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I don't spend nearly enough time realizing that Frank Williams' son is on the team. I just searched my Twitter and the first time I tweeted about Da'Monte was February of 2014, so maybe I'm just used to the fact that Frank Williams' son is on the team. But I still feel like I need to remind everyone: Frank Williams - His Royal Frankness, or HRF, as he was called on IlliniBoard back in 2002 - has a son, and that son leads the nation in three point shooting (official stat) and slide-in-from-the-baseline-and-grab-the-rebound rebounds (unofficial stat). We're trying to get back to the Final Four, and the son of one of the top-10 Illini players of all time is going to help us try to get there. I love it so much and I have no idea why we're not constantly talking about it.
OK so that opening paragraph was a mess. But I'm not changing it. My brain is absolute toast right now but I'm pushing through it. I just got back from a quarancation where my wife and I had real, actual human interaction with two other people who are not us. It wasn't much - we couldn't really do anything besides sit around and watch true crime documentaries on Netflix - but it was something other than "my wife and I sit on the couch and watch true crime documentaries on Netflix".
So I'm very tired and very much looking forward to sleeping in my bed for the next 13 hours. But first I want to talk about Da'Monte.
Every great Illini team has a glue guy. Roger Powell was a glue guy. Damir Krupalija was a glue guy. You need that guy who grabs the big rebound and dives on the floor and gets the steal at exactly the right moment. It's great to have stars like Ayo and Kofi but every great team needs a glue guy. I feel like I already wrote this paragraph. Yes I did - it was in the preview. Here's that part of the preview:
Every team needs a glue guy (2005: Roger Powell; 1989: Tyler Cottingham), and Da'Monte is the glue guy for this team. At least one time every game, he's going to have a Glue Guy moment and I'm probably going to just tweet "Glue Guy." Somebody get that Sports Illustrated photographer over here to take that Roger Powell photo again, only this time put the glue on Da'Monte's fingers.
Thing is, though - he's more than a glue guy this year. He's a sharpshooter. He's on this hot streak like you've never seen a hot streak and now he leads the nation in three point percentage 40% of the way through the season. He's not a glue guy he's, like, a hot glue gun.
Wait, did I just give Da'Monte a nickname?
Tonight, with Ayo not scoring in the second half and finishing with 12 for the game, we needed someone else to pick up the slack. And we landed on Hot Glue Gun to shoot us (3-5 from three) and rebound us (seven second-half rebounds, 10 for the game) to a win.
It wasn't all HGG, of course - Andre Curbelo was huge, and Kofi had 14 and 10 - but my takeaway from this game was that Da'Monte was the difference. Ayo was off, Trent was quiet, Giorgi didn't score, but Da'Monte and the freshmen helped pull out the win.
I tweeted this chart, but I'll link it here as well. I sorted the stats just for second half rebounds. See if you can spot the 6'-3" guy:
Just an amazing performance from Hot Glue Gun. Hits three threes, grabs 10 boards, glues us to a win.
OK, I'm getting really tired now, so I'm gonna rapid fire a list of other thoughts in my head:
- Top three Illini in +/- for this one: Curbelo +26, Hawkins +11, Giorgi +8. Plus TWENTY SIX? Maybe this post should have been about Curbelo (who I still like coming off the bench - I'm a big "a great sixth man is better than a great fifth starter" guy).
- I wrote down Purdue's shooting percentage in the first nine minutes of the second half. At the time they were 8-10 from the floor. My guess at the time: they'd shoot less than 30% the rest of the game. The answer: they shot 12-24 for the half, so that means they were 4-14 after the 80% shooting start. 4-14 is.. 28%! I win.
- Speaking of Purdue, it kind of feels like this was just a lost generation for them. Stefanovic was supposed to be Ryan Cline but he just isn't. Eric Hunter is a junior but he's still not anything. Matt Haarms was supposed to be Isaac Haas but he wasn't so he transferred to BYU. It feels like Matt Painter will lean on these freshmen (like Newman and Edey) as soon as he possibly can.
- Underwood said in the press conference that Coleman Hawkins earned some minutes in practice this week. He had a better week of practice than Jacob Grandison so Hawkins got the 8th-man minutes.
- This was a lot more than an 8-point win had we hit our free throws. 9-22 from the line is so very bad. Hit something like 16-22 and we're much more comfortable in the second half. (Underwood didn't seem too concerned, though - he blamed it on the NCAA-mandated three days off between the holidays and rusty shooters.)
- The line I saw was 7.5 before the game. That had to be fun with bettors in that final 45 seconds. Purdue is going to the line down nine and Thompson hits the first. The guy who had Purdue +7.5 is thinking he'll make the second and hand over the win if Illinois dribbles it out. He hits the first but misses the second. BUT WAIT, Purdue gets the rebound. They'll have a chance to score and cover! Nope - steal by Trent Frazier. And then Illinois just dribbles out the clock. 66-58, Illinois covers.
OK, so now I'm basically asleep. I shall wrap it up.
4-1 in the Big Ten with three winnable games against Northwestern, Maryland, and Nebraska before Ohio State comes to town two weeks from today. Then, after a home game against Penn State, the stretch that will likely decide if we will win the Big Ten: at Michigan State, home for Iowa, at Indiana, home for Wisconsin, at Michigan.
Hope the Hot Glue Gun stays hot.