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Illinois Basketball 2010

 
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Illinois Fighting Illini vs North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball Recap

Illinois 79, North Carolina 67

 
In a game between two teams who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year, only one of them seems intent on getting back to the Big Dance. The Illinois Fighting Illini look like they’re ready to slip on some dancing shoes. However, the much bigger story that emerged from the final night of November is that the North Carolina Tar Heels are quickly headed on a collision course with a second straight NIT appearance if they don’t clean up their act with all due speed.

Yes, No.21 Illinois defeated North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Assembly Hall in Champaign on Tuesday. In a reunion of the two teams who contested the 2005 national championship game in St. Louis, this latest incarnation of North Carolina basketball showed no signs of greatness, no signs that it could even remotely approach the Tar Heels’ best teams, such as the one that prevailed over a then-undefeated Illinois club in the Edward Jones Dome on an April Monday five and a half years ago. 

Fighting Illini Apparel The last meeting between the Tar Heels and the Fighting Illini came later in 2005 in Chapel Hill, with the Illini winning 68-64 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Clearly, Illinois picked up where it left off and sent Carolina even deeper into crisis mode.

Returning to the present-tense moment and pulling away from 2005, a few keys emerged in very clear relief on Tuesday, as the 2010 Illini shored up their resume at the expense of Carolina. Strong defense on both boards by the Illini and sloppy ball handling by the Tar Heels (18 turnovers) were the story of the game. 

Illinois led for most of the first half, but UNC pulled within two with 1:37 left before trailing 37-30 at the break. It was as close as the Heels would be for the rest of the game.

Illinois’ Demetri McCamey had 12 points and 2 assists, followed by D.J. Richardson with 9 points and Jereme Richmond with 8 points.

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UNC’s backcourt of Larry Drew II and Dexter Strickland were scoreless in the first half with 3 turnovers. Drew’s highly questionable decision making in the open floor and the evident sluggishness of Carolina’s halfcourt sets have created a strong impression, just three weeks into the season, that the Tar Heels need a new floor leader. The Tar Heels won the 2009 national championship for many reasons, but their most indispensable player proved to be point guard Ty Lawson, a dynamo who relentlessly yet reliably got to the basket while distributing the ball to his teammates and knocking down shots when defenses sagged toward the paint to shut down Carolina’s big men. Drew isn’t giving coach Roy Williams any of those ingredients, and that’s why the Tar Heels are in such pronounced trouble at the very beginning of December. Pundits and fans alike are arriving at the conclusion that Drew can’t cut the mustard; Williams will have to make some important decisions – and ramp up his level of coaching – if this ballyhooed bunch of players is to make good on its promise and potential. Tuesday night’s outing, in which four players – Kendall Marshall, Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland, and Drew himself – committed at least three turnovers.

Illinois began the second half on an 8-2 run and led by nine or more points for the remainder of the game, leading by as many as 17 before winning by 12.

Five Illini finished in double figures, led by Mike Davis with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Demetri McCamey had 17 points and 8 assists; Mike Tisdale chipped in 14 points and 5 rebounds, while Jereme Richmond contributed 12 and 5. Guard D.J. Richardson participated in the fun for the victors by adding 11 points and rounding out the double-digit scoring for Illinois. Coach Bruce Weber, who has done a much better job than Williams has in terms of getting his team to mesh, does not have a finished product on his hands. However, after coaxing a solid effort from his ballclub and getting balanced production from his core performers, one can be reasonably confident about the Illini’s tournament hopes.

The same cannot be said for a North Carolina crew that’s in a heap of trouble at this early point in the college basketball season.

 

By Matt Zemek
BigTen-fans.com Correspondent

 

 

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