out my schedule after the game and looking for games in the Big Ten that Illinois would need to pull a couple of upsets.
● Seeing Legion getting pulled out of the game in the second half after making a couple of nice defensive plays. When coming to the sideline, Legion has a glazed look on his face and doesn’t look at Weber, who gives him a five. Of course, Legion would announce that he was transferring a couple of days later, to play for Isaiah Thomas of all coaches at Florida International University. Just a couple of weeks ago, Legion implied on Twitter that Weber was a “dream killer” and then told people to back off (saying that politely) when asked if he was talking about the Illinois coach.
What Surprised Me Upon A Second Viewing:
● Knew Illinois was bad, but didn’t realize that the Illini had 22 turnovers. Or that they gave up 13 offensive rebounds in the second half.
● Forgot that Beth Mowens was doing play-by-play and that Lavin was on color. Thought that Moens was Doris Burke at first.
● With Lavin doing the game, I figured to hear him describe Illinois as a “European-style team” with its fundamentally-skilled, jump-shooting big men. Actually, he doesn’t make such a reference until 8:55 in the second half. When describing Tisdale after a jumper, Lavin says that the Illini big man has “an international style of play.”
● A cool sight in the first half when the ESPN cameras pan to Section 103 of the Scottrade Center, where you see a clear divided between Illinois orange-clad and Missouri gold-draped fans.
● Former Illini guard Steve Bardo sitting in press row for the activities.
Missouri Tigers (7-3) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (8-3)
For reference’s sake, here is Missouri’s starting lineup:
G Michael Dixon (Freshman), G J.T. Tiller (Senior), G Kim English (Sophomore), F Laurence Bowers (Sophomore), F Keith Ramsey (Senior), Head Coach Mike Anderson.
● Offense: Down 9-7 at the under-16. Illinois already has five turnovers, with Missouri getting six of its 9 points off of those mistakes. Missouri is, on game average, plus-8 in turnover margin so far this season. Illinois has only averaged 11 turnovers a game coming into this contest.
Down 17-11 out of the under-12. McCamey with 9 of Illinois’ 11 points. Have missed some good shots. Illinois with 7 turnovers that have led to 7 Mizzou points.
9-2 run gets Illinois a 20-19 lead at 9:16 in half. Lead is short lived as Safford hits a quick shot off a curl in the lane. However, the game is tied at 24 at the under-8 as Jordan and Davis have hit a couple of jumpers. Much better attack and ball movement in that spurt, and the Illini are starting to value the ball. The Illini are shooting 45% and are 2-for-4 for three. Both teams have combined for 10 straight made baskets.
Illinois is down 33-28 at the under-4 as the Illini commit five turnovers in this stretch and now have 13 turnovers (2 more than their season average) already. Davis has three turnovers on that stretch, with he and McCamey picking up consecutive fouls.
Illinois trails 41-28 with a minute left as Missouri has been on a 13-1 run in the last 5:30. Paul scores five straight (a three and offensive stick back) to end the half with a 5-0 run and 41-34 deficit. Paul’s three is Illinois’ first field goal in nearly six minutes. Turnovers have hurt the Illini and contributed to the drought, as the Illini have lost all rhythm within the half-court set. Illinois with three three-pointers in the half compared to six for Missouri, which has caused problems with its unpredictable trapping. Missouri with a 14-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Illinois with 8 offensive rebounds compared to just 1 for Missouri in the first half. Illinois is plus 10 on the boards, though you wouldn’t be able to tell as Missouri has turned the Illini over so much. Illinois shooting 45% in first 20 minutes.
Down 51-44 at the under-16. Illinois was down by as much as 13 for a couple of seconds. Turnovers and Missouri offensive rebounds have been a problem thus far, though Illinois is still in the game as Missouri is missing some opportunities themselves. Tisdale and Paul have been more active, but not always effective. The Illini need McCamey and Davis to get involved. Like the Georgia game, Illinois is being undone by a lot of mental blocks.
Down 11 (61-50) at under-12. Illinois has 19 turnovers and no sense of urgency, as Lavin properly puts it. Tisdale has been aggressive but soft when getting the ball around the rim. Davis and McCamey have been MIA in terms of getting involved and looking for shots in the offense.
Cut the game to 63-57 at the under-8. This is the closest Illinois has been since the first half. The Illini are on a 9-2 run, but not doing anything spectacular or tearing up the nets on offense. Tisdale has stepped up of late, but is exhausted and sitting. Missouri’s frenetic style of play is made for comebacks, that is if the Illini can show some defense and start running some half-court offense that uses the clock and makes the Tigers work on defense.
Down 70-61 at under 4 as another Tisdale missed dunk seems to be a perfect fitting to this affair. Illinois had a chance to cut this to four but Paul took a bad shot. The Illini haven’t been able to sustain consistent offense all night and most of their points in this spurt have come off broken plays.
Missouri runs away with the game in final four minutes, finishing with an 81-68 victory. The Illini seem to concede this game early in the last four-minute segment, and Weber begins bringing in some reserves at two minutes.
Overall, what else is there to say? Illinois look frazzled all night and really never got into its half-court offense. This was a type of game where the Illini really missed someone like a Chester Frazier, who could settle the team down and get them into their possessions. Illinois only shoots 35% in the second half and finishes at 39.7% for the game. And then there were the 22 turnovers. No composure from the Illini tonight.
