Staying old requires getting old, and RJ Melendez got older in Evanston. So did Podz.
RJ demonstrated an understanding of geometry that older Illini teammates might wish to study. He used the glass to score a much-needed bucket from an unfortunate angle, and within a pack of Wildcats.
Brad Underwood said he’d planned to play RJ against Michigan State, but somehow the match-ups weren’t right. After Saturday’s win, Underwood was unable to refrain from describing RJ as “bouncy,” which sounds cute and Tigger-ish, but also describes one of RJ’s most important functions: He can rebound without having worked himself into position. i.e. he jumps over people.
RJ is instant offense, and he’s unafraid to throw himself into the mix. For a team that’s run heartburn-inducing offense in recent games, RJ is the Rolaids.
The Podz substitution was obviously a response to Alfonso Plummer’s fourth foul. Would Underwood have inserted him otherwise?
It doesn’t matter. When his number was called, Podz was ready. He scored a lay-up on the next possession.
The box score shows no rebounds, steals or blocked shots for Brandin. But if statisticians tracked floor burns, he would have been team leader. Coaches track floor burns. They track hockey assists, and box-outs.
Brandin acquitted himself in those crucial six minutes and 19 seconds, when the Illini turned a deficit into victory.
That reliability means Underwood can trust him again in the future. It didn’t go unnoticed that Podz, like Da’Monte, can defend multiple positions.
Kofi Cockburn confirmed (after the Northwestern game) that he appealed (during the Purdue game) to referee DJ Carstensen about Zach Edey’s elbow.
When that elbow whiplashed Kofi’s head, none of Carstensen, Bo Boroski or Brian Dorsey saw any problems. It might have been ruled a flagrant foul. They saw it as incidental contact. Or maybe they didn’t see it at all.
The Big Ten knows its officiating hasn’t been up to snuff lately. That’s why Dr. Ed Hightower sat on the aisle, about ten rows up from the Wildcats bench. He was there, he said, on behalf of the commissioner.
Hightower wore a conference issued All-Access pass. He was in the locker rooms before the game, talking to coaches from both teams. He said he’d have follow-up conversations after the game as well.
“We will get better,” he promised.
THE MAN OF THE HOUR
Da’Monte Williams really does love defense. Unflappable as usual, he emoted not at all about his game-saving heroics in Evanston. But as a matter of analysis, he was perfectly willing to engage the topic of Da’Monte Williams All-Time Highlights. Was it that block against Minnesota? How about last year’s three-point daggers against the Buckeyes?
He picked Minnesota, dryly noting that he didn’t get a lot of tick in that game. (Maybe that’s why Richard Pitino didn’t know who we were talking about.)