Friday, January 06, 2006

Illinois 60; Michigan State 50

D. That's all you need to know. D.

Dee Brown was unfreakingbelievable, pouring in over half of the team's points (34) to go along with three assists. Quite frankly, this was the best individual performance I've seen by an Illini since Corey Bradford single handedly took the 11th seeded Illini to the final of the conference tournament back in 1999. He. Was. Awesome. Whether he was driving the lane, pulling up for mid-range jumper, or canning circus three after circus three (Including about a 35 footer and a ducking, leaping, floating jumper to close out the first half), he was just unstoppable.

But he did have some help. Rich McBride had 8 points, 6 on two threes, and none more deadly than the one he hit from the left wing with about a minute to play. James Augustine and Sean Pruitt combined for 12 points and and 14 rebounds (Augie also added three blocks).

But the unsung hero of the night, who's performance was almost as exceptional as Brown's, was Brian Randle. Sure, his 3 points on 1-5 shooting and 5 rebounds don't seem impressive, and as text on a page, they aren't. But that's not the important line. More telling about Randle's perfomance was this: 9 points on 3-8 shooting with 1 assist and 2 turnovers. Those were the number of senior forward Maurice Ager, 13 points below his team leading average, and 2+ assists below his average. Randle has become a shut down forward, big enough to guard the four, and athletic enough to guard the two. He frustrated Ager all night long, and was the biggest reason the Illini held Spartans more than 30 points below their 82 point average, sixth best in college basketball. This team can flat out defend, and Randle might be the most important cog in this defensive machine.

No comments: