Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Tries to Keep Classic Record Spinning

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Tries to Keep Classic Record Spinning

Article excerpt

Fifteen times Illinois has entertained teams at its annual basketball classic.

Fifteen times Illinois has won it. Never even dropped a game.

Illinois (4-1) plays Northeastern Illinois (2-1) at 7 tonight and Eastern Illinois (1-2) takes on Princeton (2-2) at 9:30 in the 16th annual Illini Classic at Assembly Hall. The winners play at 8 p.m. Saturday; the consolation game is set for 5:30 p.m.

So how does Northeastern Illinois coach Rees Johnson rate his chances of upsetting Illinois?

Not very good without point guard Marcus West, who sprained his right foot in practice Sunday after scoring 39 points against Lakeland College on Saturday. West had been averaging 26 points a game.

And it doesn't help the Golden Eagles chances to be facing a "fine team," Johnson said.

"I made the comment yesterday that we're kind of like a glider heading for a hurricane," Johnson said Wednesday, laughing. "After we lost Marcus, we kind of feel like we're out there gliding. When the hurricane gets a hold of us, I don't know what's going to happen.

"I know our kids play with a lot of heart. We play hard on defense. I don't know if that's enough. There's something call talent. And I'm afraid that after the loss of Marcus . . . he just brings us to another level. Sometimes, one player can do it. It will be interesting to see how we respond."

Lou Henson, meanwhile, will see how his Illini respond to playing at home.

After opening the season with five games on the road, he's looking forward to playing four games at Assembly Hall before a Dec. 22 matchup against Missouri in St. Louis.

The team still needs to work out some fundamental wrinkles, especially on offense, he said. The Illini are shooting 47 percent from the floor.

"It's good to get back home, and I think this will help our ballclub in a lot of respects," he said. "When you get on the road, you can't work on fundamentals like you want to. …

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