The following rant is mostly emotional, and features little analysis — outside of the pictures — of the 87-83 Illini win over Iowa, Monday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Maybe I’ll write that column on Wednesday.
The two things that I’m bursting to tell you about are Andre Curbelo’s coaching & cheerleading during the win, and how hard it is to bring you, the fan, good material from an @Iowa game.
He sat on the floor for most of the game, at the end of the Illini bench, next to trainer Paul Schmidt.
He carried a big Ziploc bag filled with Fun Size packets of Haribo gummi bears. A bit of instant fructose infusion for any teammate who might need a boost.
He called out defensive plays, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, depending (duh) on the target of his advice. He wailed about his teammates’ inability to break the Iowa press, yelling “JUST GO!” as Trent Frazier got bogged down in a double team, five feet short of the ten second line, with those ten seconds expiring. Belo saw the open court ahead of Trent. Trent didn’t see it.
Trent gets inside his own head a lot, and this was one of those times.
Belo was up and active for most of the game. But there came a time in the second half, a media timeout, where he stayed hunched on the floor, looking at his feet, as the team left the bench to form the NCAA-mandated Huddle Square (the time for team managers to shine, by snappily opening those round-top stool seats).
Schmidt reached out an arm, and pulled Belo to his feet. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes.
Illini fans enjoy insulting Iowa, and there are plenty of insults to yield. The B1G’s whitest fanbase is stuck in 1952, although Eisenhower was surely too liberal for their liking. Listening to Iowa’s AM radio (Iowa Basketball Radio Network affiliate) on the drive in, I understood why so much of middle America believes the craziest things.
Iowa is the worst place to cover Big Ten basketball. The people who work at Carver-Hawkeye are all very friendly and accomodating, but the facilities are decades behind. So on the one hand, you’ll get great pictures and video from an @Iowa game, because Iowa provides photographers and videographers good spots and good lighting. The Wi-Fi works, and that’s important.
As a representaive of the Illini basketball media pool, I apologize for all the materials we uploaded last night. It’s not our fault. It’s effing Iowa.
They offer no media workroom. They offer no sound system. They offer no hospitality area (eating).
It’s the #B1G’s last unreconstructed facility. Even Williams Arena has more modern tech, and it’s older than Bob Dole (a fine American, may he rest in peace). Trying to report from Carver-Hawkeye in 2021 is like a Tardis to the newspaper era, and a lot of you noticed how poor our product was. (I’m sorry.)
The most important takeaway from Monday night’s game, if you read the non-weird reporters, is perhaps that Illinois won. But I’ma take a big picture persepective. The Belo thing has all of us worried, and Iowa’s trapping, three-quarter court press demonstrated that Brad’s team needs a healthy Belo.
It was great to see Belo engaged, enthusiastic. He saw, from the most distant corner of the hardwood, what needed to be done.
Perhaps he’ll be ready to do it, sooner than later. Fingers crossed.