With the Illini: Slow start for Tisdale
Those souvenirs Illinois junior center Mike Tisdale brought back from a tryout with USA Basketball last summer prior to the World University Games were supposed to give him a little confidence and remind him that he competed against the best college players.
Maybe he needs to bust out some of that gear for a reminder after a quiet first three games for No. 20 Illinois. While the Illini set a blistering scoring pace to rank first in the Big Ten and ninth nationally while averaging 90 points per game, Tisdale didn't get into the act of padding his stats like his teammates. He’s averaging 7.7 points and 4.7 rebounds after five points and four rebounds in 14 minutes in the 94-48 blowout over Presbyterian Saturday.
"Even statistically, he's not played up to what he expected or we expected,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.
As the Illini head into a busy two weeks, Weber has already given the former Riverton High School star an early-season pep talk. While some of it might be the faster tempo with Illinois creating more scoring opportunities with its fastbreak, Tisdale was also flustered by playing against low-major teams with little size. They didn't sound like valid reasons to Weber.
"I got on him the last couple days,'' Weber said. "He can't give in, say we're playing against smaller teams and not get involved as much. He's got to find some ways to (produce).
"We need him to be successful. He's got to continue to push himself and not be satisfied. He can't say, 'I had a great year last year. I got some recognition.' He's got to continue to rise up. This is a bit of a slow start for whatever reason. Now he has to step up and make a difference for us.''
It's about this time last season when Tisdale went from small-school product to South Padre Invitational MVP. He scored 20 points against Kent State and the final four points in the 48-44 title game win over Tulsa. Tisdale averaged 10.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season.
After hosting Wofford on Tuesday, Illinois faces Utah on Friday in Las Vegas, where the Utes will bring a roster with four players 6-foot-10 or taller. The Illini play the Oklahoma State-Bradley winner Saturday, and the Cowboys are an undersized, athletic lineup.
Illini freshman Tyler Griffey, considered the surprise of the preseason by Weber, is back at full strength after suffering from the flu earlier this month. He's searching for more minutes in the post following a nine-point, nine-rebound confidence booster against Presbyterian.
FOOTBALL: Illinois senior guard Jon Asamoah earned second-team all-Big Ten by the coaches and media. Receiver Arrelious Benn, running back Mike Leshoure, quarterback Juice Williams and defensive end Clay Nurse were honorable mention. Illinois (3-7 overall, 2-6 in the Big Ten) plays a non-conference game at No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0, 6-0 in the Big East) Friday (11 a.m., ABC).
The Big Ten Network will air the 60-minute documentary, "Larger Than Life: The Red Grange Story'' twice on Thanksgiving and before other rebroadcasts thereafter. The program will air at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Thursday; 1 a.m. on Friday; 10 p.m. on Dec. 7; 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Dec. 17; and 1 a.m. on Dec. 18.
The show will feature footage of Grange, the Galloping Ghost who starred at Illinois in the early 1920's, and the Grange statue by George Lundeen that stands on the west side of Memorial Stadium.
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Illinois forward Karisma Penn earned Big Ten freshman of the week after averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in wins over Bradley (67-45) and Central Michigan (77-59). Illinois (3-1) plays at Illinois State Tuesday.
Otherwise, Illinois' touted freshman class is hobbled. While forward Destiny Williams (suspension) and center Amber Moore (knee) were already out, forward Brianna Jones also didn't play against Bradley Sunday because of an Achilles injury. She is doubtful against Illinois State but may return when the Illini women play at the Cal Poly Holiday Classic on Saturday and Sunday.
VOLLEYBALL: With road matches remaining against Northwestern and Minnesota, Illinois needs only one win to clinch sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, and the Illini likely sewed up their bid to host in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Illini (23-4 overall, 15-3 in the Big Ten) are ranked No. 4 in the RPI and No. 5 in the coaches poll.
The goal is to stay away from two-time defending champ Penn State and No. 2 Texas in the NCAA bracket. The Illini's bid for hosting the first two rounds called for matches on Dec 3-4 to avoid a conflict with a football-men's basketball doubleheader on Dec. 5.
John Supinie can be reached atJohnsupinie@aol.com.