● Defense: Trail 9-7 at under-16. Defense has given up penetration and some open Missouri threes, but six of the first 9 points are off turnovers. Has picked it up on last couple of possessions, forcing two Missouri turnovers. Illinois has given up a lot of three point attempts early in the season, and Missouri shoots nine more threes a game than its opponents on the season, so this is certainly worrisome and something to watch out for. Missouri does have four turnovers.
Down 17-11 at under-12. Missouri didn’t do much that stretch except hit two threes when McCamey and Keller weren’t active enough when closing out. Missouri is shooting 54% from the floor, but Illinois has a 12-7 rebounding advantage. More combined turnovers than field goals made thus far in the game for both sides.
The game is tied at 24 at the under-8 as both teams have found their shooting strokes. Illinois has given up a couple of threes due to common culprits (besides Mizzou’s pace): no dribble containment and late close outs. Missouri is shooting 59% and is 4-for-9 from three.
Illinois is down 33-28 at the under-4. Missouri has hit a couple of shots and missed a few, but the big problem has been the Illini’s turnovers, which have not allowed the offense to get anything going. Illinois is controlling the boards, with an 18-8 advantage.
Missouri’s “40 Minutes of Hell” (borrowing from Arkansas) has wreaked havoc on the Illini, as the game has gotten too fast, with Illinois turning the ball over and missing makeable shots when not giving it way, and Missouri stroking it from three. Illinois is down 41-34 at the break thanks to Brandon Paul’s personal 5-0 run in the last 50 seconds. It could be double-digits so the Illini are lucky in that regard, especially with Missouri shooting 55% from the field.
At the start of the second half, Illinois gives up four offensive rebounds to Missouri, which eventually leads to a Dixon three at 44-34 deficit. Illinois gets as far down as 13 but cuts the game to 51-44 at the under-16. Illinois is having a hard time with the pace, as Missouri is getting up and down quickly and getting good looks, some of which have not fallen.
Missouri has 6 offensive rebounds in the first 5 minutes of the second half. They had one in the first half. In simple terms, the Illini are being outworked by Missouri, who wants this game more. Illinois is also dodging some bullets as Missouri has missed a couple of open threes as Richardson, Paul and McCamey are really struggling to defend the perimeter, especially against screens. At under 12, Illinois is down 61-50 as Missouri is a step quicker, has 8 offensive boards in the half, and 15 assists on its 21 made baskets. The Tigers have made 9 threes and missed some wide-open looks here in the second half, as Illinois can’t keep Missouri in front.
Illinois trails by six at the under 8 after giving up 2 offensive rebounds and having the ball knocked out of bounds by McCamey. Missouri has gone cold in the last 4-5 minutes but are getting good looks (the Illini really haven’t been doing anything spectacular). Still in this game somehow. If there ever was a time to pick up the defense, now’s it. One positive: Illinois has a 38-23 rebounding advantage, which is combination of the style of the game and the Illini doing a fine job early on the boards, that is until the second half, where Missouri has gotten tons of second and even third looks and failed to convert. Missouri is now 9-for-21 from three.
Would you believe that Missouri (a smaller team) has 13 offensive rebounds at the 6 minute mark of the second half? Down 70-61 at under 4. Illini continues to give Missouri second chances, and English has made them pay. I think I’ve said this before but Illinois can’t contain the basketball.
Illinois loses 81-68 as the Illini seem mentally defeated in the last couple of minutes, with sloppy turnovers leading to easy Missouri buckets. Missouri shot 55% in the first half but only 30% in the second half and Illinois still loses by 13. Contribute this to Missouri wanting this game more and getting to the offensive glass in the second half.
Overall: Poor defensive performance. Too much penetration. No containment. Falling asleep on the help line. Late closeouts. No boxing out in the second half. A lack of urgency. I could go on and on.
● Bruce Weber: Not even a minute into the game, Weber calls for Cole with Illinois down 5-0. Paul gets the quick hook. Gets on Tisdale at 17:46 when the Illinois big man lets his man blow by him on the baseline. Is not happy early.
Out of under-16, Lavin says that Weber was worried about how his freshmen would respond to this environment. He comes out with Cole and 4 starters in second four minute spurt.
Certainly has to be happy with what Jordan is giving the team in the first half tonight. Can’t be happy at 4:45 as Missouri has taken a 33-28 lead with Illinois having four turnovers since the under-8 timeout. Weber takes a timeout to calm his team down.
Has to take another timeout at 2:03 as Missouri has gone on a 10-0 run to take a 38-28. The Illini are out of sync big time here.
At the half, Len Elmore (in the studio) says that Illinois needs to resist temptation of quick shots and run its half-court offense, which was effective at stretches. Illinois needs to slow it down rather than playing too fast.
Takes a timeout 1 minute in the second half as Illinois gives up four offensive boards on its first defensive possession and then a three, and turns the ball over quickly against the Missouri press. Has gone to Jordan for the struggling Richardson, and Jordan has not played as solid as he did in the first half.
With Illinois down 57-46 at 12:43, Weber surprisingly hasn’t gone to Cole. He actually does so at 12:13. Needs to have someone in there with some urgency.
With Illinois down 63-57 out of the under-8, comes with a surprise lineup of Keller, Tisdale, Legion, Paul and McCamey. Legion actually makes a nice defensive play, but is yanked a minute later. It’s clear that Weber didn’t have much confidence in the kid (more on that later). At six minute mark, Weber is heard from the sidelines, yelling at the Illinois players to rebound after allowing Missouri’s 13th offensive board of the half, which eventually results in more Missouri penetration and a three for English.
