Weber’s temper flares in defeat



By Jeff LaBelle

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber lost his cool again, this time on the court, and guard E’Twaun Moore caught fire to lead Purdue over Illinois 83-75 Saturday at Assembly Hall.

Weber, winner of only two of his last 11 games, went on a spree in the loss, wickedly tossing his jacket aside, shaking chairs and screaming. He was restrained by assistant coach Jerrance Howard after being slapped with a technical foul with 2:18 left in the first half – a move that started the hoedown.

“They play very physical. That’s just how they play,” Weber said in the postgame press conference, vocal cords audibly strained. “As a coach, you want to fight for your guys and the fairness of the game.”

It was the second time this season, both spiked by matchups against Purdue, that the coach erupted. Weber went on a locker room tirade after a seven-point loss in West Lafayette, Ind., two weeks ago. The animation this time was spurred by no-calls that, the coach argued, failed to limit Purdue’s aggressive hand checks.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter said afterward that he doesn’t encourage his team to hand-check, but that he learned the aggressive style of defense, and pretty much everything else, from either Weber or Gene Keady when both were at Purdue.

“I’ve seen him that angry with me before. He’s gotten angry before like that,” Painter said, adding that the Illini’s mounting losses are perplexing. “When we won three Big Ten games, went 9-19 (in the 2005-2006 season), we didn’t have the pieces. (Illinois) has some pieces and that’s difficult.”

“Today, they’re able to score points, and that’s a positive sign.”

Amid the fanfare, Moore, a standout freshman the Illini also attempted to recruit, exploded for 20 of his 24 points in the second half to lead the Boilermakers to victory. The 6-foot-3 East Chicago, Ind., native hit seven straight shots at one point, giving the Illini a glimpse of what could’ve been had they landed the sharp-shooter.

“I’ve seen him play well, but not like that – that was special,” Weber said. “We just couldn’t get him out of rhythm. For a freshman to make shots like that in the gut-check part of the game, that was impressive.”

Even with a hand in his face, Moore was not missing shots.

“He’s been touted as one of their best recruits in a while,” senior Brian Randle said. “Hitting shots from beyond NBA (range), pull-ups in the lane, I tip my hat to him. He played a great game.”

Randle had career highs in points and free throws, 21 and nine, respectively, to lead the Illini. Center Shaun Pruitt, scoring in double figures for the 14th time this season, added 18 points and nine rebounds. Pruitt had his strongest outing stat-wise since a 75-57 victory over Michigan two weeks ago in which he scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

No matter the stats from the two seniors, Randle wasn’t happy after the loss.

“It might as well be zero points to be honest,” Randle said, adding he’d much rather have a win. “Somehow, and at some point, we’ll find a way to break somebody else down and get a lead, get a win.”

“We’re going to get a break, I think. I don’t know when it’s going to be but it’s going to happen.”

Demetri McCamey scored 15 points in 33 minutes off the bench and Chester Frazier, getting the start at point guard after a solid defensive outing against Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel on Wednesday, added four points in 28 minutes.

The Illini shot 73.2 percent from the free-throw line, more than 13 percent above the team average, to keep the game within reach. Randle and McCamey combined to shoot 19-of-23 from the stripe. Pruitt hit 6-of-10.

“The free throws obviously kept us close,” Randle said, “but then they got going.”

Illinois led 8-2 after the first four minutes, aided by six points from Pruitt, who sat much of the second half against Michigan State Wednesday. Pruitt capped the run with a rebound off a Frazier miss and a layup high off the glass.

Purdue then managed a 23-10 run and hit five threes before halftime as the Boilermakers started to heat up.

The Illini pulled within three points four times in the second half, but Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Chris Kramer came up clutch for Purdue. The Illini never regained their lead from early in the game.

“I’ll be honest, I thought we would win, come together and find a way to win,” Weber said. “It seems like every game it’s something different.”