Entering the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals against the Wisconsin Badgers, the Illinois Fighting Illini men’s basketball team was facing a simple yet difficult reality: win and likely be in the NCAA Tournament or lose and go to the NIT.
After losing 5 of its last 6 Big Ten games, including a home loss to Wisconsin five days earlier during which point guard Demetri McCamey and Head Coach Bruce Weber got into a publicized exchange on the sidelines, the reeling Illini didn’t seem capable of a season-saving performance.
Well just when the unpredictable Illini seemed predictable, Illinois executed one of its best games of the season (at least for 33 minutes), holding off a late rally from a brutally cold and flat Wisconsin team to earn the must-have win.
While Illinois would still be shut out on Selection Sunday, this victory at least confirmed that the Illini had some toughness and heart when it all mattered, ultimately leaving me extremely proud of the team and coaching staff.
Where I Was for This Game: Watching nervously from home, hoping that Illinois could pull it all together, someway, somehow to beat the Badgers for the second time in three games last season.
Some Things I Remember from This Game:
● Illinois playing an incredible 35 minutes of focused and determined basketball on both ends before getting a bit too conservative and nearly coughing up the game late during an incredible Wisconsin run.
● Feeling extremely proud of the entire Illini team and coaching staff, which overcame the adversity of the Big Ten regular season finale loss to Wisconsin and pulled together when it absolutely needed a win.
● Dominique Keller pouting on the bench in the first half, which Bruce Weber wouldn’t tolerate, resulting in a benching for the rest of the game.
● Steve Lavin interviewing Demetri McCamey after the game and asking the Illini guard “How it feels to be in the NCAA Tournament?” D’oh.
● Despite this win, I was not sold that Illinois was in the NCAA tourney, especially when considering that there were many other conference tournaments to sort out in the next two days.
● Michael Jordan was in attendance in a Conseco Field House luxury suite, where he watched his son Jeff hit a huge free throw late in the game.
● Trevon Hughes’ heart. After starting the game 0-for-12, Hughes gave the Badgers the opportunity to tie the game with 4 threes in the final two minutes. I’d say that 2 of the 4 threes were nearly impossible shots from the Wisconsin senior, who never quit. Thank God this kid graduated, and Illinois will never have to face him again. While he wasn’t as much of an Illini killer as Devin Harris or Mike Wilkinson, he certainly was a thorn in the Illinois side for 4 years.
● Being really upset after this game that Evan Turner hit a buzzer-beating three against Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinal prior to this game. Even though Illinois would take Ohio State to double overtime the next day, it would have been great to get Michigan in the semifinals. Assuming that Illinois would have won that game, the Illini would have faced Minnesota in the title game. When considering that Minnesota got into the NCAA Tournament because it made the Big Ten Tourney final, while Illinois didn’t, that contest would have pretty much been a play-in game and offered the Illini a great chance to avenge a home loss to Minnesota just weeks earlier.
Some Things That Surprised Me/Stood Out Upon A Second Viewing:
● Still can’t believe that Wisconsin shot so poorly in this game. While Illinois certainly had great defensive intensity, the Badgers were miserable from the field until late.
● Forgot that Bill Cole caught a case of fumble-itis in the last minute, nearly allowing Wisconsin to come back and tie this game.
● Looking back at the Wisconsin comeback, I originally thought that Illinois was too conservative and didn’t execute well enough in the final minutes. While that was true in some certainty, Wisconsin did hit some incredible threes, with Hughes nailing two incredulous bombs with defenders in his eye with under a minute to go.
Before I examine this game in more detail, let’s take a look back at the two meetings between the schools earlier in the season. In what might have been Illinois’ most inspiring win to that point of the season, the Illini shocked the Badgers 63-56 at the Kohl Center (for a more in-depth recap, see Illini Tale of the Tape: Illinois vs. Wisconsin). Not even a week before this Big Ten Quarterfinal game, the Badgers got revenge on the Illini during the regular season finale at the Assembly Hall, winning 72-57 in a game that was a bit closer than the final score indicated but still dominated by the Badgers (for a more in-depth recap, see Illini Tale of the Tape: Wisconsin vs. Illinois).
Now that that’s out of way, let’s do this thing.
Illinois Fighting Illini (18-13, 10-8) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (23-7, 17-5)
Both teams go with the same starting lineups from the game 5 days earlier, with Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber starting Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson at the guards, Bill Cole and Mike Davis at the forwards, and Mike Davis at center, and Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan sending out Trevon Hughes, Jordan Taylor and Jason Bohannon at the guards and Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer at the forwards.
Announcers: Dave O’Brien and Steve Lavin.
