If you listened to call-in shows, talked to fans at the bar, or read message boards, you already know the unfortunate storyline of the 75 to 67 loss at Purdue.

Illinois fans expected it, they've grown accustomed to it, and they are just happy to have competed.

That's pathetic.

This program verged on elite status when urbane Yankee-transplant Bruce Pearl created a mythical story about two inner city black dudes. The NCAA, perhaps not believing that inner city black dudes could be more honest than a Yankee, knocked Illinois down a peg.

After the better part of a decade in the wilderness, we made it back to that verge.

From Lou Henson and Tony Yates beating down the doors of high school coaches in 1975, to Jack Ingram's tipped pass in Rosemont, this program made an arduous 30 year lurch toward relevancy.

Now, we're reduced to creating wistful aphorisms about losing.


The more critical storyline is Bruce Weber benching Demetri McCamey.

Yes, Weber always benches a guy after his second foul. That's not new. Just like losing is no longer new, but increasingly familiar.

If the guy committing the foul is Meyers Leonard, the strategy makes sense. You can assume Meyers will pick up a third foul — and six to eight rebounds — within the next thirty seconds.

More importantly, Meyers Leonard's presence on the court is not absolutely vital to the team's success.

Contrast Demetri McCamey. He's not reckless. He rarely commits fouls, except purposely. And realistically, Illinois cannot win without him.

All the beat writers peppered Weber (deferentially) and Illini players (explicitly) with variations on a singular theme. Did Weber pull Demetri McCamey because he wanted to lose? Did he rethink his position at any point? Did someone on the bench, an assistant perhaps, suggest that McCamey might be returned to the floor ASAP? Is he insane?

Weber meandered through a non-answer, and then moved on. He did complain about the officiating though.


Referee Bob Donato let them play. Mike Sanzere called it tight. I couldn't really see Pat Driscoll — formerly known as Congressman Fred Grandy — from my vantage point. But it appeared he fell in the Sanzere camp.

Purdue figured it out.

Thug #1 was DJ Byrd. I've rarely seen a screen at once so solid and yet so moving. The third time he did it, I realized Bob Donato had no intention of blowing his whistle. That's fine with me. Maybe it played into Purdue's hands, because their guys are a lot tougher than our guys.

Lewis Jackson got in Brandon Paul's head, and then stayed there to trash the furniture. Paul's official stats show only four turnovers. That hardly tells the story.

Donato covered the side opposite the team benches. That means Driscoll was in great position to take umbrage at Bruce Weber. Donato couldn't quite hear Weber well enough to let the tirade affect him. (I know what you're thinking, but Mackey Arena is really loud.)

I don't know what issue Weber argued. Was he asking the three refs to call the game consistently? That would be asking each individual to be someone he's not, an existential dilemma Weber usually reserves for his players.

In any case, it didn't work. The stripes became increasingly frustrated with Weber, and no less lenient toward Purdue.

Instead, Driscoll paid close attention to Bruce Weber. Eventually tiring of the Illini bench, Driscoll issued an official warning, and then yucked it up down the baseline with the more sedate, genteel Matt Painter.

Brandon Paul pleaded with the stripes to get Jackson out of his jock. Jackson stood within earshot, and then climbed aboard Brandon for another ride, expressing an opinion about tattletales.

With the Illinois backcourt handled, Purdue focused its energy on beating the Illinois Thins to a pulp. They lined up to take turns on Mike Tisdale.


Jereme Richmond had no complaints about officiating. He even complimented the refs on the job they did. The style worked well for him.

In the year's best individual play of zero statistical significance, Richmond exploded outward, both arms thrusting upward from a folded position. He hit Kelsey Barlow exactly the way offensive linemen are taught to hit nose tackles.

Bob Donato snorted, then rolled over and went back to sleep.

Frankly, Richmond was fantastic. Apart from Demetri, he's the one guy who can mix it up with Purdue's thugs.

As with Meechi, the Illini seemed to flag when Richmond left the game.

For all the stats kept by Illini assistants and managers, I think there's no quantifying bullheadedness.

Despite all of that, Illinois had a chance at the end. And Weber must get partial credit. Through much of the game, the Illini ran sets that flummoxed the Boilers, and created good shots.

But at a crucial timeout under three minutes to go, Illinois had nothing.

They ran open motion, and no one presented himself for The Big Shot. Eventually, McCamey chucked a three. It was the only thing he could do. Since 2006, it's an all too familiar story with Illini offensive possessions.

And that was it. Directionless at the finish, Illinois left a void of basketball acumen, readily grabbed by a headier — or at least better organized — bunch.

A dwindling population of Illini fans changed the channel, yawned resignedly, and watched something else for a while.