Illini Wonk
Monday, January 23, 2006
  Illini Win one on the Road
The Illinois Fighting Illini got their first road win in Evanston on Saturday, by beating Northwestern 58-47. It was the tale of two halves...well the first 25 minutes and the last Illinois raced out to a 26-point lead and then coasted to an 11-point win.

Tim Cronin from the Daily Southtown called it an Ugly Victory for Illinois. In a rare double-entendre from Herb Gould (or the headline writer for the Sun-Times) the Illini survive sloppy 2nd (in case there are any Indiana fans reading this blog, you might want to go to Wikipedia for the definition of double-entendre).

How did the Illini get it done? According to John Brumbaugh, they did it with Dee and Defense. He points out that the Illini posted an offensive efficiency of 98.24 and a defensive efficiency of 79.61. Dee Brown led the Illini in points (18), assists (8), steals (2) and minutes played (40, tied with James Augustine). As Carol Slezak put it elsewhere in the Sun-Times, One gun hits, other fires blanks. The first gun refers to Brown and the second to Vedran Vukusic, the leading scorer for the Wildcats and in the Big Ten.

Vukusic entered the contest averaging 20.9 points per game and the Illini held him to five on 1-14 shooting. A small post-game debate broke out over whether that had more to do with Vukusic or Augustine, who drew the defensive assignment. Those subscribing to the Vukusic theory were, well, Vukusic and his coach Bill Carmody. Those who thought that it was more Augustine included the afore-mentioned Brumbaugh, along with the Chicago Tribune's Terry Bannon, who said Augustine excelled on defense. Scout's Coach Ray wrote that Augustine put on a clinic on how to shut the Big Cat down. In Scott Duncan's article for the Daily Northwestern Vukusic was Hounded by Illinois’ James Augustine. Coach Bruce Weber agreed, saying Augustine should feel good about what he did on Vedran.

So, to recap. Bill Carmody and Vedran Vukusic believes that the latter's five points are mostly the result of his bad shooting. Taking the opposing viewpoint are Bruce Weber, John Brumbaugh, Terry Bannon, Coach Ray and Scott Duncan. Wait a minute. In another article, Carmody did give Augustine some credit, saying He's a lefty and he contested a lot of Vedran's shots.

Regardless of who stopped who, the Illini posted their first road win in three tries and the Illini will take it, says Bill Liesse of the Peoria Journal Star. More importantly, it keeps them in the hunt for a conference title. According to the Adjusted Big Ten Standings, no team in the Big Ten has more than one road win and the only team with a road win against a team in the top half of the conference is Michigan State who won at Ohio State. The win also kept Illinois Seventh in the latest AP Poll.

Next for the Illini is a home game against the Minnesota Gophers, who are winless in conference play after five tries.
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