O’Brien says that Illinois must get something from Davis and Tisdale if it expects to win today. Lavin says that “if there ever was a team that needed a win, it’s the Illini.” He will then note that while Illinois has lost 5 of its last 6 games, the Illini did face ranked teams in 6 of its last 8 games.
● Demetri McCamey: Great defense at 18:50, forcing a Taylor air ball on a difficult and long pop back jumper. Misses a pull-up three at 18:11. Defensive rebound of a Bohannon miss at 17:12. Hits a deep wing jumper at 15:46 to put Illinois up 9-3, with that play set up off the pick and dive play with Tisdale. A bit late when closing out on Taylor at 15:15, but the Badgers’ guard throws up an air ball.
Misses a jumper off the pick and pop at 14:07.
Nice off-the-ball movement at 8:45, hitting a curl jumper for a 19-12 lead. Beautiful drive at 8:06, but misses an over-the-shoulder layup. Too much backspin there, Lavin notes.
Catches a break at 6:42 as Taylor beat him into the lane, missed the layup and then fouled Davis on the rebound attempt. That’s two fouls on Taylor, who killed the Illini in Champaign on Sunday but has been quiet thus far. Hits a difficult fall away at 4:46, with the shot clock horn going off to give Illinois a 23-16 lead.
Hits a rhythm curl jumper off a Tisdale down screen at 2:54, giving Illinois a 27-18 lead. Beautiful catch and shoot, and read of the screen. Good job of turning the corner at 2:21, drawing a foul on the floor against Ryan Evans. Hits a difficult turnaround jumper from the right elbow to put Illinois up 29-18. Turns the ball over at 46 seconds, carrying the ball just before a nasty hesitation crossover and dunk attempt.
Misses a curl jumper at 19:44 on the first Illini shot of the second half. Nice contest of a missed Hughes’ three at 19:21. Misses a difficult and forced left-handed layup at 17:31. Is badly short on a quick and rushed three from the top of the key at 16:11. Shot was too quick in the possession. Misses a quick runner in the lane at 13:31, and Wisconsin gets on the push but misses an open three. Illinois caught a break there. Gets fouled with the shot clock down to 2 at 12:50, leading to the delayed under-16 timeout.
Misses a difficult pop-back jumper at 9:12.
Misses everything on a driving layup with the shot clock under 5 at 6:45, but does a good job of staying with the ball and kicking out to Richardson, who hits a big three as the horn expires at 6:43 to give Illinois a 46-30 lead. A bit lackadaisical when closing out on Taylor at 6:22, and the Badger guard hits a three to cut the Illinois lead to 46-33. Looses the ball on a sloppy crossover at 5:50. Catches a break at 5:31, going for a Taylor head fake and then watching the Badger guard barely graze rim on an open mid-range jumper. A bit slow to close out on a Bohannon three at 4:48, cutting the Illinois lead to 46-36.
Fouls Nankivil amongst the scrum for a rebound of a missed Bohannon three at 3:06. Hits a huge three at 2:21, with the shot clock down to 3 and McCamey falling down on the play. That humongous shot breaks a 4-minute Illinois scoring drought and puts the Illini up 49-38.
With Wisconsin only down 2, nearly turns the ball over on a wild pass to Cole at 24.2 seconds. Steals a Leuer pass with 5.9 seconds left and throws the ball into the air, as Illinois holds on for a 58-54 lead.
Overall: 13 points (on 6-for-15 from the field), 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 40 minutes. Great first half following his altercation with Weber in the last Wisconsin game, running a crisp and efficient offense that shot 65% from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Wasn’t as disciplined in the second half, forcing some shots but making some big plays as well, securing a rebound and kicking out to Richardson for a three and then hitting a difficult three with a little more than 2 minutes left to break an Illinois scoring drought. Gritty game for McCamey, who came ready to play and didn’t pout after his display of immaturity with Weber in the final regular season game.
● D.J. Richardson: Good closeout on first possession of the game, a missed Hughes’ three. Good closeout at 18:17 when Hughes misses another three. Hits a corner three at 17:40 to put Illinois up 5-0. Nice pass from Tisdale, who used a head fake to create some space and feed Richardson. Called for an over-the-back foul at 17:19, when Hughes posted him up.
Travels at 15:07, on a curl play out of the under-16. Great defense at 14:20, getting posted by Leuer but blocking the Wisconsin big man’s shot. Turns the ball over in the lane at 13:05.
Back in for Jordan at 10:57. Entry pass to Tisdale is stolen at 10:27. Has the ball stolen by Hughes at 9:20, and then commits his second foul immediately afterwards. Gets replaced by Paul.
