‘Disappointing win’ plagues basketball

The 84-77 victory over Boise State goes in the books as a win for the Illinois men’s basketball team. But the victory wasn’t quite enough for the Illini.

“Obviously, it’s a little bit of a disappointing game,” junior center Mike Tisdale said. “It’s pretty bad when you get a disappointing win.”

After six early lead changes, the Fighting Illini claimed the lead for good with a 13-2 run that started about five minutes before halftime and ended at the 19:05 mark of the second half. The run gave Illinois a 47-38 lead that it never relinquished.

But Boise State refused to back down, pulling within 78-76 in the final 20 seconds before fouling down the stretch. Illinois took advantage, hitting six consecutive free throws to hold on for the win. Two of those free throws belonged to Tisdale.

“We came out and made some free throws down the stretch to help us win. Unfortunately, that’s what it came down to,” Tisdale said. “But we made them when we needed to, and that’s one positive thing you can take out of it, I guess.”

Another positive on the night was Mike Davis. The junior forward posted his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds. In the last three games, Davis is averaging 18.3 points.

Despite the double-double, even Davis was unhappy with the outcome.

“It doesn’t really feel like a win. I don’t think we played that great,” Davis said.

“We got to come to practice ready to practice every day and get better, ‘cause if it doesn’t change, like coach said, we’re going to be some sorry guys.”

Boise State battled the Illini defense all night, with four Broncos scoring in double figures. Senior forward Ike Okoye led the way for the Boise State offense, tallying 20 points and adding nine rebounds.

Before the game, Boise State head coach Greg Graham warned his team about the Illini.

“I told our kids, (the Illini) kind of set the tone for their team, I thought, on Wednesday when they came back and beat Clemson,” Graham said. “No matter who they play, they won’t be out of the ballgame. They’ll play through it from now on. I think it’ll pay dividends for them later in the season.

“(The Illini) stretched it out on us a couple times in the second half, but I thought our guys hung in there pretty well too — wouldn’t quit and we got it back,” Graham added.

The biggest lead for the Fighting Illini was 10 points at the 9:02 mark in the second half. That inability to build on that lead limited the options for Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, who is still looking to give minutes to players like freshman forward Tyler Griffey, who had two steals and three points in just five minutes.

“We could never get runs to give anyone any confidence,” Weber said. “Even at the end, I put a couple guys in and now we give up four, six points in a row. Now I got to get the other guys back in.”

“It’s a shame, we need to get (Griffey) some minutes,” Weber added. “Offensively, he’s fine. Defensive concepts is where he’s got to make some strides, like a lot of freshmen.”

Despite the squad’s defensive struggles on the night, all five Illinois starters scored in double figures, led by junior guard Demetri McCamey’s season-high 23. Freshman guard D.J. Richardson had 14, while fellow freshman guard Brandon Paul had 10. Tisdale finished with 10 to go along with Davis’ 16.

It was the juniors who led the Illini down the stretch, as McCamey and Tisdale combined for 14 of the Illinois’ final 16 points to secure the win. Once again, the achievement wasn’t enough to satisfy the Illini.

“Offense only carries you so far,” McCamey said. “We got to work on defense.”

With games against Vanderbilt and Missouri quickly approaching and Big Ten play looming later this month, Saturday’s narrow victory may serve as a wake-up call for Illinois.

“We got to get better. We can’t keep going through the motions, and we can’t just slack off and let things happen,” Tisdale said. “We keep saying, ‘Once the Big Ten gets here, we’re going to be alright.’ We’re not going to be alright if we keep just taking it easy. We got to step it up.”