Down 15 with under 2 minutes left, Weber begins to unload the bench as a sign of concession. Lavin says that Weber is worried about his team’s toughness and resilience early in the year. They certainly didn’t play with these traits tonight.
Overall, Illinois was prepared for Missouri’s pressure and did some good things at times, easily breaking it when holding onto the ball. However, the Illini broke down all night in their decision-making and composure. Weber tried to get some energy off the bench (didn’t get any in the second half) and used 2 or 3 timeouts to try and stem Missouri runs, but to no avail. A bad job of not getting the Illini to slow this game down and work the ball inside to Tisdale, who got most of his shots on the glass. Also, not sure why Weber went with Davis for 37 minutes as he had five turnovers and a stat line of 11 points and 13 rebounds that was not as good as it appears on paper. Two straight games in which the opponent did a better job of establishing its style.
● Demetri McCamey: Misses a three from the top of the key at 19:30. Used a nasty crossover to get that shot, which really wasn’t in the context of the offense. Missouri would run out off the board, break down the Illinois defense and kick out to sophomore Kim English for a three. Slow to close out on a three by Tiller at 18:33. Luckily, Tiller misses and fails to make it an 8-0 Missouri lead. Comes back with a near turnover on next Illini possession, after splitting a Missouri double team and losing the ball. Luckily, Cole gets on the floor and draws a foul. Good two man game with Cole at 17:28 as McCamey uses a ball fake to get some space and pass to Cole, who fakes up the ball himself, drives and kicks to McCamey for a jumper at 17:28 and a 5-2 game. Gives up more penetration to Tiller at 16:49, leading to open baseline jumper and make for Dixon. Tiller shuffled his feet in the lane there and definitely got away with one, but McCamey hasn’t kept anyone in front of him all season long thus far. Responds with a three on the other end for a 7-5 game. Nice assist from Richardson, who took one bounce at the top of the key and hit McCamey for the open look. Ties the game at 16:11 as he beats a Missouri player to a loose ball in the half court and races for a layup. Nice hustle there in getting to the ball and hoop. If there’s one thing about Missouri’s break-neck pace, it’s that you can get back into ball games quickly. Nearly has a lazy left-handed pass to Richardson stolen on next possession.
Gets burned baseline at 14:05 but Missouri misses a wide open layup. Proceeds quickly to assist on a corner jumper by Jordan. Good push at 12:47 against pressure allows McCamey to draw a shooting foul at 12:47. Misses both free throws.
Gets lost at 8:28, losing his man at the three-point line while helping in the lane (after Davis had Safford blow by him). Kim English gets an open look and drains a three for his 11th point on 4-for-4 shooting and a 24-22 Missouri lead. Good idea of providing weak side help, but McCamey must know where his man is.
Struggles to contain the ill Taylor at 5:01 who gets into the lane and forces Richardson to sag off Dixon, who hits an open jumper for a 33-28 game. Pushes off on Dixon at 3:28 and gets called for the offensive foul. Nice job by the Missouri guard there of moving his feet as the game is at the under-4 timeout.
Overall, barely noticeable in the last six minutes of the half. Needs to pick it up.
Immediately turns the ball over against the press with 19:04 to go in the second half. Tried to tight-rope the sideline against the press and got caught up in the air before losing the ball out of bounds. Gets lucky at 16:30 as he lethargically falls asleep on a screen, leaving Tiller wide open for a three that is missed. McCamey then gets the long rebound and makes a razzle dazzle pass to Jordan, who misses a difficult layup. McCamey misses the tip in before Mike Davis is fouled on his own unsuccessful tip in.
Gets a terrible five second call at 14:49, failing to inbound the ball. His body language is terrible and sums up the way Illinois’ looks right now: as if they’re on another planet. Hits a difficult runner at 14:23 but the basket is wiped out by a Missouri off-the-ball foul, with the call made by none other than Jim Burr. That basket looked like it should have counted by the time the whistle was called, but Burr clearly was not following the ball. Weber is giving it the officials. Gets burned by Taylor at 13:35, allowing dribble penetration and forcing an Illini double, leaving Denmon open at the top of the key for a three. Also slow on the close out. Hits a pull-up jumper and is fouled by Miguel Paul to lead to under-12. Those are McCamey’s first points since the first four minutes of the first half, when he had 7 points. Seems frustrated with some of the officiating out there, but needs to worry about things he can control, like picking up his play.
Misses a free throw out of under 12 and then gets beaten by Tiller, who misses a jumper. McCamey gets Illinois out on the break and feeds Davis, who travels. Good up fake at 10:19 leads to open shot that his missed. Illinois can’t make any ground as Missouri has been regularly clanking shots in the last 4-5 possessions. Nice no-look feed to Tisdale at 9:46 leads to a layup and a 61-52 game. Shows off his handles at 8:24, with two crossovers that create some space for him to get into the lane, but misses a point-blank layup. Actually, it should have been a goal tend there as the Missouri player brought his hand through the rim. The refs have certainly missed some calls for the Illini this half, though this is not the reason Illinois is losing and is not surprising when you consider that Illinois looks a step slow and is not the aggressor.
