Home > Illinois basketball > Weber still searching for right buttons to push lax Illini

Weber still searching for right buttons to push lax Illini

CHAMPAIGN – Bruce Weber has received phone calls and e-mails telling him to calm down on the sideline, that his play-by-play coaching and top-of-his-lungs yelling were doing more harm than good.

But when the Illinois coach shattered a clipboard on the Assembly Hall floor early in the second half of an 81-70 loss to Purdue on Sunday, few would complain about Weber’s antics.

Weber’s most animated sideline display of a trying season came after Purdue’s 14-4 run shattered what would have been a significant resume-boosting Illini win. Five minutes earlier, Illinois enjoyed a team-high seven-point lead over the Boilermakers. But like this team has done all season, the Illini lost the intensity battle – and eventually another game.

“We told our guys when you watch them, there’s always one point in the game where they just turn it up,” Weber said. “And they turned it up, and we did not match the energy.”

Just when Illinois takes one step forward – on Thursday the Illini scored a season-high 46 Matto (play-hard) points – it takes another step back, scoring just 25 Matto points.

“A couple of us played hard and then, you know, three other people don’t play hard, it’s not going to work,” said Mike Davis, who notched another solid outing with 16 points and team-high seven rebounds. “Everybody’s got to play within themselves and demand it of themselves.”

Purdue outrebound Illinois 28-11 in the second half and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. The Illini allowed 80-plus points for just the second time this season (the other was 90 points to Texas on Nov. 18), including season-high 54 points in the second half.

“Second half, they just took it to us,” Weber said. “Offensive rebounds just killed us.”

“We gave up some easy points,” said D.J. Richardson, who scored in double digits (13 points) for the third straight game. “A couple times we didn’t know a couple of the defenses we was in. I think we just got to have more leadership out there on the court.”

Purdue junior and Decatur native Lewis Jackson (10 points, five assists) had control of the court on the dribble. And the seniors in black – JaJuan Johnson (24 points) and E’Twaun Moore (20 points in 25 minutes) – only helped their All-America campaigns.

Three of the four seniors in white – Bill Cole, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale – combined for 10 points through 37 minutes, 57 seconds. Freshman Jereme Richmond also struggled with two points, four fouls and five turnovers in 17 minutes.

Weber seems to have tried everything in the book to spark his players. He’s brought in motivational speakers. He’s listened to outside advice. He’s switched lineups. He’s screamed. He’s patted butts. And now, he’s broken a clipboard.

But should all that necessary when the NCAA Tournament is on the line?

“I’m going to coach and be myself, bust my butt, get them to play hard,” Weber said. “I don’t care if you have to break clipboards, whatever you have to do to get them going,” Weber said. “It worked (at Minnesota). We just didn’t get enough mustered here.”

Weber: McCamey better than showing

Four years in, Weber still doesn’t know what makes Demetri McCamey tick. 

Just when you think McCamey turned a corner – he responded to Weber’s benching with an inspired, 17-point, dive-all-over-the-floor effort in a 71-62 win at Minnesota on Thursday – he scores four points on 1-for-10 shooting during the Illini’s loss to Purdue on Sunday.

“Demetri, I don’t know if it’s mental, the pressure,” Weber said. “It looks like he has the weight of the world on his back. I feel bad for him. He’s a better player than that. He was a better player two months ago and he was definitely a better player last year when we played Purdue (when he scored 28 points in a home loss). But maybe we can get him snapped out of it before it’s too late.”

The Illinois senior point guard, who looked like an All-Big Ten first team lock just a month ago, also finished with under five assists for the sixth consecutive game. McCamey averaged 16.2 points and 7.2 assists through 19 games but is averaging 8.7 points (on 29.3 percent shooting), 4.2 assists and 3.2 turnovers over the last six games.

Weber rarely keeps his thoughts from the media, sometimes to a fault. Some view that as throwing his players under the bus. He’s received criticism since saying on ESPN1000 Chicago’s “Waddle and Silvy Show” on Friday that he thought “outside influences” had affected McCamey’s play during his recent slump.

“It’s college basketball,” Weber said. “There is a lot of influence, whether it’s uncles, cousins, grandpas, ministers, preachers, relatives, neighbors, whatever, and they all have something to say. There’s also the factor of other outside people. I think sometime there’s so much clutter in kids’ brains instead of just, ‘Come here, listen, be coachable.’ I think it all takes a toll and maybe adds up in the long haul of just the pressure on themselves.

Realizing he may be criticized for another comment, he quickly interjected himself: “I shouldn’t have said ministers and preachers, so … but I’ve had that before too.”

Bottom line, McCamey is Illinois’ only point guard and the lone player capable of carrying the Illini with his ability to hit clutch shots and create opportunities for his teammates.

“He didn’t get his shot off today,” said senior Mike Davis, who had 16 points Sunday. “But he’ll be all right. He’s our best player. He’s a Wooden (Award) candidate. He’s going to slip out of this slump. We need him to come out of this slump because without him, we’re not going to win very many games.”

Jeremy Werner is co-host of the “Tay and J Show,” which airs on 93.5, 95.3 ConnectFM and on www.myconnectfm.com. Post your comments below or e-mail Jeremy atjeremy@myconnectfm.com.

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