Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The ILLINI looked pretty good tonight against a weaker Missouri squad. Honestly, this one was a little bit of a surprise given the nature of this rivalry (BUSCH BRAGGIN' RIGHTS and the border war). Dee and James were too much for the men from Columbia, Missouri. With 6 wins in a row over the tigers, the #6 - ranked ILLINI take their game into BIG-10 play looking like a top - team to beat.
This was the biggest margin of victory in the 25-year clash for braggin' rights. And, it wasn't just about Dee hitting the 3-ball or James down low. Randle had 12 points and Jamar Smith added many more from downtown. It was a balanced attack of low-post and perimeter with a little run and gun to throw in the mix. At 12-0, we're in good shape, but there is more work to do to get better, especially from the free-throw line. We can also improve in the half-court game, from say 8-12 feet.
I'm going to the SE Missouri State game in Champaign next Wednesday night (12/28). That should be a spectacle of ~ 16K Orange Krush faithful.
BIG - 10 play starts on 1/5 at home against the SPARTY. Then we travel to IOWA CITY to face the HAWKEYES on 1/7. We get Michigan at home on 1/14 before a road game in Bloomington against the Hoosiers. That will be a tough stretch where we need to go at least 2-2 as we defend the home court.
But for now, we're 50 for our last 51 including a few big blowouts of late. The team looks balanced and relaxed - having fun in the process. Nobody gets more out of his players than Bruce Weber - even when the talent isn't quite all there.