Good job of coming up with the loose ball of a Hughes missed three at 19:24. Loses the ball on a curl at 19:02, leading to a tie up that goes to Wisconsin. Richardson has had a hard time handling the ball at times in this game. Fouled on a three-point attempt with 16:47 to go. Bad play by Hughes. D.J. hits 2-of-3 to put Illinois up 31-20. Hits a transition three at 16 minutes to put Illinois up 34-20 and force a Wisconsin :30 second timeout. Good job at 15:24, staying with Taylor, who hits a difficult bank shot with the shot clock down to cut the Illinois lead to 34-22.
Misses a curl three off an inbounds at 12:47, right out of the under-16. Good post defense at 12:33, when Evans couldn’t come up with an interior pass. Gets fouled on a defensive rebound attempt of a Wilson three at 10:43, leading to the under-12. That shot hit the side of the backboard and is symbolic of the Wisconsin shooting effort thus far.
Misses a long three at 7:35, leading to the under-8 timeout.
Hits a huge three with 6:43 to go and the shot clock horn expiring, giving Illinois a 46-30 lead. That play was set up by great hustle by McCamey, who rebounded his own miss and kicked to Richardson with the possession down to 2 seconds. Misses a driving layup at 5:07. Has a desperation three stripped by Hughes at 3:19, and then knocks Hughes out of bounds, leading to a foul and the under-4 timeout.
Gets fouled at 1:52, which puts Illinois in the bonus. Hits the first free to put Illinois up 50-38 but clanks the second. Bad defense at 1:44, going under a screen, allowing Hughes to take and make an open three for a 50-41 lead. Was a bit lackadaisical there. Good closeout at 1:02 but Hughes banks in a three from the top of the key to cut the Illinois lead to 54-48. Sags off too far on Hughes at 39.9 seconds and the Wisconsin guard buries a three to cut the ILL lead to 54-51. Illinois needs to put more pressure on the ball.
Overall: An opportunistic 12 points (including 3-for-4 from three), along with 4 rebounds, 1 block and 6 turnovers in 29 minutes. Was in foul trouble in the first half and sloppy with the ball at times, but made two key second-half threes when Illinois needed them, putting the Illini up 15 and 16 at those points of the game.
● Bill Cole: Starts the game; doesn’t do anything noticeable in first four minutes.
Replaced by Paul out of under-16.
Back in at 10:52 for Paul.
Called for a foul on Rob Wilson at 3:44, leading to the under-4 and causing Weber to get on the officials. Weber didn’t like that call as it looked like Cole got all ball. They actually called the foul on Paul, who was nowhere near the action. Doesn’t help that the call was made from the opposite side of the floor. Looking at the replay, that was just a terrible call. Anyways, Wilson hits both free throws to cut the ILL lead to 25-18.
Nice job at 2:29, getting on the floor for a loose ball and drawing a foul on Wilson.
Not strong enough with the ball at 9:51, when Bohannon rips it from his hands and gets on the break, where Cole fouls him during a missed layup. Bohannon makes both free throws to cut the ILL lead to 41-30. Great job at 8:09, getting on the floor for a loose ball and drawing a tie up, with the possession arrow to Illinois.
Air balls a three at 4:16.
At 2:57, gets switched on Hughes, who turns the ball over on a carrying violation. Turns the ball over at 46.2 seconds, failing to catch a Tisdale pass. Have to catch that one there as Wisconsin brought pressure. Good switch on Hughes at 31.4 seconds, but the Badgers guard hits a ridiculous three from the top of the key to cut the Illini lead to 56-54. Can’t handle a McCamey pass at 24.2 seconds left, nearly turning it over with Wisconsin only down two. Cole is playing a bit frazzled and scared.
Overall: 0 points (on just one shot, a badly missed three in the second half), 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 turnovers in 34 minutes. Had a few nice hustle plays but played way too nervous in the game’s final minute, failing to catch a Tisdale pass and nearly turning the ball over after Wisconsin trimmed the lead to 2 with 30 seconds left. Needed to play more aggressive out there, and thought too much in the game’s final minutes.
● Mike Davis: Gives up offensive rebound to Leuer on first possession of the game at 19:26. Illinois must limit the Badgers to one shot, which the Illini didn’t do in the Big Ten regular season finale against Wisconsin. Nice work on the defensive boards at 18:15, grabbing the ball from the stronger Leuer. A step slow to close out on Taylor at 16:13, as the Wisconsin guard hits a three to cut the Illinois lead to 7-3. That possession came off a Wisconsin offensive rebound following a Bohannon missed layup.
Drains a jumper at 14:40 off the pick and pop with McCamey, putting Illinois up 11-3.
Beautiful pick and pop game with McCamey at 11:36, as Davis catches the ball on the wing, throws a head fake and dribbles baseline for a two-handed slam and 13-8 ILL lead. Nice job at 10:12, getting switched on Hughes and putting his hand up as the Wisconsin guard’s three-point attempt spins in and out. A half-second slow on a closeout of Leuer at 9:34, and the Wisconsin big man hits a three to cut the ILL lead to 17-12. Great defense at 8:14, staying straight up and forcing a difficult shot by Leuer on the left block.
