Game, Da'Monte

Jan 30, 2020

I'm guilty of it. You're probably guilty of it. A basketball player's worth is found in how he plays on the offensive end. Bad offense? "Coach, get him out of there." Da'Monte Williams has heard about 500 coach-get-him-out-of-theres this season, and that's from the State Farm Center crowd. Well, Da'Monte won the game tonight. On the defensive end.

Let's just go through the final two minutes after Minnesota cut the lead to one. Giorgi hit two free throws to push the lead to three and was subbed-out for Da'Monte. And then:

01:16 MINN X - Missed jumper by MINN #5 Carr, Marcus
01:13 MINN RO - Offensive rebound by MINN #25 Oturu, Daniel
01:13 MINN T - Turnover by MINN #25 Oturu, Daniel in the paint
01:13 Illini S - Steal by Illini #20 Williams, Da'monte
00:46 MINN F - Personal Foul on MINN #22 Kalscheur, Gabe
00:46 MINN OUT - Substitution OUT: MINN #22 Kalscheur, Gabe
00:46 MINN IN - Substitution IN: MINN #42 Hurt, Michael
00:46 Illini XF - Missed Free Throw by Illini #11 Dosunmu, Ayo
00:46 Illini R - Deadball rebound by Illini
00:46 Illini 1 51-55 H 4 Made Free Throw by Illini #11 Dosunmu, Ayo
00:39 MINN X3 - Missed 3PT jumper by MINN #30 Demir, Alihan
00:39 Illini B - Block by Illini #20 Williams, Da'monte
00:39 Illini R - Defensive rebound by Illini #21 Cockburn, Kofi
00:36 MINN F - Personal Foul on MINN #1 Williams, Tre'
00:36 Illini 1 51-56 H 5 Made Free Throw by Illini #11 Dosunmu, Ayo
00:36 Illini 1 51-57 H 6 Made Free Throw by Illini #11 Dosunmu, Ayo
00:36 MINN OUT - Substitution OUT: MINN #30 Demir, Alihan
00:36 MINN IN - Substitution IN: MINN #35 Ihnen, Isaiah
00:20 MINN X3 - Missed 3PT jumper by MINN #1 Williams, Tre'
00:20 MINN RO - Offensive rebound by MINN
00:18 MINN X3 - Missed 3PT jumper by MINN #35 Ihnen, Isaiah
00:13 Illini R - Defensive rebound by Illini #20 Williams, Da'monte
00:08 MINN F - Personal Foul on MINN #35 Ihnen, Isaiah
00:08 Illini 1 51-58 H 7 Made Free Throw by Illini #10 Feliz, Andres
00:08 Illini 1 51-59 H 8 Made Free Throw by Illini #10 Feliz, Andres

Yeah, he can't buy a bucket. Yeah, he's a offensive liability. But he won this game. Daniel Oturu is about to go up for a putback to cut the lead to one and SWIPE Da'Monte takes the ball away. Ayo hits one of two free throws, it's a four point game, Alihan Demir rises for a three pointer that would cut the lead to one and SWIPE Da'Monte blocks the three pointer and Kofi grabs it. Ayo is fouled, hits both free throws, Minnesota comes down and misses a three and SWIPE Da'Monte grabs the rebound. He dishes to Feliz, two more free throws, it's over.

I'm a fan. I sit here sweating on press row, but I'm a fan. (Side note: came as close as I've ever come to saying something from press row tonight. Saw what looked like was an obvious travel on Minnesota, loaded up "WALK!" in my brain, and was about to yell it when I remembered where I was.) Anyway, as a fan, who covers the team, I find myself pulling for the players more than the average fan. I want to write their stories. And I'm so excited to be writing about Da'Monte. The Frankie of defense.

I re-watched the Michigan game the other night when I couldn't sleep - Da'Monte was so good on defense. I'm gonna re-watch this one a few times because I'm starting to understand defense (thanks, Tyler) and I'm starting to understand how Trent and Da'Monte have really stepped up the defense on opposing guards. If you're wondering why neither Purdue nor Michigan could get a clean look at a three, go watch our guards on defense.

(HA! My phone just lit up with some Twitter notifications, I pull up Twitter to see this video of Underwood and Da'Monte. Awesome.)

At the end of the Michigan game, you can hear Ayo call "game" while his shot is in the air. Well, tonight Da'Monte called game.

Steal, block, rebound, game.

+ I tweeted this after the game, which usually removes a thought from my brain, but I still can't get over being 8-2 in the Big Ten. As I said in the tweet, go back to Thanksgiving and tell me "Illinois is going to go 8-2 in these 10 games":

at Maryland
at Michigan State
at Wisconsin
at Purdue
at Michigan

And as someone quickly responded, we were a 35-foot heave by Maryland from going 9-1. Undefeated at home, beat Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan on the road, seven game winning streak - just unbelievable.

