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Archive for Sunday, December 20, 1998

(NO HEADLINE)

December 20, 1998

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— Point guards don't grow on trees. Point guards don't come in boxes of Cracker Jack. And you can't win a point guard in the lottery.

So Illinois men's basketball coach Lon Kruger will just have to manufacture one.

Designated manufacturee: Sergio McClain.

McClain, a sophomore, made only his second start at point guard during Saturday's 65-55 loss to Kansas in Kemper Arena, and it showed.

McClain was credited with only one assist, and was guilty of five turnovers. Too, his unfamiliarity with the position surely led to ballhandling errors by his teammates. Illinois (7-3) had 27 turnovers, 17 in the first half.

"I don't know if I liked what went on," Kruger said when asked about McClain's performance, "but that gave us the best chance to do what we wanted to do."

What Kruger wanted to do was take red-shirt Cory Bradford off the point and move him to shooting guard and give the Fighting Illini some desperately needed scoring punch.

That half of the strategy worked like Christmas morning. Bradford nailed six of seven three-point shots and finished with a career-high 26 points.

"I was flaring out and getting open shots," the 6-foot-2 frosh from Memphis, Tenn., said. "I'm glad they were falling for me."

So was Kruger, it goes without saying. Bradford and Cleotis Brown, the other wing player, scored 38 of the Illini's 55 points.

"We've got to get Cleotis and Cory aggressive," Kruger said. "We're not getting a lot of scoring elsewhere."

Illinois fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half, but closed to within six in the late going.

"KU had pretty good control from start to finish," Kruger said. "A couple of times we had runs, but we never could get a second run going."

Echoed Bradford: "We were scratching and fighting. We were trying to get back in the game and we did. We were doing whatever we could to put the ball in the hole. We made a run, but they kept their composure."

-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is cwoodling@ljworld.com.

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