Any time Indiana and Illinois play, there’s enough juicy stuff to fill the blogosphere. But in honor of Illinois’ first 3-0 Big Ten start since 2004-05, we’ll stick with three as our magic number.
1. MCCAMEY VS. WEBER, PART ELEVENTY-SIX
I addressed this a bit in my game story for Illinois’ 66-60 comeback victory at Indiana on Saturday night...though I feel like I mention it every time I create a Word file to write about Illini hoops.
Once again, Saturday's game made clear that this program rises and falls as Demetri McCamey responds and retreats from Bruce Weber’s entreaties.
Since Weber removed him from the starting lineup two games ago, McCamey has played a team-high 65 minutes. He has scored 28 points, handed out 16 assists, committed 1 turnover and been a huge asset in Illinois’ wins over Iowa and Indiana. He looked like an all-Big Ten player during the second half against IU.
But has McCamey proven anything to Weber? Not yet. Here’s B-Web’s postgame take on his admitted best player.
“I told him today, until he shows me that he’s going to come back every day and give us a great effort on the defensive end, leadership and that -- I’m not going to start him until he does it.
“He played a good game against Iowa the other night and he came back to practice and he was casual again. We’re not going to be good if he’s casual. And he’s got to learn that.”
McCamey, somewhat understandably, thinks the game results speak for themselves.
“I’m just going to keep doing the same thing I’m doing. I’m playing hard and accounting for my teammates. And making sure Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis (know) that I’m feeding them the ball. I’m a team player and my players are happy with me and I’m going to continue to do the same thing.”
2. LOTS OF FREE THROWS BY ILLINOIS. NO, REALLY.
As Mike Tisdale and Demetri McCamey took turns taking pilgrimages to the free-throw line, we started to wonder whether they was the high-water mark of the Weber era.
Illinois wound up making 27 of 39 free throws compared to Indiana’s 10 of 18. The Illini hadn’t taken and made so many free throws since Feb. 2, 2008 in a physical 83-75 home loss to Purdue. That’s a stretch of 62 games.
Indiana coach Tom Crean, who appeared to have a Jagger-esque strut as he worked the sideline, did a semantics dance afterward when asked about the difference in free throws.
“We didn’t earn it, I guess that’s the only way I can look at it,” he said. “I think when there’s a situation at the foul line, it’s hard for me to fathom a 21-foul shot difference in a game of that nature.”
Mike Tisdale (career highs of 13 FTs and 14 FTAs) drew endless fouls in the post from 6-9 freshman Bobby Capobianco and sophomore Tom Pritchard. I’m not going to say they weren’t fouls (Tisdale said afterward his back is all marked up from where they nudged him with hands and knees), but there aren’t many Big Ten games where the officials call multiple fouls before the entry pass reached the post.
McCamey, by the way, shot a career-high 16 free throws and tied his record with 11 makes.
3. SIX THINGS YOU CAN SAY AT IU
As Big Ten schools have realized in recent years that they can make big coin selling seats on the floor -- the seats where the press used to sit -- it has required the media to be squeezed in elsewhere in the gym.
I’m not complaining here. Just stating a fact. If I were an athletic director, I’d do whatever I could to improve revenues. In any case, this leads to some intriguing vantage points, but nowhere more than at Indiana.
If you watched Illinois’ win at Indiana on Saturday night, then you saw the Illini bench on the far side of the floor and on the left side of your screen.
Our seats were essentially on the far side of the floor even further to the left of the Illini bench. In the corner of that end zone, if you will. That placed us in the firing line between some Indiana students and the Illini bench.
Let’s just say the IU students don’t have much love for Illinois coach Bruce Weber. And his assistants. And his players. And his student managers. Most of the screaming was straight out of the late George Carlin’s playbook (Though I must say, it was worse two years ago when Illinois made its lone visit to face Eric Gordon's IU team).
“Oh, yeah, I could hear them as clear as day,” said senior forward Dominique Keller, who spent 33 of the game’s 40 minutes on the bench. “I’m just sitting there laughing. ‘(Blank) you, Weber. (Blank) you, Illinois.’ They were up like 12 or 14 at one point and I was, ‘Wow, why are you chanting that? You’re up.’ I guess some people just don’t have anything better to do.”
I was surprised to learn there was a line the students couldn’t cross. At one point, when a dude yelled a slur questioning Weber's sexual orientation, a uniformed Indiana University policeman motioned for the kid to come down the stairs and be judged.
“What’s up?” the student said as if oblivious. The policeman gave him a quick scolding and allowed him to return to his bleacher seat.
For all I know, this happens at every Big Ten arena and we’re not close enough to hear the abuse at other joints. Maybe the players and coaches have, sadly, come to expect it. Or, perhaps, it’s an IU-UI thing and maybe there’ll be payback when Indiana visits Illinois on Jan. 30.
All I know for sure: The Illini and their small band of fans behind the bench felt extra-good as the final seconds ticked off the clock.