Nice hanging floater at 6:28 cuts the game to 65-59 as Illinois does a good job of passing the ball through the 2-2-1. Misses a rushed three at 5:22.
Takes a really bad flat-footed three at 3:02 with a Missouri player draped all over him. That was a give-up shot. Misses a driving layup at 2 minute mark. Keeps a possession alive with a tip pass to Griffey for a score at 1:48. Makes a lazy lefty pass to Griffey at 1:30 that is easily stolen. Second time tonight he has made a bad pass with the left hand. Hits two free throws at 17.9 to bring the game to its final score: Missouri 81, Illinois 68.
Overall, finishes with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 turnovers in 35 minutes. Did not do a good job of running the show tonight and getting Illinois into its half-court offense. Seemed to lose his composure at times, as Missouri’s freshman Dixon was in better control of his emotion. Compare this game to how Chester Frazier handled Missouri a year before, and this game indicates that McCamey has a long way to go this season in terms of running the show the right away.
● Brandon Paul: Aggressively attacks the lane on first possession of game before the ball is knocked out of bounds. Looks like the ball bounced of Paul there, but Illinois retains the ball. Turns the ball over at 19:12 against the “Fastest 40 Minutes in basketball.” Got trapped and made the cardinal sin of picking up his dribble before throwing a pass that was stolen by J.T. Tiller for an easy layup and 5-0 Missouri lead.
Returns at 14:27 for Richardson. Slow to closeout on English following a cross-court pass from the post, leading to a Missouri three and 14-11 Illinois deficit at 13:29. Nice job on next offensive possession, hitting Keller out of a Mizzou trap for an open jumper that does not go in.
Back in the game at 3:23 as the cameras pan to Illinois’ Orange Man in the stands. Struggles to contain Tiller at 1:22 as the Missouri guard gets in the lane, causing Richardson to sag off Paul and help. Tiller hits Paul for a three, and Illinois is down 41-29 with 1:22 left. Paul buries his own three at the top of the key to cut the game to 41-32 and temporarily stop the Missouri run. Great job of attacking the offensive glass after a Richardson miss with seven seconds left as Paul tips in the ball to put the game to 41-34 at the break.
Overall, helps keep Illinois within striking distance late in the half, but has been mostly quiet.
Nice hands at 18:55 of second half as he steals a bobbled ball by Missouri and gets on the break. He lifts off a bit too early and misses the layup, but Richardson is there for the stick in and a 44-36 game. Misses fast-break three at 17:16. Was open but too quick of a look in the shot, even if it went in. Missouri wants Illinois to take those shots. Anyways, long rebound caroms out to Missouri which pushes the ball and scores a layup as Illinois fails to get back and falls behind 51-40. Hits a three on the next possession to cut the game to 51-43 at 16:38. Good job of squaring his feet and moving from the corner along the wing as McCamey, who made a nice drop off, made the dribble drive.
Sags too far down low playing the help line at 15:34, ultimately losing his man Marcus Denmon, who buries a wide-open three from the top of the key for a 54-44 Missouri lead. Draws an offensive foul on Denon at 14:35. Good closeout there and movement of feet. Has picked up his energy, getting an offensive board off a Mike Davis miss at 13:55 but eventually stepping out of bounds while trying to tip-toe the sidelines. Tough break, good activity. Blocks a shot out of bounds at 13:35 as he makes up for Keller not boxing out on the glass. Once again, sags too far in the lane as Denmon hits a three from the top of the key at 13:28 for a 57-44 lead. Was late to close out as was McCamey. Actually both guys gave up on closing out once seeing the other. It was very similar to a left fielder and centerfielder going after a fly ball, seeing each other and letting the ball drop (as if thinking the other guy was going to get it).
With Illinois down six and with a chance to cut into the lead at 7:08, forces and misses a pop-back jumper. Bad shot selection there. Gets called for an emphatic blocking foul at 6:43. It looks like Paul got there in time for the charge off the screen and roll. Jim Burr didn’t see it that way, and it does look that Paul was just late. Anyways, that blocking foul leads to two free throws for Ramsey, who makes them and gives Missouri a 65-57 lead. Failure to box out at 6 minute mark eventually hurts Illinois as Missouri extends the possession and English hits a three to put the Tigers up 68-59 with 5:24 to go. Good tenacity at 4:30, as he tracks down a missed Davis jumper and then finds Davis for a dunk and 70-61 game with 4:23 to go.
Hits a quick corner three with 3:26 to go to cut the Illini deficit to 75-64. Paul is 3-for-4 from three. Nice job at 2:41 as he takes an offensive foul on English. Paul has had his freshman moments but at least played with great urgency in the second half. Of course, as I write this, Paul makes a freshman mistake, making a weak pass attempt to Richardson that is stolen by Safford, who gets a dunk at 2:23 to put this game away. Missouri leads 79-64.
Overall, made his fair share of very bad decisions, but at least you can say that Paul’s mistakes are usually a matter of being young and too aggressive. At least Paul played with some urgency in the second half, while his other teammates were sluggish. Finishes with 11 points, 4 boards and 2 turnovers in 19 minutes. Still has a lot of work to do on the little things (keeping track of his man when helping out, distinguishing what is a good shot versus what is a bad shot, knowing when to attack within the offense, etc.).
