Saturday, February 24, 2007
Sure, the win today against Penn State in Bryce Jordan wasn't worth as much as a loss would have hurt us, but a win on the road in the BIG-10 is nothing to sneeze at. Under the leadership of Shaun Pruitt and his inside scoring today, we earned our 3rd BIG -10 road win of the season (Minnesota, NW, and Penn State). We're in the DANCE - or at leat should be. At 21-9 on the season, and 9-6 in conference play, I like the direction this team is headed as we get ready to turn the page to March (8 of our last 11). This will look good to the tourney committe, an 18 point victory, 68-50 ILLINI.
That being said, we can't choke down the stretch. The BIG-10 race is quite the mess this year when you get deeper than Ohio State and Wisconsin. A first-round tourney loss won't help our chances much either. I still argue that nobody plays better defense in the conference and quite possibly in the nation than the ILLINI. Defense has carried us all season through some pretty difficult times. We hold teams down on the road and in their own house. Another example today, Penn State only shot 41% today from the field, 35% from behind the arc.
I also like the way Frazier and McBride are playing of late. Chester has really stepped us his scoring and floor leadership over the past three months. He's not there yet, but is on his way to becoming the team leader as a sophomore. I still would like to see a little better shot selection and half-court strategy on his part. Additionally, he has to improve his foul shooting. McBride has been strokin' it from way behind the arc for the past month, shooting 41% from downtown. The play of these two guys is going to be key for us with the loss of Smith last week.
So where do we go from here, besides the courtroom? Hopefully, all of the bad news is behind us. But, you never can tell for sure. We've definitely had our troubles on and off the court this season. Up next is Iowa on the road in Iowa City. That is going to be a stiff challenge with Alford at the helm. More good news, we don't play them until 03/03. What's really haunting me right now are the two road losses against SPARTY and Indiana. Oh, those would have been two awesome resume' enhancers.
Finally, thoughts and prayers go out to the Smith and Carlwell families. Both have some long roads ahead of them. Here's hoping Jamar can get his life back under control again. It would be quite inspiration to get Brian back on the bench again for the BIG DANCE. Sometimes it takes a little adversity to bring a team together. Maybe there will be a silver lining in this difficult time after all is said and done. Either way, kudos to the way Bruce is handling the entire situation. You really learn how good your coach is during difficult times. Weber is a good one. Hail to the Chief!