MISSOURI 75, ILLINOIS 64
Dec. 22, 2010
Score with 2:32 seconds remaining: 57-56, Illinois
ESPN's Doug Gottlieb picked Illinois to go to the National Championship prior to the 2010-11 season. His failure on that pick lies zero percent on him and 100 percent on that dysfunctional counseling session of a roster.
There was certainly some talent on that club. Demetri McCamey dished and dimed opponents to death. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale--they did their thing. And when all three got going--plus a splash of Bill Cole, a dash of Brandon Paul and a heaping spoonful of D.J. Richardson--that squad was tough. They won ballgames. They destroyed UNLV in the tourney and competed with No. 1-seed Kansas. They went toe-to-toe with that freshman beast named Jared Sullinger. And the man who added the spark, who was the biggest addition from the year prior, was Jereme Richmond.
That's how it looked from the outside. From the inside-out, that doesn't seem to be the case. Tyler Griffey answered some questions this week about his career as an Illini with Illiniboard.com, and he softly touched on an answer everyone knew since Richmond's slide towards incarceration began.
"We really were a tight-knit group, especially Brandon, DJ, Joe and I. The things we've been through during our career really brought us together. We had to endure a lot more adversity than your average college basketball team. I'm sure of that.
Freshman year - Missing the NCAA tournament by a single game.
Sophomore year - Dealing with the headache a certain teammate caused all year long." (emphasis mine)
Only one player on that team punched Brandon Paul in the face, reportedly, so we can guess where that headache came from. The troubles didn't seem to poison the team until late in the year, but perhaps there was toxic all along. Maybe it was there against Missouri in St. Louis because that game should have been won and was on it's way to being won, right before it was lost.
Go grab your whiskey because here's the recap.
It was damn close the whole way, just like the rest of 'em. Illinois had the lead with 2:32 to go in the game. One minute later it was tied, followed by a few points this way , a few more points the other way, and capped off by a 3-pointer from D.J. Richardson, that orange and blue beauty.
Missouri 62, Illinois 61, 37-seconds remaining.
The moments following the 3-ball come straight from memory, for they are burned there: D.J. buries the shot, Mizzou outlets quickly into a wide open fast break, they convert the layup as Mike Tisdale shoves the scorer in the back, drawing an intentional foul.
After the basket, two free-throws and a score on the resulting inbounds play, Mizzou essentially turned the fastbreak into a 6-point play. This is all with 30 seconds left, so the game is over. Mizzou runs up a few more points because they're Mizzou and it ends as an 11-point loss.
I won't spare you my opinion of Tisdale because any words about a 7'1" 235 lbs 3-point shooting center really won't do the man justice. But whatever your opinion, this play fits right perfectly. A questionable intentional foul--dumb, but done with total hustle--to end the game against the rival. Of course, that's Tisdale. Of course.