Home > Illinois basketball > Quick reaction: Bruce Weber takes your suggestions in loss to Ohio State

Quick reaction: Bruce Weber takes your suggestions in loss to Ohio State

A month ago, the couch-potato coaches grew louder.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber must’ve heard them.

Second-guessed for most of the season, he answered fans’ calls to play highly touted freshman Jereme Richmond more minutes. He benched his fickle seniors. He put bench sparkplug Brandon Paul into the starting lineup for immediate energy on the floor.

Weber now is in desperation mode, answering two more outcries from the Illini fanbase during Tuesday’s 89-70 loss to Ohio State.

He trotted out his sixth straight different starting lineup on Tuesday, starting freshman Crandall Head, who had just nine minutes of Big Ten experience before tipoff but intrigues spectators with his athleticism, over senior Demetri McCamey against the No. 2 Buckeyes. Weber also budged on his insistence on playing man-to-man defense for a stretch in the second half, using a triangle-and-two zone defense.

Result: the Illini (17-11, 7-8 Big Ten) found a one-game cure for their shooting woes, converting on 52.8 percent from the field including eight of their first nine three-point attempts. But the story of the season continued: one step forward in one area means one, two or five steps back in other areas.

The Illini committed most of its 16 turnovers – five from McCamey – in the game’s first 25 minutes. On defense, the goal was to let Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger get his and slow down the rest of the Buckeyes (26-2, 13-2). Illinois achieved the opposite, limiting Sullinger to 12 points but the Ohio State guards let loose on an overwhelmed Illini perimeter defense.

William Buford dominated the first half, when he scored all of his 17 points, while David Lighty took over in the second half with 16 of his 21 points after the break. And Jon Diebler continued his Illini-killing ways with 13 points, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to improve to 23-for-42 from three in his last five games against the Illini, as the Buckeyes (53 percent shooting) became the first team this season to shoot higher than 50 percent against the Illini.

Crandall Head had his moments – both promising (solid defense and a reverse layup) and sloppy (a turnover and a poor foul on a David Lighty layup) – in 15 minutes. McCamey had 15 points and six assists off the bench, but had five turnovers. Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and Jereme Richmond were effective in the post, combining for 43 points on 62 percent shooting and 21 rebounds.

But the Illini still couldn’t handle a Buckeyes team seemingly bound for a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed and possibly the top seed overall. Illinois isn’t on Ohio State’s level, so the road loss in Columbus wasn’t surprising but nonetheless frustrating

Weber told reporters after the game that McCamey asked to come off the bench. Sure, why not?

At this point, Weber may take suggestions from anyone. But does anyone really have answers for this team.

Categories: Illinois basketball
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