● D.J. Richardson: Make that two turnovers in Illinois’ first three possessions as Richardson commits an offensive foul after breaking the full-court pressure. Had Mike Davis open in the corner and was looking to him, but took one extra dribble before charging. Air balls his first open look, a corner three with 17:55 to go. Makes a nice baseline steal following a McCamey layup but then turns the ball over on the other end, leading to a Tiller fast break layup and 9-7 Illinois deficit at 15:46.
Barely grazes rim on a forced jumper at 16:42. Luckily, Tisdale with the offensive board and stick back.
Cans a corner three at 9:43 for a 19-18 game in favor of Missouri. That basket came off Illinois defense as Jordan pushed the ball and found Richardson, who did a good job of running and filling his lane. Gives Illinois its first lead at 9:16 when he hits two free throws following an over-the-back foul against Mizzou.
Hits a bit of a wild runner off the glass at 6:56 to tie the game at 28. Illinois has hit its last seven shots and is doing a good job of pushing against the Missouri pressure. Richardson did a strong job of using his body there to create some space off the attack. Turns the ball over on the next possession, throwing an errant pass over the Missouri pressure that is way too high for Griffey to catch. That’s Illinois’ first turnover in a while, but the eighth of the half. Lavin hits it on the head there: Missouri’s defense hurried up Richardson there. Misses an open three at 6:09 off of a missed Dixon three and great push by McCamey, who pulled up in the lane under control and made a no-look pass cross court to D.J., who couldn’t can the open look. Feet were set, just didn’t go in the hoop. That miss breaks Illinois’ streak of seven straight field goals.
Good bounce pass to Tisdale through the middle of Missouri zone at 1:43. Tisdale gets fouled on the play and will shoot two free throws. Has had to sag down and help a couple of times as a result of the Illinois players failing to contain the dribble. This has led to open threes for Richardson’s man. He may be better off staying on his man, with Illinois bringing the help from someone else, possibly Tisdale or Davis stepping up into the lane. Misses a three with seven seconds left.
Overall, rough first half for Richardson, who has 7 points but 5 turnovers. A few minutes of OK play.
Nice job at 18:50 when he does not give up on what looks to be an easy Paul layup on the break. Richardson hustles down the miss for a tip in. Commits foul on next possession as he struggles to contain Dixon, who makes two free throws for a 46-36 lead. Gets quickly replaced by Jordan at 18:40 mark.
Nice behind-the-back dribble move and attack of the glass at 13:04 leads to a nifty lefty layup. Offense was all one-on-one there and early in the shot clock, but Illinois will take what it gets down 57-46 with 13 minutes left. Rushes and badly clanks a three on the next possession as Illinois was running. Bad shot. The freshmen have been lured into playing this style of game with Missouri.
A bit out of control at 8:07 as he attacks and misses a wild layup that is grabbed by Tisdale.
Misses open jumper within the zone out of under-4 and then is called for a blocking foul on the other end as Dixon gets a three-point play at 3:36. Missouri is now up 75-61.
Overall, looked frazzled tonight against the Missouri press and played like a freshman. Finished with 11 points and 4 turnovers according to the final box score (ESPN had him for five at halftime). Has been very inconsistent in the last two games against Georgia and Missouri.
● Mike Davis: Rebounds a Richardson air ball and throws up an air ball himself at 17:55. Should have come down with the rebound there instead of trying to shoot while hanging in the air. Nice close out on a missed Bowers three is negated at 17:02 when Davis steps out of bounds on the baseline. Had nowhere to go with the dribble and tried to force something that was simply not there. Lavin calls that “a poor decision.”
Misses a baseline jumper at 14:39 with shot clock bailing down. Had to put it up as Illinois was bothered by Missouri getting up into their bodies during that possession in which Cole nearly had a five-second turnover.
Nice flash of the middle at the free throw line extended at 10:03 leads to a made mid-range jumper and a 19-15 game. Nice patience there by Illinois against the zone, with Jordan making a good pass and getting the assist. Good use of the dribble and pop back leads to a tough jumper at 8:36 and a 21-20 Illinois lead. Rarely see Davis get offense off the bounce, so that was certainly a pleasant development.
Hits an open wing jumper against the Missouri pressure with 7:31 to go. Nice job of the Illini passing over the top of the pressure, with Davis again showing the ability to dribble, pull up and shoot. Follows up with active hands, knocking the ball away from Safford and keying an Illinois possession. Turns it over in the post on the next possession as he rushes the action. Tried to dribble through Safford and then spun middle right into a Missouri defender who stripped the ball. That Davis turnover/English steal leads to a Ramsey layup and 28-26 Missouri lead. Nice flash in the middle of the zone at 5:14 but misses the open jumper (good feed from Jordan). Travels on the next possession against Missouri pressure. Looked like he got pushed there. Sets an illegal screen at 4:07, for another turnover. Had done a good job the last two defensive possessions of grabbing the board. Misses absolutely everything on an open jumper at 2:16 that was created by the Illini doing a good job again of passing rather than dribbling the ball through Missouri’s press. Got to hit that open shot and at least draw iron. That bad miss leads to a Missouri fast break and Miguel Paul jumper for a 38-28 Illinois deficit.
Overall, another up and down half for Davis.
Quiet at the start of the second half, though he has a few defensive rebounds. Gets fouled on 16:20 on offensive tip in attempt and makes one of two free throws to cut the game to 51-44. Safford blows him by on the next defensive possession, but Davis is lucky that Tisdale comes over to help and alter Safford’s missed shot.