Beautiful score at 6:16, catching a baseline Cole pass at the top of the key, using a head fake, putting down one dribble and taking a jump stop into the lane for a one-handed floater and 21-13 ILL lead. Great patience and control from Davis on that play. Good help on a Badger drive at 5:24 but is a bit slow on the closeout to Leuer, who hits a three to cut the Illinois lead to 21-16. Davis is hanging his head for a second; no need to, he’s playing with great concentration and activity thus far. Called for a holding foul on Leuer at 4:20. Leuer missed the front end of the one and one.
Good drive to the basket at 3:25 but has his one-handed push shot blocked by a helping Wisconsin defender.
Nearly comes up with an offensive rebound of a McCamey miss at 19:44 but can’t corral the ball. Misses a long wing jumper at 18:10 off the pick and pop with McCamey. Great post defense on Leuer at 17:50, keeping his hands straight up as the Badger junior missed a difficult shot in-close.
Loses Evans on the baseline at 13:47, resulting in an easy layup and a 36-36 game in favor of the Illini.
Gets called for an over-the-back foul on a missed McCamey shot at 9:12. That’s two fouls. Great help at 8:57, blocking a Hughes’ shot at the rim.
Good closeout at 7:19, as Hughes misses a three.
Good defense at 3:57, but Leurer hits a tough pop-back jumper to cut the Illinois lead to 46-38.
Called for a foul at 1:18, when boxing out Leuer on a missed Hughes three. That will stop the clock and put Leuer at the line, where he hits one of two free throws to cut the Illinois lead to 51-45. Runs the floor after a Leuer missed free throw and makes a layup (plus the foul) to put Illinois up 53-45 at 1:12. Weber is not happy, as that was nearly a charge; with that said, Illinois had a 3-on-1 break. Whatever the case, Illinois was fortunate there and will take it. Davis makes the free throw to put Illinois up 54-45.
Good job of using his length and hops at 11.7 to tap a loose ball to himself after Bohannon missed a three that would have tied the game. Hits one of two free throws to put Illinois up 58-54.
Overall: 10 points, 10 rebounds 2 blocks and 1 turnover in 39 minutes. Really loved his focus and efficiency (4-for-6) in this game, especially in the first half. Was not as involved offensively in the second half, but had a huge 3-point play, big defensive rebound and late free throw to help Illinois hold on. Played a very respectable game against the difficult Leuer, who had 14 points. Davis was big when Illinois need him to be. Great job.
● Mike Tisdale: Illinois pushes at 18:50; after Tisdale gets a rebound of a Taylor air ball, he hustles down court to hit an open jumper from the top of the key to put Illinois up 2-0 at 18:43. Nice defensive board at 17:56, as Illinois caught a break when Hughes beat Richardson into the lane but missed a wide open layup. Beautiful head fake, bounce off the dribble and rolling hook at 16:51 to give Illinois a 7-0 lead.
Back in at 13:55 for Davis. Can’t handle a McCamey post pass at 13:39, which goes out of bounds to Wisconsin. Loses the ball out of bounds at 12:46, as he put it on the ground after running the screen and roll game with Paul and then kicked the it away after Wisconsin’s Tim Jarmusz came to help. Nice help at 12 minutes, deflecting a Hughes pop-back jumper. Illinois catches a break when Wisconsin gets the offensive rebound, but loses the ball out of bounds at 11:55, leading to the under-12.
Great box out at 11:03, riding Nankivil out on a missed Bohannon three and allowing Davis to secure the rebound. A good job of running the secondary break at 10:06, stepping into and hitting an open three from the top of the key to give Illinois a 17-9 lead. Nothing but net on that beautiful jumper. Another great box out at 8:11 on a rebound of a Leuer miss. Commits his first foul at 7:54, fouling Hughes at the rim and leading to the under-8. Hughes hits one of two out of the under-8, cutting the Illinois lead to 19-13.
Great help at 7:16, altering a driving layup by Hughes and then coming up with the loose ball. Called for the travel at 7:03, taking a long step after a head fake in the pick and pop game. Lavin didn’t like that call. It looks like Tisdale slightly came up on the head fake. Good help at 5:54, forcing an air ball on a Bohannon floater after the Wisconsin guard beat Cole into the lane. Beautiful play at 4:02, catching a pass off the pick and pop from McCamey and not settling for the jumper but rather using a head fake and one bounce to drive into the lane and throw up a floater for a 25-16 ILL lead. That was gorgeous fundamental basketball. Tisdale reminded me of Kirk Haston there.
