Saturday’s game in Madison was a tough one for the Illini to say the least. The Illini shot only 30 percent from the field, they were called for 30 fouls in a game that saw 77 free throws between the two teams and they were without key freshman contributor Jereme Richmond.
Richmond was in the building when the Badgers extended the Illini’s losing streak to two, but he never left the bench. This coming after the McDonald’s All-American missed two team practices during the week and returned to his home in Waukegan.
Coach Weber pointed to “personal issues” as the reason for Richmond’s absence. Following his situation, there was much speculation as to Richmond’s future with the Orange and Blue but Richmond put those questions to bed today saying,
“I dealt with some personal issues last week that caused me to miss two practices while I was home with my family in Waukegan. With the help of Coach Weber and my family, I have worked through this situation. I appreciate their support and the support of my teammates for getting me through a difficult time. Unfortunately, my absence led to some false rumors that I want to put to rest. I have been and always will be 100 percent committed to the Illinois basketball program. My coaches and teammates are my family, and I’m looking forward to helping our team achieve our goals. I am an Illini for life.”
Those are encouraging words for Illini Nation, as well as those uttered by Coach Bruce Weber stating that Richmond will play in a must-win game against Michigan St tomorrow night. Richmond will be key in the Illini’s attempts to get back on track and continue their undefeated streak at home this season.
It won’t be easy, however, as the once struggling Spartans have won two consecutive overtime thrillers against Wisconsin and Northwestern. But you can forget what happened last week when it comes to these two teams. Last season the Illini split with the Spartans, while winning matchup last February when ESPN Gameday came to town.
However, it has been the Spartans who have had Illinois’ number of late, winning five out of the last six matchups between the two teams. If the Illini want to change that, they are going to need a great effort from a variety of players tomorrow night.
Demetri McCamey, who shot 3-13 against the Badgers, will need to get back in form. More than one rebound out of Mike Davis will surely be a necessity. No matter who you want to mention, Bruce Weber will need an improved performance after a tough stretch last week.
Things won’t get any easier either with the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes awaiting this weekend. If the Illini want to remain in the upper echelon of the Big Ten, and the top 25 for that matter, now is the time to right the ship.
Prediction: Illini 73, Michigan St 68
The Illini have been a different team when they play in front of the home crowd this season. They seem to play with more energy and without question shoot a higher percentage from the field. I don’t see this changing very much in this game. After losing back-to-back games, the Illini will play with a sense of urgency in front of a packed house that will feature the Orange Krush at full strength now that school is back in session.
Tom Izzo’s squad will keep this game neck and neck, but an outstanding performance out of Demetri McCamey will help the Illini prevail.
*Let us know your predictions