Misses an open shot in the middle of the zone at 13:55. Just two shots thus far in the second half. Got to make that one. Sticks back a missed Tisdale dunk at 11:57 to cut the game to 59-48.
Has a nice pull-up opportunity on the break at 11:13 but travels. Good activity on the boards at 10:19 but misses the put back, which hits the side of the backboard. Was fading there.
Nearly steals the ball from Safford at 6:52 but is called for the foul. Where’s that sudden burst of energy from? Misses an open, running floater at 4:30 but gets a dunk seven seconds later when Paul hustles down an offensive rebound and finds him wide open under the basket.
Called for a shooting foul at 3:19 on English when it looked like a tie up. English hits both free throws to give Missouri a 77-64 lead.
Overall, don’t be fooled by Davis’ 11 points and 13 rebounds. He wasn’t that effective, having 5 turnovers and several air balls. Not an intelligent game. I’m surprised he got 37 minutes.
● Mike Tisdale: Good tip in attempt of a Davis air ball at 17:55 but is long on the tap try. Wasn’t squared with the hoop there. Gets blown by on the baseline on the next possession, but Cole bails him out with a charge. Weber gives Tisdale an earful from the sideline. Has three rebounds in first four minutes.
Trying to be too cute at 12:18 when Jordan makes a nice post pass inside to Tisdale, who has a baseline right hook but does not shoot and tries to dribble. Mizzou eventually doubles and Tisdale kicks to Legion, who walks with the ball seconds later. Extends Illinois possession with offensive rebound at 11:30 following Legion miss.
Nice offensive rebound at 10:42 of a D.J. Richardson miss, and then sticks in a hook shot. Tisdale with five rebounds thus far, although that was only his second shot (both have come off rebounds). Illinois needs to go inside more often. With the game at 17-13, gets quickly matched up the ensuing possession against the smaller English, who easily gets into the lane and scores. Illinois at least throws the ball down to Tisdale on next possession, drawing a Mizzou foul as a result. Mizzou with six fouls. Gets matched up with Safford on next defensive possession at top of perimeter and is blown by. Safford misses the layup though.
Back in the game at 6:06 and picks up an offensive foul against Ramsey. Great job by Tisdale there of coming from the weak side and getting into position to take the charge as Ramsey came off a screen and roll in which Davis was slow to recover. Turns the ball back over on the other end, as he makes a hesitant pass from the top of the key to the right corner that is easily stolen by Missouri’s quick hands. Commits a big mental error at the other end, as he jumps out on a screen late and off-balance, and runs over English as he shoots a three. English hits only 1-of-3 free throws as Missouri has a 31-28 lead.
At 1:43, receives a nice bounce pass underneath the basket from Richardson at the top of key. Makes a nice step through from the right to left side of the basket and goes up a bit weak on the play, although he is fouled. Would have liked to see Tisdale try to slam that one down there as he was right under the basket. He hits one of two free throws to cut the game to 38-29.
Overall, does have 7 rebounds at the break, but just 3 points. Illinois has failed to get him interior touches or to use Tisdale’s shooting ability against the half-court zone of Missouri.
Gets first shot of the second half at 18:22 as Illinois does a good job of breaking the pressure. Gets fouled on the shot after a good head fake. Went for a banker when he should have dunked it. Anyways, missed the makeable shot but hits two free throws to cut the game to 49-38 with 18:22 left. Scores at 17:56 as Illinois does a nice job of getting on the break following a Missouri miss. Uses good head fake to get easy layup with no around him. Could have dunked it there. Nice feed from McCamey and good hit ahead from Jordan to start the play. Illinois down 49-40. Looks like he gets away with a foul on the other end as Tiller pushed the action and lost the ball while going up for a layup. Commits offensive foul at 17:33 as Illinois is looking for Tisdale. Called for a charge on the play, which negates a made jumper on the baseline. Looks like he dipped shoulder. Nearly gets an offensive tip in on next possession following a Paul missed three at 17:16. Good job of recovering at 15:55 and knocking the ball away from Safford, who stole a pass from Jordan and had a fast-break opportunity. Actually, that ball was off Safford. A missed call there.
Good offensive board of a McCamey missed three at 15:08 but goes up way too soft under the basket, missing the shot. May have been fouled but you need to go up strong. And when you’re 7’1’’, look to dunk the ball. Tisdale is too much in love with the finesse play tonight rather than just using his height and going at the rim.
Nice block of Denmon at 12:55 and nearly tips in a missed Richardson three at 12:43 before Safford gets the board and Missouri timeout as he was falling out of bounds. Tisdale has been active on the offensive boards but unable to finish if his live depended on it. Speaking of not finishing, misses an open dunk at 11:57; luckily, Davis gets the board and stick back. Illinois doesn’t get back as Missouri gets a quick layup for a 61-48 lead.
Nice finish with banker at 9:46 following a nifty feed from McCamey. Tisdale has 9 points and 10 rebounds, but has left some points on the floor with up-close misses in the second half. Good hustle at 9:30, altering a shot and then keeping the ball in play and saving to McCamey while falling out of bounds. Is seemingly picking it up at 9:07 when he cuts the game to 61-54 with a corner jumper. Unfortunately, fails to get his hands up on the next defensive possession as Dixon (who is more than a foot smaller than Tisdale) hits a jumper in his face for a 63-54 game. Great hustle at 8:07 as he tracks down a wild missed layup by Richardson, lays the ball in and gets fouled. Tisdale is noticeably gassed on the play, as he has played a lot in the second half. His conditioning is a big thing to watch the rest of the way. Tisdale is hunched over at the free throw line before his chance for a three-point play. Makes the free throw at 8:07 to cut the game to 63-57, and is replaced.