A bit slow at 1:37 to close out on Ryan Evans after dropping and doubling Leuer in the post, leading to an open jumper that is made and cuts the ILL lead to 29-20. Misses a difficult baseline jumper at 1:20; good help defense by Wisconsin. Picks up his second foul at 1:08, fouling Jarmusz on an offensive rebound. Jarmusz misses the front end of the one and one.
Nice box out on a missed Bohannon three at 18:33, with the loose rebound going to Cole. Good closeout at 17:03 on a missed Nankivil three. Misses an open jumper off the pick and pop at 14:50. Gets beat on the perimeter on a Wisconsin drive by Mike Bruesewitz at 14:31, who makes a left-handed layup to cut the Illinois lead to 34-24. Follows up with a jumper from the top of the key off the pick and pop with McCamey at 14:10, giving the Illini a 36-24 lead.
Gets a sweeping hook off the pick and pop/head fake to go out at 12:17, giving the Illini a 38-26 lead. Hits another three (his second of the game) from the top of the key at 11:19, coming off the pick and pop game with McCamey and giving Illinois a 41-26 lead.
Gives up an offensive board and foul of Nankivil at 10:09, coming off a missed Bohannon three and resulting in Tisdale’s third foul. Replaced immediately by Griffey. Back in at 9:51 for Griffey. Gets tangled with Hughes in the post at 9:29, with both players falling to the floor and Hughes getting called for the foul. Hits a big wing jumper off the pick and pop at 8:27 to put Illinois up 43-30. Huge shot as Wisconsin had gone on a 4-0 run to cut the game to 11, and Illinois was a bit flat on its previous possessions.
Falls asleep at 4:53, rebounding a Leuer miss but not putting the ball high enough. Taylor comes from behind to steal the ball, and Tisdale fouls him. That’s four on Tisdale.
Strong rebound of a Leuer miss at 2:02. Picks up the ball off the dribble at 1:56, leading to an Illinois timeout. Gets fouled at 1:54; that’s Wisconsin’s sixth foul of the half. Fouled at 1:41, hitting the front end of the one and one for a 51-41 ILL lead but missing the second. A bit slow to close out on Nankivil at 1:31, as the Wisconsin big man hits a three to cut the Illinois lead to 51-44. Catches a break at 1:27, getting tied up but bailed out by an overriding foul call that sends Ryan into a fit. Tisdale misses the front end of the one and one. Gets switched on Hughes at 1:18, and the Badger guard misses a deep three. Fouled at 38.4 seconds on the inbounds play. Illinois keeps throwing the ball into the corner against the press. Tisdale hits both free throws to put Illinois up 38.4 seconds left.
Overall: 21 points (8-for-10 from the field), 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 3 turnovers in 35 minutes. A fabulous game for Tisdale, who was brilliant in the pick and pop, hitting deep shots and mixing his game up with some nice head fakes and dribble drives. For a guy who can go missing at times, Tisdale was large and in charge on this night. Besides his offense, I thought Tisdale was really tough on the defensive boards. When considering that Illinois got badly outrebounded in the last Wisconsin game but had a 40-33 advantage in this rematch, a lot of credit needs to go to Tisdale and Davis.
● Brandon Paul: In at 13:55 for Cole. Big defensive rebound of a missed Badger three at 13:17. Good defense at 12:09, poking the ball away from Hughes.
Nice closeout at 11:04 on a missed Bohannon three. Aggressive drive and leaner at 10:52, drawing a foul on the play. Hits one of two to put Illinois up 14-8.
Back in at 9:20 for Richardson, who has 2 fouls. Gives up baseline to Hughes at 7:54, and the Badger guard is fouled at the rim by Tisdale, leading to the under-8.
Misses a curl jumper from the top of the key at 7:38; good shot within the context of the offense. Misses another curl jumper at 5:38; a bit quick there. Caught a bit too high in the passing lane at 3:48, allowing Wisconsin’s Rob Wilson to catch the ball, go baseline and draw an Illinois foul leading to the under-4.
Great job of staying with Hughes at 30.4 seconds, stripping the ball from him on a driving shot attempt from the block. However, Paul turns the ball over on the kick out pass, which may have been deflected out of bounds. Wisconsin misses several chip shot attempts at the rim on the ensuing possession as Illinois goes into the half up 9.
In for Cole at 12:47, out of the under-16. Strong defensive rebound of an Evans’ miss at 11:45.
Weak, telegraphed pass off the screen and pop game is stolen at 10:29. Back in out of the under-8.
