Readying for the rebound

By Courtney Linehan

Bruce Weber’s Illini have had a tough week. With no classes to fill their days and no midweek games to occupy the nights, the Illini have had plenty of time to ponder what went wrong in last Saturday’s loss at Iowa.

As Illinois (15-1, 1-1) fell out of the undefeated ranks and dropped a spot to No. 7 in The Associated Press national rankings, Weber hopes his team has taken time to figure out just what went wrong – and what it will focus on fixing.

“The coaches aren’t happy,” Weber said. “I hope (the players) are not happy.”

Illinois has a chance to redeem itself as the Michigan Wolverines head to the Assembly Hall for a 3:30 Saturday matchup. Winning the game will mean maintaining the team’s home winning streak and rebuilding a winning conference record.

But Weber warns it won’t be as easy as he’d like. He says there’s plenty of little weaknesses that Illinois needs to correct before opponents begin to exploit them.

“We’ve got to make some strides on some things or we’re going to have a lot of unhappy moments over the next 14 games,” Weber said. “They’re little things that are correctable, but I think that our staff is worried about what hasn’t changed.”

One change may be more of point guards Dee Brown and Chester Frazier playing together. Once the Illini are able to iron out who controls the ball when both are on the floor, Weber expects the complimentary players could help Illinois’ transition game.

Weber’s also looking to see improved movement from forward Brian Randle, quicker breaks down the floor from Rich McBride and Jamar Smith and better posting up from the entire frontcourt.

The Wolverines have gone two weeks without a game, which Weber worries could make them rested and ready to play. While Michigan won its last contest and Illinois lost its, Weber said both were “very unmotivated games.” He hopes that puts them on an even mental playing field.

In watching Michigan, Weber says he’s noticed moments when the team has shined and times when its effort seemed to lag.

“For them it’s consistency,” Weber said. “To be productive every time.”

But the Illini hope to be the productive ones Saturday. After last week’s ugly loss, Weber thinks the team is ready to recover.

“Our weaknesses all came out,” Weber said. “We’ve just got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”