Oh D.J. Richardson, how we've all been waiting for this game. When we saw you during your freshman season I think most of Illini nation expected that this kind of night would be close to the norm. Instead we dealt with two and half seasons of disappointment, but if you can keep this up down the home stretch and help lead this team to the dance, all will be forgiven.
Richardson set a career high with 30 points on Tuesday night thanks to a career high 6 three-pointers. On the night he made 9 of his 14 shot attempts while shooting 67% from deep. It was wonderful to see and it was also necessary.
Yes, the Illini won by 20 points, but if not for Richardson this game would have been a close victory at best. If you take Richardson out of the equation the Illini shot 38% from the floor and only 1-of-13 from three (8%). The only other Illini to make a three pointer tonight was Mike Shaw and his came in garbage time when both teams had emptied the benches.
So tonight was a night when D.J. was sorely needed and every single one of his 30 points mattered. However, while there was much to be happy about with this win it's important to remember the opponent. Yes, I'm happy this game didn't end with Meyers Leonard crying on the bench, but the fact of the matter is D.J.'s effort alone might not have been good enough against any of the teams we'll be playing in our next five games.
So while I sure as hell hope this game gives Richardson confidence and he carries it throughout the rest of the season, other shooters -- hello, Brandon Paul -- need to step up their game if we want to get back into the thick of it.
-- The big men were finally that: big men. Our guards have been our best rebounders all season long, but tonight on a night in which the Illini dominated the boards 38-27, it was Nnanna Egwu doing the most damage. Egwu finished with 10 rebounds to go with his 8 points and 2 blocks. Then there was Sam McLaurin who only had 4 rebounds, but 3 of them came on the offensive glass as he continues to prove he's very good at cleaning up our misses.
-- It was a nice bounce-back night for Joe Bertrand. JoeTales was a horrible story against Northwestern. He finished that game with 0 points, 2 rebounds and 3 fouls. Tonight he was the Bertrand we need off the bench. He only had 7 points, but he more than made up for it in other areas with 8 rebounds and 5 steals. A terrific night.
-- Tyler Griffey had a bizarro night. Griffey ended up with only 2 points thanks to a 1-of-6 shooting night, but he also had 6 rebounds, including 2 offensive boards. The problem is he seems so skittish out there. It's the same thing as last year where you can tell he has serious confidence issues against Big Ten opponents. And as long as that's the case he's not going to be productive consistently.
-- I really hope Brandon Paul finds his jumper next. D.J. found it tonight, but Brandon struggled from the floor. He finished with 14 points thanks to his knack for getting to the line, but he was only 4-for-13 from the floor and missed all 6 of his three point attempts.
-- There is no way in hell Andre Almeida weighs only 314 pounds. No. Fucking. Way.
-- Illinois quarterback Reilly O'Toole is hereby disowned by The Champaign Room. May he never see the field again.
Rock chalk baby— Reilly O'Toole (@ReillyOT4) January 23, 2013