Somehow, this writer has covered Illini basketball for nine years without seeing a game in the Tarheel state. South Carolina? Yes. Georgia? Multiple times. Oklahoma, Texas, Washington (state and district)? Yep.
Even Hawai’i and Quebec.
But never North Carolina, ’til Tuesday.
And boy what a disappointment it was. The game was okay I guess. But it was just depressing to visit the college basketball state and find such a lackluster crowd.
The Deacons attempted to revive their faithful by shooting catalytically unconverted toxins at the opposing bench, but even that couldn’t wake the Wake.
Lawrence Joel Coliseum announced a crowd of 5,782. Let’s hope that many people paid, then went to bed early. But that would be more than a third of capacity, and there’s no way it was more than a quarter full.
I don’t think all of Wake’s fans had to get up bright and early to manufacture cigarettes. I think they’ve given up on their program. Remember when Wake fired Dino Gaudio after consecutive trips to the tourney? Remember when they then hired a charmless tactician who’d just suffered three consecutive losing seasons? Of course you don’t. But if you lived in Winston-Salem, it would burn in your memory.
If you want to know what an utterly destroyed basketball program looks like …
Everyone noticed the foul discrepancy. Brad Underwood took all the fun out of the postgame by praising the officiating crew as one of the best in the business. That observation effectively closed the door on the topic. We didn’t know what he’d told the radio crew moments earlier. It was a lot different.
Brian Dorsey has officiated a lot of Illini games. I think I recall Tim Nestor’s name, but maybe I’m just thinking of the long-eared Christmas donkey. Ron Groover has never worked an Illini game that I can recall.
The 31-to-14 advantage in free-throw attempts certainly helped the home team. But the Illini out-shot the Deacs 62-to-47 from the floor. Each and every one of those 15 extra shots missed. i.e. Illinois and Wake Forest each made 24 field goals.
The game was decided, as so often happens, by the ability to get a synthetic leather ball through a metal hoop. Whether it was missing shots, or turning the ball over 19 times before even attempting a shot, Illinois didn’t hoop the ball enough.
Wake Forest’s shots looked like this.
Illini shots also had that same guy in the frame. In fact, he often took up most of the space.
Both Josh Whitman and Paul Kowalczyk attended, along with compliance analyst Evan Taylor. This might suggest that the DIA took this game pretty seriously. “Yes we do,” said Kowalczyk.
Big Mike Thorne, recently returned to the states from Slovenia, attended. So did Mark Morris, the DOBO under John Groce. Thorne says he’s healthy and hoping to play more basketball.
If I didn’t have photographic evidence of Adam Fletcher smiling, no one would believe it happened. I’ve certainly never seen him smile before. I’ve seen him leap from his seat, fists pumping, roaring a barbarian yawp.
It’s not that he doesn’t emote. It’s just never been the upturned mouth-corners variety.
Nice to know, then, that he can be kind and charitable to the little ones. Fletch took a moment to engage one of the ten year-olds who stayed up past bedtime to wipe perspiration from the court. He even helped out with the wiping.
I’m sitting in the Landmark Diner, in Atlanta, Romelda Jordan’s favorite town. As usual, I allowed myself an extra day to edit photos and collect my thoughts. The obvious conclusion is that our tiny team will get zoned by every taller team for the rest of the year. But that’s probably not true.
Brad Underwood explained that his team knows how to attack a zone. They simply didn’t follow their instructions.
Except, maybe once.
Nightmares about consistent rejection should take care of that.
But yes, the officiating was awful.