Overall: 1 point, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 13 minutes. Stats don’t say much, but I loved Paul’s effort this game. Only got 2 shots, but didn’t force anything too difficult, which has been a problem all year long. Paul’s willingness to play a patient game in the first half (when Richardson mostly sat with two fouls) was crucial in allowing the Illini to slowly break down the Badgers with a methodical yet crisp offense that was hitting everything.
● Tyler Griffey: In out of the under-16 for Tisdale. Good closeout on 14:49 on a missed Nankivil three. Gets burned by Leuer at 13:55, who beats him off the dribble from the perimeter and scores a layup, plus the foul on Griffey. Lavin called that some NBA continuation. Leuer misses the free throw, and Griffey does a great job of boxing out and getting the rebound. Illinois leads 11-5. A bit late to help Tisdale at 12:46, as Leuer beats him baseline, hits a one-handed push shot and gets the foul. Griffey is replaced by Davis and Leuer hits the free throw to cut the ILL lead to 11-8.
In at 10:09 of the second half for Tisdale, who has three fouls. A bit slow to closeout on Nankivil jumper off an inbounds play at 10:06, thus cutting the Illini lead to 41-28. Gets quickly replaced by Tisdale at 9:51.
Overall: 1 rebound, 2 fouls in 3 minutes. A bit overmatched defensively, though Griffey would step up his game big time some 24 hours later.
● Jeff Jordan: In at 12:46 for Richardson.
In out of the under-4 for Paul. Catches a break at 3:12 as Hughes gets into the lane and misses a layup.
In at 38 seconds of the second half (for defensive purposes for Tisdale).
Great job coming up with an errant McCamey pass that Cole couldn’t handle with 24.2 seconds left. Got fouled on the play by Hughes, who is gone after going on a 9-0 run. With his Dad watching in his luxury suite, Jordan hits one of two free throws to put Illinois up 57-54.
Overall: 1 huge point and 1 assist in 7 minutes. May have saved his game when he recovered a loose ball off Cole’s hands with 24 seconds left and Wisconsin only down two, and then hit a huge free throw to put Illinois up three.
● Dominique Keller: In at 10:52 for Tisdale. Fouls Hughes on a driving layup at 10:42; was slow to help there. Hughes misses the first free throw and hits the second to cut the Illini lead to 14-9. Gets pulled between the first and second free throw. Goes to the bench and sits down, where Weber comes next to him with his clipboard, trying to explain something. Keller doesn’t even turn his ahead or move away, and Weber walks away disgusted. No time to waste on such attitude today. Keller will not play the rest of the day.
Overall: Disappointing leadership from the senior when Illinois needed him the most. With that said, has mostly been a great kid at Illinois. He made a mistake and would pay for it in this game and the Ohio State game. Weber wouldn’t hold any grudges, playing Keller some good minutes in the NIT. One moment shouldn’t be our memory of Keller, who had a difficult senior season but was a pleasant surprise as a junior-college transfer the season before.
● Bruce Weber: Great start for the Illini, leading 9-3 at the under-16. The Illini are sharp, hitting 4 of its first 5 and really running the offense through the McCamey-Tisdale pick and pop game. Defensively, the Illini are really pushing the Badgers a bit more out than usual and playing with great intensity throughout the 35-second shot clock. Wisconsin is a brutal 1-for-9 from the field, though Illinois has given up 2 offensive boards. With that said, couldn’t have asked for much of a better start from the Illini, which looked focused.
Illinois leads 11-8 at the under-12. Illinois with 4 turnovers in that segment, which limited the Illini’s ability to run any good offense. All of Wisconsin’s points came from Leuer, who muscled in two shots (plus two fouls on Griffey). Leuer is a really tough matchup for all of the Illinois big men. Illinois must do a better job of protecting the ball and boxing out as the Badgers have 4 offensive boards but are just hitting at a 20% clip from the field.
Illinois leads 19-12 at the under-8. A really good segment for the Illini, which are shooting a blistering 80% (8-for-10) from the field. Patient offense marked by good movement for the Illini. Absolutely great focus thus far. Love the way Tisdale and Davis are playing on both ends, doing a lot of little things well, and McCamey is orchestrating a great show. Defensively, Illinois is really locking down, forcing the Badgers into some difficult shots. Besides Leuer (who is 3-for-6), Wisconsin is 1-for-16 from the field. Everyone in this game has gone perfect for the Illini, with the exception of Keller’s pouting on the sideline and Griffey and Richardson both having two fouls.
Illinois leads 25-16 at the under-4. Lavin makes a great point: this game is the exact opposite of the game on Sunday, when Wisconsin’s methodical/patient yet effective offense was clicking against the Illini. Illinois is doing a fantastic job of running crisp offense and thinking out there, with Tisdale and Davis playing as good together as I’ve seen in a long time. Give a lot of credit to McCamey, who is doing fantastic job of orchestrating the offense. If it wasn’t for Leuer’s 11 points, Wisconsin would be in big trouble. Illinois needs to finish the half strong. One key stat: Illinois with 8 fouls, Wisconsin with 3. Illinois can’t let the Badgers back in this game with cheap fouls.