Back in four minutes later, gets an offensive board of a Richardson missed three but misses another dunk, leading to a Cole foul that takes us to the under-4. Unbelievable. Must finish that one. It’s as if he’s uncomfortable dunking the ball.
Overall, has 14 points and 13 rebounds (including 7 on the boards), but played way too passive around the rim to my liking. Liked his pursuit on the offensive glass, didn’t like the way he finished. Unfortunately, Illinois doesn’t do a good job of using his size and getting him interior touches. Did play 33 minutes, so his stamina is better than it has been in the past.
● Bill Cole: First Illini off the bench, at 19 minutes of the first half, coming in for Paul. By 18:21, has his first floor burn, diving to the floor for a loose ball lost by McCamey. Saves an easy Missouri basket (and Tisdale) with a charge under the basket at 17:46. Good job of help defense and beating the man to the spot there. Assists on a McCamey jumper on next Illini possession. Had an open three himself, but didn’t take it, instead opting to ball fake and kick to McCamey. Does not seem confident in shooting the ball when he is stationary. Rather, he likes to shoot the three when he’s moving and coming off screens.
Travels at 15:27 as he loses his footing. McCamey with a bad pass initially that was almost stolen, and then Cole had to do something that he’s not used to doing: dribble. Once he picked it up, he was in trouble.
Gets on the floor at 7:22 to pick up a loose ball created by Davis’ good hands against Safford. Over the back foul at 6:06 is Illinois’ ninth turnover.
Barely grazes rim on an open three at 2:55, set up by nice penetration by Jordan. Got to hit that one. That miss goes to the above idea of Cole struggling to shoot when he is stationary. Slow to get off a screen and close out on English, who buries another three at 2:30 for a 36-28 Illini deficit.
Enters with a little more than 12 minutes to go in the second half. Doesn’t do anything that stands out.
Good defense at 4:40 as English drives the lane; unfortunately, English is on fire, making a ridiculous off-balance floater for a 70-59 Missouri lead. English with 22 boards and 5 threes. Fouls Ramsey over the back on offensive rebound attempt leading to under 4. Ramsey hits both free throws out of the under 4 to put Missouri up eleven at 72-61.
Overall, seemed to carry over great energy late in Georgia game early in this one. Had some good hustle plays in first half but didn’t do much in second half. 0 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 assists in 15 minutes.
● Dominique Keller: Enters at 14:27 for Tisdale. Comes up with nice offensive tip in at 14:18 to cut the Illini deficit to 11-9. Illinois did a nice job breaking the pressure there, with McCamey inbounding, then receiving the ball and taking off. McCamey got all the way to the hoop before stepping through and missing a layup. Illinois with three tip attempts there as Paul and Keller were active on the boards. Misses an open free-throw line jumper at 13:04 following a nice find from Paul. Not active at 11:57 when Missouri’s Justin Safford measures and drills a three in his face. Need to get a hand up there and play closer as Illinois is down 17-11. Throws up a wild baseline, one-handed push shot on the next Illinois possession with 11:21 left.
Enters in second half out of under-16. Fails to box out at 13:35, leading to a Missouri offensive rebound, but is bailed out when Paul comes over to swat the shot out of bounds. Gets yanked for Tisdale. Don’t like his body language coming off the floor.
Overall, only gets 6 minutes tonight as he failed to provide much energy or senior leadership. Maybe it is unfair to expect Keller to be a leader (as he is only in his second season at Illinois following two years in Junior College). Still, is not the X-factor that Weber thought he would be, especially in the last two games (after two good performances against Western Michigan and Vanderbilt).
● Jeff Jordan: Enters at 14:27 for Cole. Hits a corner jumper 30 seconds into the game at 13:57 when McCamey finds him after a Missouri missed layup. Nice job of filling the wing on the break and of shooting with confidence, which Jordan has been doing well early in the season. Illinois has tied the game at 11. Strips Tiller of the ball and is fouled, leading to the under-12 timeout. Really good energy early from Jordan.
Assists on Davis jumper around 10 minute mark. Good push after Illinois gets a stop on the ensuing possession and finds Richardson for a corner three and 19-18 deficit. Hits another jumper at 8:19 to tie the game at 24. What’s in the drinking water in St. Louis? Seriously, Jordan left his feet earlier in the possession, and was lucky to pass to Richardson, who took once bounce and got it to an open Jordan, who is taking shots when there and hitting them tonight. 4 points and 2 assists thus far.
Getting a lot of time in the first half, and doing all of the little things right. Making good passes into the middle of Missouri half-court zone and gets dribble drive at 2:55 leading to an open Cole three that is badly missed.
First Illini off the bench in the second half, entering for Richardson at 18:40. Immediately turns the ball over at half court as Dixon picks his pocket and feeds Bowers for a layup and three-point play opportunity. McCamey picked up the foul on the play as he half-heartedly tried to stop Bowers’ shot. McCamey with three fouls and Missouri with a 49-36 lead at 18:29. Misses fast-break layup at 16:20. Lazy pass to Tisdale is stolen by Safford at 15:55 but Jordan is bailed out by Tisdale, who gets back and knocks the ball out of bounds.
