Saturday, March 18, 2006

The End is Here - Too Many Gifts....in San Diego.



We did our best to lose this game today - and succeeded (67-64, DAWGS from Seattle). Sure the pooches are worthy opponents; but when you're up 11 with 10 minutes to go in an NCAA Tourney game - you're are expected to finish. This is probably worse than the Penn State loss in the Hall. We just gave it away at the charity stripe tonight. The DAWGS from Seattle went there almost 40 times (making 28 while we only attempted 11 the entire game, come on!). I think they're going to re-stripe it with some fresh paint later tonight. The Huskies wore it out tonight.

Ugh! This one hurt. But, when I look back at it, the loss today really was a micro-cosm of the entire season. Big lapses and big big runs - only to let it get away down the stretch. We've been having trouble finishing games all season. Tonight was another example. You gotta finish. U just gotta. We had our chances and just didn't capitalize. We left a lot of points on the court tonight. I can still hear some of the clanks ringing in the background.

Another dark day for the ILLINI nation. Yes, indeed. I will be in mourning for the next 25 days. Sure, this wasn't totally unexpected. I knew the 2nd-round game would be tough either way. But, to GIVE IT AWAY like we did tonight in San Diego is almost a crime. We deserve to be bounced - out. UCONN would have just emabarrassed us in DC next weekend. Yes, we held the DAWGS under 40% from the field. Yes, Dee and James at 15 and 19 points, respectively. But, we only shot 40% for the game - 26% from behind the ARC on 5-19. Yikes, not good. Where was Jamar (1 for 7 from the field missing all of his three pointers - including some open looks)? Where were those threes from Thursday night? Ugh - nasty loss. This one is going to stink in my mouth for the whole off-season. Give me some Listerine already. At least last year we were robbed by the officials. Nothing we could do against Carolina in the title game (the fix was in last year). But tonight, the loss was all on us. We just didn't execute down the stretch.

We should have been more aggressive moving under the 10-minute mark. Why did we go into clock management when our interior scoring was so good to open the 2nd half? The DAWGS couldn't stop our fast break or post play all night. You don't burn clock up only 11 against the DAWGS, or anybody else. You finish. You keep scoring, especially when your opponent is in the double bonus with 10 minutes to go. Ugh!. Sure, the officiating sucked in the 2nd half. Way too many nickle-dimers for my liking. Sorry Mike, I'm a BIG-10 guys who likes aggressive play and strong defense. Let 'em play guys. Let 'em play.

The BIG - 10 has been a disappointment in the tourney this year. For such a 'power league' known for beating up on each other, to win only three first-round games and none in the 2nd round so far, is a joke. We were definitely overrated as the nation's #1 RPI conference all season. I have no love for the RPI. Down with the RPI. No more RPI. Good riddens. It should go the way of the BCS in my opinion. What a joke. Out of 8 games, to walk away with only 3 wins is a travesty. Only Ohio State remains; and they get Georgetown today - no gimmie there.

I had my concerns heading into the big dance this year. As a conference, we just weren't shooting or scoring like the other leagues, especially down the stretch during crunch time. Illinois was a good example of that today. We went into 'keep-away mode' way too early, in my opinion. There is a difference in how a team plays to win and plays not to lose. We demonstrated that beautifully tonight. NCAA champion-ship ball is about sustaining instensity and execution for 40 minutes, plus. We failed to learn that again this year, only really playing for 10 minutes to close the 1st half and then again to open the 2nd half. Huge lapses really cost us today and all year. This is a fitting end in so many ways.

We out-fouled the DAWGS 28-17, way to go guys - yes. Nothing like playing 'lazy' defense with the feet. In falling behind 28-14, we missed our first 21 of 25 shots. Yes, excellence is contagious. It was a classic ILLINOIS/BIG-10 implosion. We hit the skids with 10 minutes to go and threw-in turnovers and fouls to boot. Yes, this will be a long off- season in Champaign. I just hope we make the BIG DANCE next year. Will we be worthy of another at-large invite? I don't see us winning the BIG-10 conference our tourney!

The blog is done for 2006. See you in September. Or in 25 days........

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