It doesn't get any easier, mind you. The next three games: at #18, home for #15, home for #14. 1-2 is still a solid run through those three games. But maybe I should start dreaming of 2-1. Or maybe 3-0?

(I tweeted this PSA earlier today but I'll put it here as well. Tonight's game sold out just based on walkups. Maryland already sold out and Indiana already sold out. If you're thinking of going to the Michigan State game, buy tickets tomorrow because it will sell out soon. Indiana tickets are already $90 on Stubhub for the top row so... just act now. Trying to save you $75 per ticket. You're welcome.)

(Also, arrive early. It was hard to get into the parking lots tonight. There were long lines to get in. Illini fans are behaving as if their team has just won seven consecutive Big Ten games, so.. plan accordingly.)

+ Kipper was Good Kipper tonight. His four offensive rebounds (all in the second half, right?) were so huge. So he didn't score. I hear there's other ways to impact a game.

I should note that Andres Feliz was great as well. I sit here and I watch that little - I'm not sure what to call it, step-back layup? - and I think that teams will be able to defend it. But he always gets it off. And with such soft touch as well.

Rebounding was huge in general in this one (Illini held a 45-36 advantage). The rebounding leaders? Kofi with 10, Feliz with 8, Da'Monte with 7, Kipper and Giorgi with 6.

There are other ways to impact a game.

+ So Illinois has won the last three by shooting lights-out (at Purdue), by getting a heroic performance from our superstar (at Michigan), and then defense and rebounding when shots aren't falling. This seven-game winning streak is as "find a way to win" as I can remember. I'll just top-of-my-head sum up the seven wins.

  • Purdue - absolute lock-down defense in a blowout
  • at Wisconsin - five consecutive threes to end the game and stun the home crowd
  • Rutgers - win a slugfest with Ayo taking over
  • Northwestern - outlast Northwestern when some random guy goes off for 20
  • at Purdue - hit absolutely every shot imaginable
  • at Michigan - Ayo called game
  • Minnesota - Da'Monte called game

And now at Iowa on Sunday, home for Maryland on a Friday night (weird), and then home for an Orange Out against Michigan State in a game that, if we go 1-1 in those first two games, might end up deciding the Big Ten?

Get your tickets now.


Lou-a-villini on January 30 @ 10:55 PM CST

“The Frankie of defense.” Thought the exact same thing!

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on January 31 @ 12:48 AM CST

Nailed it with this one buddy. This is the sh*t I pay (way too little) for. The stuff that most fans don't see, that maybe some sports writers see, but know wont sell papers/subscriptions/clicks so they don't talk about.

PS. . . I yelled "walk." A favor reserved for those who don't have to remain neutral on press row... I can only imagine your restraint!

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on January 31 @ 12:55 AM CST

PPS. . .almost forgot- you have GOT to talk about Feliz in one of these. What an off-the-bench force he has become. Love this guy, and the video from the NW game of him playing with the kids pre-game (look it up). Soft attitude with fans/kids, pre-game, hard-as-nails player from the Dominican once the clock rolls. Probably my favorite off-the-bench Illini since. . .I don't know when. . .Jack Ingram??

Sweetchuck13 on January 31 @ 09:24 AM CST

Not to mention, have we ever had a guy who was better at going up against taller players in the lane and not getting it blocked every time? You can tell he's been playing against bigger guys his whole life - he's so skilled at driving in and not only getting the shot off, but also at the perfect angle.

Southernillini on January 31 @ 10:28 AM CST

I used to despise bandwagon fans but I've mellowed over the years. Many of us came to the Ilini nation as bandwagon fans and chose to die on this hill.

So here's my take. We are #19. Not #9. But the wagon is starting to roll.... it's growing. Get on board! We can make this damn bandwagon as big as it takes to hold each and every casual fan that decides to cheer for this bunch!

IlliNYC on January 31 @ 02:40 PM CST

Getting exciting no doubt. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is looking around at the college basketball landscape and thinking "why not us", which, you know is kind of Ayo's catch phrase.

Bear8287 on February 02 @ 03:01 AM CST

Jeremy Werner
#illini Da'Monte Williams was a game-high plus-14 in the plus/minus. 6:57 PM · Jan 30, 2020·TweetDeck

^This. That is absolutely amazing.

Tough game today at Iowa.

Go Illini!

Groundhogday on February 02 @ 12:01 PM CST

Yes, DaMonte's versatile D, ball movement and rebounding are extremely valuable. But I'm still wishing he could average 5 ppg, just hitting a wide open jumper when that is given, put back layup now and then. That is all it would take to keep the opposing D a little more honest, make everyone else a little better. And with a little confidence, I don't think this is an unreasonable hope.

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