Back in around the four minute of second half. Misses a three with less than a minute left. Didn’t mean to but almost banked that shot in.
Overall, really did a nice job in the first half, providing some surprise offense and making some smart decisions. Came back to earth in the second half. Finishes with 4 points, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers in 19 minutes.
● Alex Legion: Enters the game at 12:47. Grabs long defensive rebound and is fouled by a Missouri player at 12:24. Mizzou got another open look from three there as McCamey couldn’t contain the dribble. Travels against the double team at 12:12. Good ball fake leads to a mid-range jumper around 11:32 in the game, but he can’t hit.
Still in the game out of under-12, and nearly turns the ball over at 11 minutes during Illini’s first possession. Did a poor job there as the reverser, with his feet staying still rather than taking a bounce to improve the passing angle to Richardson.
Comes in at 7:43 of second half with Illinois down six (63-57). Actually comes in and makes a block of Tiller on his first possession. Great job of recovering and moving his feet after Tiller created some space with body contact. Is replaced at 6:52 by Cole.
Comes back in at 2:04 with Illinois down 79-64. Misses a pull-up three on the break at 1:12. This will be his last shot as an Illini. Gets a long rebound at 39 seconds on a missed Missouri three.
Overall, played his final 5 minutes as an Illini. Legion will announce that he’s transferring a couple of days later. Actually made a nice defensive play, but it’s clear that Legion is not a player who can come in and immediately get involved in just a few minutes. He needs to be out there longer in order to make an impact, whatever that may be.
● Tyler Griffey: Enters for first time at 7:57. Does not fully commit on a screen and roll against Dixon, who buries a jumper for a 26-24 Missouri lead. Griffey’s feet were backtracking there, as if he was worried about getting burned, thus leaving too much room for a Dixon jumper. Is slow to move his feet laterally at 6:48 as the pace has picked up big time, with Tiller dribbling right into him and banking a shot. Missouri up 30-28.
Enters with 2:04 in second half. Makes a reverse layup at 1:48, on a nice tip pass from McCamey. Missouri immediately beats the Illini down floor for a layup and 81-66 lead.
Overall: Only played 4 minutes. Not much to really judge. Had some problems defensively again, as freshmen tend to do.
● Bubba Chisholm: Gets an early Christmas gift, inserted into the game with 17 seconds left.
Play of the Game: With about six minutes in the game, Weber takes out Legion shortly after the Illini forward blocked a J.T. Tiller shot. While Illinois was still in the game at this point, Weber’s substitution of Legion was a clear indicator of the lack of confidence that he had in the kid, who was a heralded high-school recruit and scorer but behind-the-eight ball fundamentally when he arrived in Champaign. Ultimately, Legion was a bad fit at a bad time for an Illinois program that needed to develop a lot of players (McCamey, Davis, Tisdale, the freshmen). Perhaps if Legion was on a veteran team where he could get some minutes with more experienced players, his fate would have been different at Illinois. Ultimately, he could never get on the court long enough. In some regards, Weber did fail him here in not living with his mistakes or making some more time for Legion early in the year. Unfortunately, Weber had too many players making mistakes early last season. To call Weber a “dream killer” is a bit unfair as I doubt it was intentional. Legion needs to realize he has a lot to work on with his game. Good luck to him as he hopes to straighten things out at Florida International, which I think was a bad school for him to transfer, especially with Isaiah Thomas in charge down there.
Positives from the Missouri Game
● Not a whole lot, maybe with the exception of Paul’s urgency in the second half, Tisdale getting on the offensive boards, and Jordan playing well in the first half. I’d say rebounding (Illinois had a 47-37 advantage, but the Illini gave up 13 offensive boards in the second half).
Negatives from the Missouri Game
● Lack of team urgency in second half.
● Inability of McCamey to slow the game down and get Illinois into a half-court game.
● Tisdale not being strong enough with the ball under the basket.
● Davis continuing to fluctuate in terms of effort and impact.
● Richardson and Paul struggling with their decision-making at times.
● Keller failing to provide any energy or stability off the bench.
Player of the Game: Illinois doesn’t deserve one following the loss, but Paul’s effort (sans a few bad decisions) impressed me in the second half. Missouri’s English and Dixon were the difference makers tonight with 24 and 16 points, respectively. And how about this stat? The freshman Dixon only had 1 turnover while the three juniors in the Illini starting lineup combined for 11.
Overall: Illinois loses 81-68, dropping its first game to Missouri since 1999. Too many turnovers , a lack of urgency (see Missouri’s second-half work on the boards), and no clearly-defined on-court leader to slow the game down all plague the Illini. Really struggled with Missouri’s style and fell in love with trying to play this game. When settling down on offense and running some stuff, were OK in terms of getting good looks. Defensively, this team doesn’t play any, with containment a huge problem early in the season.
Well, that’s it for another Illini Tale of the Tape.
Up next: Northwestern vs. Illinois in a Big Ten opener that would need more than 40 minutes.
Topics: Alex Legion, Bill Cole, Braggin' Rights, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, Busch Braggin' Rights, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Dominique Keller, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, J.T. Tiller, Jeff Jordan, Joseph Bertrand, Justin Safford, Kim English, Michael Dixon, Mike Anderson, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Missouri Basektball, Missouri Tigers, Missouri Tigers Basketball, Richard Semrau, Tyler Griffey