Illini out to salvage pride

Print Article

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — One way or another, the long, steep descent that has been Illinois’ basketball season will end soon.

The Illini (17-14, 6-12 Big Ten) have endured an agonizing streak — 11 losses in their last 13 games — since upsetting then-No. 5 Ohio State in early January. The losses may have already sealed the fate of their coach, Bruce Weber, who is expected to be fired when the season ends.

But Weber said Tuesday he hopes the Illini have at least one win left in them when they open the Big Ten tournament Thursday, if for no other reason than to ease their own misery.

“I don’t think people realize the toll it’s taken on our kids — their spirits, their mindset, their future,” he said.

“I would like them to have success, for their sake more than anything,” Weber added. “But you have to go earn it, you have to take it.”

If there is good news for ninth-seeded Illinois, it might be that they open against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes (16-15, 8-10) are the higher seed at No. 8 but were the last team Illinois beat, 65-54 on Feb. 26.

And if the Illini win there? They’ll get No. 1 seed Michigan State, a team that they’d likely rather not face. Of course, the Spartans — No. 8 in the AP Top 25 — are the other team that lost to Illinois over that long, awful stretch since Ohio State.

Weber recalled that his 2007-08 team — his only losing team in nine seasons at Illinois — went on a deep, unlikely run at the conference tournament. That team, which finished 16-19, won three games to get to the final before losing to Wisconsin.

“We did it in ‘08 with a group that probably wasn’t as talented a group,” he said.

Any chance of a repeat will require beating Iowa, and that will likely require stopping — or at least slowing — Matt Gatens.

The guard makes 42.9 percent of his 3-point shots and has averaged just over 23 points a game over his last five. Against Illinois, his hits included shots from several feet beyond the 3-point arc that came down and found nothing but net.

“When he shoots it,” Weber said, “you’re surprised when it hits the rim, to be honest.”

Illinois, in its win over the Hawkeyes, was happy to hold Gatens to 22. He had scored 30 and 33 in Iowa’s two previous games.

Against the Illini, Gatens faced solid defense from, at different times, four or five different Illinois players.

“Make him pass and make somebody else make a play,” Weber said.

Print Article

Read More Sports News

Bronx revives Yankees

October 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm | NEW YORK (AP) - Back in the Bronx, the big guys delivered. Greeted by an array of "All Rise" signs in a ballpark that fits their style, Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer and made a pair of sparkling...


Read More

UW offense looking for consistency

October 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm | MADISON, Wis. (AP) - No. 5 Wisconsin can look unstoppable at times with a punishing rushing attack and efficient passing game. Coach Paul Chryst is hoping to correct the long spurts of mistakes and ...


Read More

Attorney wants Pitino retained

October 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm | LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Rick Pitino's attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men's basketball program because his client "could not have known" ...


Read More

Maddon stands by decision

October 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm | CHICAGO (AP) - Cubs manager Joe Maddon stood by his decision not to use All-Star closer Wade Davis in Chicago's loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series and questioned ...


Read More

Contact Us

(608) 365-8811
149 State Street
Beloit, WI 53511

©2017 Beloit Daily News Terms of Use Privacy Policy