Cornell at Illinois, 7 p.m. today
P Name HT. YR. PPG
G Sam Maniscalco 6-0 Gr. 11.5
G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Jr. 14.2
G Brandon Paul 6-4 Jr. 10.3
F Tyler Griffey 6-8 Jr. 7.4
C Meyers Leonard 7-0 So. 12.8
G Tracy Abrams 6-1 Fr. 2.8
G Joseph Bertrand 6-5 So. 3.5
F Nnanna Egwu 6-11 Fr. 2.6
P Name HT. YR. PPG
G Chris Wroblewski 6-0 Sr. 9.0
G Drew Ferry 6-2 Sr. 14.6
G Miles Asafo-Adjel 6-2 Jr. 3.8
F Shonn Miller 6-7 Fr. 8.6
F Josh Figini 6-9 Jr. 9.1
F Eltan Chemerinski 6-8 Jr. 8.9
G Galal Cancer 6-2 Fr. 5.8
G Johnathan Gray 6-3 Jr. 4.8
FACTS & FIGURES
Site: The Assembly Hall (16,618), Champaign.
Radio: Brian Barnhart and Jerry Hester call the action on WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.
Online: ESPN3.com. Anthony Calhoun is the play-by-play announcer, and Perry Clark provides the color commentary.
Series: Illinois leads 3-1. This is their first meeting in 50 years. Bruce Weber never has coached against Cornell.
Coaches: Weber (203-87 in ninth season at Illinois, 306-141 in 14th season overall); Bill Courtney (14-22 in second season at Cornell and overall).
PAUL KLEE'S STORYLINES
Testing team morale
Illinois was going to suffer its first loss at some point. But no one knows how a team with six freshmen — and several upperclassmen still adjusting to a leadership role — will respond to the 64-48 meltdown against UNLV. "Kids recover quicker than probably coaches and fans and media," Bruce Weber said Sunday. "The biggest thing is it's a long season." Outside the home team's locker room at the United Center, the players were noticeably dejected. It felt as if the 10-0 start never happened, as if the recent three-game stretch of mediocre basketball had exposed their weaknesses. For the first time Illinois had faced an NCAA tournament-quality team away from the comforts of home. And for the first time there was a feeling of doubt. "How you react to adversity and how you respond to adversity will tell a lot about your success," senior Sam Maniscalco said.
Two's better than three
In January, February and March of last season, the Illini shot at least 20 three-pointers in four games. They lost all four. They've shot at least 20 threes in the past three games. It's not a coincidence they struggled against St. Bonaventure, Coppin State and UNLV. "I thought 80-85 percent of the time when we went inside we seemed to get good things to happen (against UNLV)," Weber said. Look at the best games Illinois has played this season — against Richmond and Gonzaga. The Illini fired up only 10 and 16 three-pointers, respectively. The coaches sound as if they want better shot selection — even if it means an extra-long possession that goes deep into the shot clock. While the Illini had superior athletes for most of the 10-game winning streak, UNLV made them work for baskets. "The guards have not cut, they don't make the next read, teams switch, they take away passes and now you've got to play basketball. They made us play basketball (Saturday). They made us react," Weber said. "Once they took a play away or an action away, now you've got to make plays. That's something we've got to get better at." The Illini say they want to shoot fewer threes. The Big Red wants to fire away. Cornell has launched at least 20 threes in every game. That includes 58 three-pointers over the past two games.
Cornell won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in March 2010. For good measure, the Big Red won another one, 87-69 against Wisconsin, to put an Ivy League school in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1979. Point guard Chris Wroblewski is the only player in the current rotation who was a major contributor on the Big Red's brilliant team from two seasons ago. The roster features seven players from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. "I think that's one of the reasons they came back here," Weber said. Cornell is coming off a pair of overtime wins — against Lehigh (81-79) and Albany (85-82). Cornell and Illinois have one common opponent. Illinois beat St. Bonaventure 48-43. St. Bonaventure beat Cornell 79-58. There is recent evidence the Illini can't overlook the Big Red, however. Cornell played at No. 14 Minnesota last season and built a halftime lead before losing 71-66.
Illinois 62, Cornell 52
As the Illini were reviewing the damage from Chicago, No. 10 Missouri was racing to another blowout (94-56 against William & Mary). It was the eighth time in nine games the Tigers won by at least 25 points, a convincing run regardless of the competition. So today's game against Cornell — picked to finish sixth in the Ivy League — is more of a warmup for the Braggin' Rights game. It should be, at least. So, will Saturday's loss have a lingering effect on the Illini? A pair of recent teams showed the importance of a short memory. One team (the 2008-09 Illini) had one and didn't suffer a losing streak until March. Another didn't. The 2010-11 Illini never won consecutive games after Jan. 6. The next two weeks — not necessarily today's game but upcoming matchups against Missouri, Minnesota and Purdue — will show how these Illini handle an embarrassing defeat. (News-Gazette prediction record: 10-1)