Illinois take a :30 second timeout at 2:27, leading 27-18 after Cole got on the floor for a loose ball and drew a foul on Wilson. Illinois is shooting 67% and playing like the aggressor so far.
Illinois leads 29-20 at the break. The Illini are 13-20 from the field. McCamey (10 points), Tisdale (9) and Davis (6) have all been efficient with their shot taking and making. Responding from his altercation with Weber in the Big Ten season finale, McCamey has played a great game in terms of being a floor leader, while also logging 20 minutes in the first half. With the exception of Leuer, Wisconsin has hit 2 shots as a team and shot 18%. Hughes was 0-for-8, and the Badgers were 5-for-10 from the free throw line. Illinois with great intensity on both ends of the floor. This may have been the team’s most complete half on both ends of the floor all season long. Picked a perfect time to play its best. Got to do it for another 20 minutes. Illinois did have 9 turnovers, but Wisconsin only had 3 points off of them. Illinois must cut down those mistakes.
Illinois leads 36-26 at the much delayed under-16, at 12:50. Both teams came out choppy to start the half, with a Richardson three at 16 minutes the first basket of the second half. Both teams had field goal droughts of more than 6 minutes at that point (dating back to the first half). Illinois led 34-20 after the Richardson three, which prompted a Badger :30 second timeout and subsequent 6-2 spurt. O’Brien notes how you get the feeling that the tide is turning in favor of Wisconsin at this point. Anyways, both teams are taking some quick shots. Lavin notes how the Illini have failed to take advantage of the Wisconsin drought and really extend the lead early in the second half. He also said before the mini Wisconsin run that this has been as bad of a game from a Bo Ryan team that he can remember. Illinois leads by 10, but it feels tenuous, especially when considering that Hughes and Bohannon have combined to go 0-for-15 thus far.
Illinois leads 41-26 at the under-12 as Tisdale has gone on a mini 5-0 run to give Illinois its biggest lead of the night. Tisdale has been huge thus far, with 16 points and a 2-for-3 mark from behind the arcs. The Badgers are frigid, as evident in Hughes and Bohannon, who combined for 27.4 points per game in the regular season but have just 2 total points tonight. Time for Illinois to put this game away.
Illinois leads 43-30 at the under-8. Tisdale has been the great equalizer, hitting some big shots just when it looked like Wisconsin was going to make a run. The Badgers have shown some life but can’t hit a shot and have been a step slow all night. Illinois hasn’t been great in the second half in terms of its offense (with the exception of Tisdale), so it will be important that the Illini don’t put this game on ice as Lavin says (i.e. get too conservative and stop attacking). With that said, Illinois is in a great position here. Got to finish off the struggling Badgers.
Illinois leads 46-33 with 4:53 left, with Ryan taking a timeout after Taylor stole the ball from Tisdale and drew a foul on the floor. Illinois should be feeling good about where’s it at but must keep playing hard as Wisconsin is not going to quit. Bo is likely telling his Wisconsin team that it’s still in this game. They sure are, as Bohannon hits a three off the inbounds play and Ryan takes another timeout, with Illinois’ lead now down to 46-36. Ryan extending this game as long as possible with the timeouts. Wisconsin has 2 timeouts left; Illinois with 3.
OK. Illinois better wake up offensively here at the under-4, with the Badgers having cut the lead to 46-38 with 3:19 to go. Illinois hasn’t scored in 3:30, since a Richardson three put the Illini up 46-30. Wisconsin is on an 8-0 run, and you can tell that the Badgers are starting to get some energy here. Illinois’ offense has been way too conservative and not aggressive enough in the last couple of minutes, and the Illini are getting bad shots at the end of the shot clock (i.e. impossible threes). Wisconsin has picked up the defensive intensity; it’s time for the Illini to buckle down here or everything that they’ve worked for in this game could be for naught.
Illinois calls a timeout at 1:56 as Tisdale was caught with the ball on the perimeter after picking up his dribble. Illinois leads 49-38 after a huge McCamey three on the possession before. Two seconds later, at 1:54, Illinois will take another timeout after it couldn’t get the ball inbounded.
Wisconsin takes a timeout at 1:44, after a Hughes three cuts the Illinois lead to 50-41. Ryan takes his last timeout at 1:31 after a Nankivil three cuts the Illini lead to 51-44. Illinois has split two one and one’s thus far and needs to apply a little more pressure as Wisconsin brings the ball up. Illinois is letting Wisconsin basically dribble to its three-point line. Illinois burns its last timeout at 1:31, failing to get the ball inbounds. Illinois catches a break at 1:27, as Tisdale apparently gets tied up, but an overruling ref says there was a foul on the play. Tisdale will miss the front end of the one and one and Hughes will hit a three.
