Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Taking Care Of Business



I could have sworn I saw Jack Ingram play the role of hero in Illinois' 75-65 win over Wisconsin.

I could have sworn I saw Ingram come to the Illinis' rescue and silence the growing enemy noise with a pair of ice-in-his-veins three pointers.

I could have sworn I saw Ingram...

...wait...

Ingram? Jack Ingram?

No, seriously.

I might be prone to flashbacks, but I swear I saw Ingram defining clutch - when clutch was needed most. The game, not to mention the Illinis' No. 1 ranking, was slipping away in a sea of red-clad Wisconsin maniacs and a deafening din that grew more menacing with each Illinois miss or turnover, which were suddenly coming in abundance. The Badgers were rolling. They were feeling it. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was schmoozing the refs as they all joked, laughed, and generally had a good 'ol time. Bruce Weber, meanwhile, was calling timeouts and looking worried.

You could sense the end coming.

Then Ingram hit a three pointer. Then he hit another. Back to back. Nothing but net. Money.

Yeah, Ingram was saving lives. The Illini were reaching the point where they were up for dead - down eight midway through the second half, the Kohl Center was rocking, Dick Vitale was screaming as the Badgers' momentum neared demoralizing levels - and then the least likely suspect, Ingram, signalled the comeback.

Yeah, THAT Jack Ingram.

The Illini were back and never went away again.

(I only hope I can find a picture of Ingram. This might be hard. There we go...)


I guess Wisconsin's nation-best 38-game winning streak was destined to end some day, but I'm surprised that Ingram was the one to officially announce its coming demise. Actually, I'm bewildered. All you could do was put your hands atop your head and pick your chin back up off the floor. And smile.

Who saw that coming?

Not me.

Or who saw James Augustine being in the center of of a whole bunch of good things in the second half? OK, that wasn't surprising. Not really. Augustine quietly does his thing and comes to play, silently, as the Illini guards play in the spotlight. He deserves more props than ge gets. Augustine's back-to-back dunks were the final nails in the coffin that the Illini guards built, but Augustine was involved in the outcome long before that.

Roger Powell, the ordained minister, might want to pray a little harder if he wants to hit a jumpshot - I'm kidding! - but other than that, the fronline came to play. This is a must. The Badgers won't be the last time the Illini sees a team that likes to bang, scrap and grind things out.

Meanwhile, in alphabetical order:

Dee Brown
Luther Head
Deron Willimas

Applause. Appreciated. Assasins. Alright, alright.

What else can you say about these guys? They're everyhere. They're smooth. They're deadly. And they're really, really fun to watch.

Will somebody please take Nick Smith to get a tatoo?

Will somebody please take Weber to get some new duds? I'm not sure there are actual colors to describe the jacket and tie he was wearing last night. His wife actually lets him leave the house like that? (I jest.)

**
Did you happen to peep Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor. There are lookalikes and then there are LOOKALIKES, and Taylor is a dead ringer for Chris Rock like you would not believe. That's funny, funny stuff.



**


Q: How do become a contender in the NBA Eastern Conference?

A: You beat the Western Conference teams.

Of course, the above isn't the only answer, but it's a good place to start. The West is the best, so it's nice to pick off one of its contenders, which the Bulls did with a 111-107 win over Denver last night, although the Nuggets haven't lived up to their preseason hype.

Admittedly, I didn't see this entire game as the Illini game was going on. But here's what I liked:

Everytime I checked in during the fourth quarter the Bulls were taking care of business. Down one. Up one. Up four. Up six. Up eight.

Like I said, taking care of business, which was particularly impressive considering it was the Bulls fourth game in five nights, all wins.

"This was huge because we were tired, beat up and we still battled it out," said Tyson Chandler, who is quietly becoming one of the most intimidating inside players in the league.

That they did.

If I had one complaint, it would be the Bulls' defense in the final moments. They came dangerously close to blowing an eight point lead with less than a minute to play. They need to do a better job of getting in a shooter's face on those desperation three-pointers. Chalk it up to a young team still learning how to close out a win.

Eddy Curry, whose physical shape was once questioned, scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Ben Gordon scored ten in the fourth quarter. You want an amazing stat? Gordon has 18 double-digit quarters this year, including ten double-digit fourth quarters. Wow.

You want an even better stat? Six Bulls reached double figures for the second straight game.

Andres Nocioni has drawn six - six! - technical fouls in the last three games by pounding opponents into the depths of frustration with his relentless defense.

Scott Skiles might even be somewhat happy. Just a little?

Nah, probably not.



Actually, even Skiles, if you look hard enough, has been known to enjoy himself occasionally - stress on occasionally.

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