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SportsMonday: Buh-Bye, Illini

Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Demetri McCamey wrapped up their Illini careers on Sunday with yet more long stretches of incompetent basketball, especially in the clutch. They won't be missed.

The final nine minutes of their 73-59 loss to Kansas was a perfect illustration of why that is the case. It started with a Kansas miss after which Davis and Tisdale not only failed to secure the rebound, they failed to even contest it, giving one of Kansas' Morris twins the chance to grab an offensive rebound and put in an easy layup for a six-point lead.

A few minutes later, there was the seven-foot Tisdale taking a ridiculous 10-foot hook shot that Kareem wouldn't have even considered and missing badly. Davis had no chance for the offensive rebound but still tried to reach over someone's back and was called for the foul. During this stretch, McCamey was nowhere to be seen - except for two measly points with two minutes left and his team down by 15.

Tisdale soon had a chance for a tip-in, tried to dunk it instead of just tapping it over the rim and through the hoop, and missed. He took another hook and shockingly, missed again. Davis grabbed the offensive rebound and . . . threw it right to a Kansas defender.

Don't let the gym doors hit you in the ass on the way out, guys.

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Tribune: Illinois Unable To Keep Up With Top-Seeded Kansas

Sun-Times: Illini Done Fighting After 73-59 Loss To Top-Seeded Kansas

New York Times: Kansas Dominates Inside to Beat Illinois

Daily Herald: Belief Here Is That Illini Should Strive For More

Kerrific
What a pleasure to have Steve Kerr providing the analysis on the Turner broadcast of the Illini game Sunday evening after doing the same for the earlier thrilling and controversial Arizona victory over Texas.

Kerr obviously has never taken the blood brother oath required for membership in the cult of the college coach and never will. All of the standard college basketball announcers work so hard in every game they cover to protect the coaches involved and if a viewer isn't careful, he or she gets used to it.

After you are continually assaulted with assurances such as timeouts that aren't merely good timeouts but "such a good timeout," or that a coach had just brought his squad all the back from a big deficit or done some other amazing thing for his team, it becomes awfully easy to believe the hype. But of course the coach doesn't ever do anything on the court. The good ones make sure their guys are well-drilled in skills and schemes in practice. Then a ref tosses the ball up and the players play.

There was nothing from Kerr (at least while I was watching) about what amazing schemes Sean Sutton (Arizona) or Rick Barnes (Texas) had implemented to make victory possible. There was plenty about the players, though. As there should be.

Hawk Chalk Talk
What a gritty, gutty - or should we say icy - Hawk win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night.

It would have been very, very easy to let this game get away or to have at least retreated into a defensive shell after Phoenix scored a fluky goal to tie it at 1 late in the second period. That would have put the visitors on track for a tie at the end of regulation and at least a point in the standings.

Of course, it would have also given the Coyotes at least a point, and a big boost in their efforts to clinch the fourth playoff spot in the Western Conference and home ice advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.

Late last month and early this one, the Hawks had that great eight-game win streak in which six of the games were with Western Conference foes and six were won in regulation. That meant that not only did the Hawks secure two points, but they also almost always prevented prominent rivals from getting even one point for a regulation tie. Then the Hawks went on the road against three Eastern Conference teams and struggled and then they faced the Dallas Stars late last week and suffered one of their most embarrassing losses of the season (a 5-0 shellacking).

So they really, really needed this win. And they got it despite the fact that leading goal-scorer Patrick Sharp suffered a leg injury late in the first period and was unable to return. That meant the Hawks were not only down a player, they were down their best sniper and one of the most handsome men in Chicago for goodness sake.

The primary, victorious ingredients were efficiency on the power play (the Hawks had two and scored on both), stingy defense (Phoenix mustered only 23 shots on goal), and a couple critical Corey Crawford saves. In the final minutes, he faced a breakaway and a three-on-one and both times he was able to turn away shots that seemed headed for an upper corner of the goal by flicking his blocker up and out in split seconds.

And finally there was Chris Campoli picking an awesome time for his first goal as a Blackhawk.

During his standard interview with Pat Foley and Steve Konroyd just before the start of the third period, assistant coach Mike Haviland said the Hawks would probably need another offensive contribution from a defenseman. Duncan Keith had scored the Hawks' first goal in the last minute of the first period.

Sure enough, after the Hawks lucked out when the Coyotes' Shane Doan was whistled for a shaky holding penalty, Campoli snuck in from the point to the back side of the net just as Patrick Kane was passing the puck down low to Jonathon Toews on the other side. Toews slid a perfect pass across the slot and Campoli one-timed it into the net.

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The Hawks have 10 games left in the regular season. The good news is they are only three points behind fourth-place Phoenix and they have two games in-hand. The bad news is they are only one point ahead of eighth-place Anaheim and ninth-place Dallas. Hell, they're only two points ahead of 10th-place Calgary.

TV Land
Finally, how bizarre was it that the Hawks game was on free TV and the tournament games were not? Times have changed.

Has CBS seen the ratings for Sunday night football from last fall? It was the highest rated prime-time program of the fall/winter season, higher than CSI: Wherever or Dancing with the American Idol or anything else.

I could understand CBS taking a break from Sunday sports programming for 60 Minutes but then The Amazing Place (The Amazing Space? Chase? Race!) came on and I realized the evening's men's basketball games would not be broadcast over the free TV airwaves.

All that money you paid to televise the tournament, CBS, and you pass on Sunday evening? It's a head-scratcher.

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Comments welcome.

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