Emotions run high in close border bout



By David Just

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Bruce Weber and his players agreed that the Illini played their toughest and best game of the season, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome No. 10-ranked Indiana on its home court.

The Illini lost 62-58 in a game full of pushing, shoving, elbowing and even some trash talking.

Down 60-58 with eight seconds left in the game, senior forward Brian Randle threw up a highly contested three-pointer that Calvin Brock recovered and turned over. Trent Meacham fouled Indiana guard Armon Bassett in desperation, but the sophomore sunk both free throws and ended the Illini’s hopes.

A frustrated Weber was able to find some good in the loss, though.

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    “I think we understand how hard we have to play now,” he said. “We didn’t understand that (before). I think they’re into the team now and maybe not themselves. I just hope it’s not too late.”

    Tensions were visibly high between the two teams and coaches, and seeing freshman Eric Gordon score 17 points certainly didn’t make things any better.

    “Calvin did a great job (defending Gordon) and we never let him get into a rhythm,” said Weber of Gordon’s quiet 17-point performance, eight points of which were free throws. “We were gonna trap him every time he got the ball, but it didn’t do us any good. We’re 0-4.”

    Gordon was the game’s leading scorer, followed closely by senior teammate D.J. White, who added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Hoosiers. Indiana is now 14-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.

    Brian Randle played one of his most aggressive games for the Illini, tallying 10 rebounds and scoring nine points, second on the team behind Shaun Pruitt’s 14.

    The Illini (8-9, 0-4 Big Ten) were nearly 50 percent in field-goal shooting in the first half and made 5 of 6 free throws. The team went into the half with a 34-30 lead against a top 10 team but returned to the Illini of old in the second half, making just 8 of 15 free throws.

    “It seems like in every game in the second half there’s a stretch where we don’t do too well and we just gotta learn from our mistakes,” Brock said.

    “It’s real hard to lose to one of our rivals in the conference. It was a tough game, it was a good game. Indiana played well and they made plays down the stretch,” he added.

    Even Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson agreed Illinois played perhaps its best game of the season.

    “While we were scouting Illinois we saw them play against Miami of Ohio (and Wisconsin),” Sampson said. “And they played a lot harder today than they did in those games.”

    It’s doubtful those words will console Weber, who had to listen to chants of “Shut up, Weber” and “We got Gordon” throughout the game from a packed crowd at Indiana’s Assembly Hall.

    “Sooner or later we gotta have something good happen,” Weber said. “How many times have we been through this? Three times we have shots to win or tie and we don’t get any of ’em to go. It’s not that we’re that bad, we just can’t find a way to win.”

    Top performers


    Player FG-FGA 3PM-3PA Rebounds A TP

    Shaun Pruitt 5-8 0-0 8 0 14

    Brian Randle 3-7 0-1 10 0 9

    Calvin Brock 3-6 0-1 3 4 8


    Player FG-FGA 3PM-3PA Rebounds A TP

    Eric Gordon 4-10 1-6 2 2 17

    D.J. White 5-9 0-0 10 0 15

    Armon Bassett 3-5 3-4 0 1 11