Illinois will hold on to win 58-54 as Hughes went on an incredible 9-0 run from three to cut the Illinois deficit to two with 30.1 seconds left. Illinois got a bit lucky as Cole coughed up the ball once and nearly a second time, and the Illini did a poor job against the press, getting trapped in the corner. Too Wisconsin’s credit, the Badgers didn’t quit, with Hughes going off and hitting some ridiculous threes late. While it wasn’t pretty late, Illinois did just enough at the line to secure the must win.
Overall: Give a lot of credit to Bruce Weber on this night. Just when his team looked dead, Weber’s Illini came out playing a masterful first half (with the exception of 9 turnovers). Illinois really ran the pick and pop game with Tisdale to perfection, and Weber’s teams look so good when hitting shots. Illinois wasn’t good in the second half in terms of execution, and the final minutes were a bit scary, but the Illini were prepared. If there’s one thing that Weber critics must realize, it’s this: just when the Illini seem down and out, they usually come out of nowhere to play great. See the run in the 2008 Big Ten Tournament. Illinois may have been a bit too conservative at times in the second half, but overall, this was a wonderfully executed and patient game. Illinois got outshot 63 to 40, but made the most of its opportunities. Weber really appealed to his team to be tough, and it showed on the defensive end, where the Illini played with its best determination all year in my opinion. Any way you slice it, beating Bo Ryan and Wisconsin 2 out of 3 times in one season is never easy, and is a credit to Weber, who really utilized Tisdale’s shooting ability well in three games against the more physical Badgers.
Overall: Illinois hangs on to win 58-54 despite Wisconsin hitting 5 threes in the final two minutes to cut a double-digit game to 2. In maybe his most frustrating season at Illinois, Weber got his team to play with some urgency and toughness when it mattered most. It certainly helps that the Illini shot 65% in the first half and 52.5% in the game. And that Wisconsin was a frigid 28.6% from the field for the game, even after getting ridiculously hot in the final 2 minutes. Another key stat: Illinois took care of the boards, getting 40 rebounds to 33 for the Badgers. All in all, a determined, focused and tough effort for the Illini in its biggest game of the year.
Player of the Game: Mike Tisdale
Play of the Game: After an incredible Hughes’ three cut the game to 56-54 with 30.1 seconds left, Illinois’ Jeff Jordan came up with a loose ball off Bill Cole’s hands amidst the Wisconsin press at 24 seconds. If Jordan loses that ball, I’m certain that Wisconsin comes back to tie or take a lead with a three on the next possession. Thankfully, Jordan came up with the loose ball, got fouled by Hughes (who was disqualified on the play) and hit one of two free throws to put Illinois up three. The Illini would force a difficult Badgers’ three on the next possession and hold on for the win.
Some Things I Liked:
● Weber having this unpredictable team prepared with the season on the line.
● Tisdale having a huge game from the outside in the effective screen and pop game. Not only was Tisdale efficient from the field, he was also tough down low on the defensive end.
● McCamey doing a great job of running a patient, methodical yet highly efficient offense for most of the game.
● Davis taking advantage of his limited offensive touches and playing on both ends, ultimately making Leuer earn his points while grabbing some tough rebounds.
● Illinois playing with great defensive energy, extending the Illini defense for most of the game.
● Role players like Jeff Jordan and Brandon Paul doing some little things well.
● D.J. Richardson hitting some opportune threes.
● Illinois holding on and getting the win any way possible when a loss wasn’t an option.
Some Things I Disliked:
● Not much to criticize when winning this game. The only things I’ll note are the following: Illinois’ offense was a bit too conservative late in the game, the Illini allowed Wisconsin to get the ball up court way too easy during the comeback, and Illinois was not that sharp against the Badger pressure.
With that said, there’s no reason to complain after this win, a great job by Weber and his kids.
I couldn’t find any embeddable YouTube highlights of this game, but this will suffice.
Well, that’s it for another Illini Tale of the Tape.
Up next, the Big Ten semifinal classic against Ohio State.
Topics: 2010 Big Ten Tournament, 2010 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals, Bill Cole, Bo Ryan, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, Conseco Field House, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Dominique Keller, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Jason Bohannon, Jeff Jordan, Jeffrey Jordan, Jon Leuer, Jordan Taylor, Keaton Nankivil, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Rob Wilson, Ryan Evans, Trevon Hughes, Tyler Griffey, U-of-I Basketball, University Of Illinois, Wisconsin Badgers, Wisconsin Basketball