Saturday, March 04, 2006

Brown Delivers Orange to Breslin

BIG WIN over SPARTY today at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI. WOW - how good are the ILLINI right now? Who's playing better ball? We've won 5 of our last 6 including two big road wins this week over Minnesota and Michigan State. Today's win over SPARTY was HUGE!

Pruitt is looking more like a Junior than a Sophomore after scoring 12 big points. Smith and Frazier are both playing like seasoned sophomores instead of freshmen. James and Brian didn't have great games today, but both played awesome defense against a very explosive Michigan State squad. Richie had a very clutch 12 points as well. After all, it was their season finale at home on Senior Day for Ager and Davis. It doesn't get much tougher or bigger than that. Michigan State is 111-9 at home over their last 120 games inside the Breslin Center. This is only their 2nd home loss of the season.

But, in the end, the ORANGE prevailed with a 75-68 win. Really, it was all about Dee Brown delivering 4 monster three - pointers to open - up the 2nd half. He was unstoppable for about 10 minutes in the last half. It looks like he's starting to find his pure stroke, and none too soon in my opinion. Dee was the leader of the ILLINI in the 2nd half, on offense and defense. He had 16 big points in the last 20 minutes, mostly from behind the arc. It was also good to see ILLINOIS hit their free throws down the stretch in a hostile environment. We were 15 -18 from the charity line (84%). YES! That was very big. We've only been shooting 65% for the season.

This was really a tale of two halves after the ILLINI were denied the half-time lead on a questionable call which went against them. Jamar looked like he had a clutch two points as time expired. But the men in stripes reversed the call at halftime to give the SPARTY a 1-point lead after the opening twenty minutes. In the 2nd stanza, it was all ILLINOIS behind the shooting over Mr. Brown. Yes, Brown delivered today. Is their a more explosive player in the land? Show me. He's our MVP.

Michigan State ended up at 46% from the field for the game after shooting near 60% in the first half. Wow, what a defense stand in the 2nd half. I bet Izzo will be glad to see Dee go to the pros next year. He has been an SPARTAN killer over the past 4 years. ILLINOIS has now won 5 in a row over the men from East Lansing. We have their number. With today's big win, we're now 4-4 on the road in conference play. We could easily be 6-2 were it not for two hard losses at Indiana and at Michigan last week.

ILLINOIS looks to be in agood shape heading into the CONFERENCE TOURNEY next week in Indianapolis (site of the Final Four, hmmmm!). Ohio State shouldl win the regular season title since they host Purdue today. But, give it up for the boys from Champaign. With their play over the past two weeks they've earned a #2 seed in the BIG DANCE, in my opinion. And who knows? If they win their next three games that could change, as BIG 10 Tourney Champs. They could land a #1 seed. Right now, nobody is a LOCK for a #1. Two much good b-ball remains with those conference tourney games. Anything can happen in March. It is that special time of year. But for now, the ILLINI NATION is enjoying a great victory to close the regular season. What a brilliant conference race to the end (ILL now 11-5 overall in the BIG - 10).

My Top 10 (as of Saturday Night 03/03) - you tell me what makes more sense (answer - nothing - send me your comments, go ahead):

1) Uconn
2) Nova
3) Ohio State
4) Duke
6) Memphis
7) Gonzaga
9) Texas
10) Carolina (Tar Heels)

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