It’s not easy being Dee

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By Lisa Koulias

He’s the loudest one on the team.

Some call him the poster child of Illinois basketball.

But even as he leads the No. 1 Illini in a quest for an undefeated season, life isn’t easy for Dee Brown.

With every move and every shot, the junior guard is always under the microscope.

“I think everyone expects too much out of him,” said Illinois head coach Bruce Weber. “I tell him all the time, ‘It’s hard to be Dee Brown; it’s hard to live up to being Dee Brown.’

“He’s created this image; he’s created this energy level. And if he’s not up to that energy level, everyone notices it. So we live off of that.”

But even though it might not be easy to be Brown, he is sure making it look like fun.

Brown finished Wednesday night’s game with 20 points in 26 minutes of play. He was 6-for-8 from behind the arc. Brown rose to third all-time on the career three-pointers made list. He has 194 in his career.

Seventeen of Brown’s 20 points came in the first half. He came out strong, scoring 12 points in the first 10:01 of the game. He then added a layup on the next possession for 14 points in the first 10:25.

“I got two open looks early,” Brown said. “After I hit my first two, my confidence kept building, and I thought I could shoot anywhere, with whoever in front of me. And these guys got me the ball.”

Wednesday’s game marked his second 20-point game of the season and the 11th of his career.

“He’s our energy, we live off of him,” Weber said.

Northwestern’s coach Bill Carmody is impressed with the progress Brown has made since his freshman year at Illinois.

“Dee Brown came into this league as a slasher; he wasn’t much of a shooter. I mean, that was the scouting report on him a couple years ago,” Carmody said. “Now two-thirds of the shots Dee Brown takes are three-point shots. He’s expanded his game.”

Dishing them out

Roger Powell Jr. was honored before the game for 1,000 career points, a feat he accomplished earlier in the season.

But during Wednesday’s game, Powell Jr. added another accomplishment to his list – he recorded his first assist of the Big Ten season.

“(My teammates) made me aware of it,” Powell Jr. said after the game, laughing. “My goal is to get more assists than Dee, Deron (Williams) and Luther (Head) one game.

“It’s good. Usually they are feeding me the ball, and it was good to get a couple of assists in there.”

Powell Jr.’s first assist came six minutes into the second half when he kicked the ball out to Head, who sunk a three.

He picked up his second assist on a feed to Jack Ingram, who finished the play with a dunk.

“He was pretty happy,” Weber said. “I didn’t realize it, but when you guys mentioned it I went and looked at the stat sheet and there it was, a big goose egg.

“Then it got out around the locker room. He’s had to take a lot of grief. He’s been trying to take credit when he gets assists in practice. He calls it half an assist.”

Just like regular college kids

The Illini will get a weekend off as they don’t play again until next Thursday.

“It’s going to feel nice,” Head said. “We are just going to try to rest up and come back strong.”

Weber said earlier in the week that even if his team wasn’t playing as well as they are, he still would have given the team a break.

“I know they were excited when I told them they had the whole weekend off,” Weber said. “They can be a real college student for a weekend.”

Fire up the grill

Aside from their usual orange attire, the Orange Krush sported a new look at Wednesday’s game – orange Weber Grill aprons.

“Weber Grill donated 500 aprons and $1,000 to the Krush Foundation, which all goes to charity, for today’s game,” said Orange Krush chairperson Erin Stites.

The aprons were handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis to Orange Krush members. Stites said they started handing out the aprons around 2 p.m. and ran out around 4 or 5 p.m.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Weber said. “The Krush loved them so it was good.”

Quote of the game

“They’ve handled everything that is out there. If they aren’t the best team, then it is a lot worse for us.”

– Northwestern coach Bill Carmody on whether Illinois is the No. 1 team