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Archive for Sunday, December 19, 1999

ILLINI DENY JAYHAWKS, 84 - 70

December 19, 1999

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— Kansas hit 35.2 percent of its shots in Saturday's 84-70 loss to Illinois at the United Center. KU is 0-2 in the building this season.

The United Center has become a House of Horrors for Kansas.

The No. 8-ranked Jayhawks, who fell flat against Michigan State in a 12-point loss on Dec. 7 at the home of the Chicago Bulls, fizzled against No. 20-ranked Illinois, 84-70, in Saturday's matinee on West Madison Street.

"It's not the building; it's the players," KU coach Roy Williams said after the Jayhawks fell to 0-2 at the U. Center this season, 8-0 everywhere else. "After the first 12 minutes, Illinois totally dominated the game. They were the total aggressors by far."

Still, it sure appeared a lid was on the rim for the Jayhawks, who hit 25 of 71 shots for 35.2 percent.

KU hit 39.6 percent of its floor shots in a 66-54 loss to the Spartans and 29.4 percent in last year's Great Eight loss to Kentucky at this same building.

"I missed tip-ins, put-backs. I said before I came here that these rims are tight in Chicago," KU freshman Drew Gooden said after missing 10 of 16 shots en route to scoring 15 points. "After we beat Ohio State (80-67 on Thursday), I said to some people, 'You can't buy a basket there (United Center).

"It's no excuse, because Illinois was shooting at the same rims, but they are more than a little tight. I think all NBA rims are like that."

The Jayhawks had one flurry in which five taps at the basket rolled out.

There were several other segments in which Gooden, Eric Chenowith, Luke Axtell and Nick Collison (a combined 12 for 35) missed easy looks.

"At one point I looked at Lon (Kruger, Illinois coach) and asked if something had been done to the basket down there," Williams said, jokingly. "We had flurries of easy ones that we couldn't make."

KU was hitting early. Jeff Boschee, who tied a career-high with six treys and finished with 18 points, canned two three-pointers as the Jayhawks stormed to a 14-7 lead.

KU opened a 24-12 lead through the first 14 minutes. At that point, Illinois, which went 9 1/2 minutes without a field goal, had made just three of 21 shots.

"Maybe we got up then didn't realize how good they are," senior Nick Bradford said. "Maybe we didn't respect them like we have to do every night we step on the court. We can't just walk out there and win on talent alone."

Illinois earned the Jayhawks' respect after its early-game fizz. Point guard Frank Williams scored eight points in a 15-4 run that pulled Illinois within 28-27 at 3:13.

The Illini (6-2) trailed just 32-31 at halftime despite the fact shooting guard Cory Bradford had two points after missing all eight of his field goal attempts.

"I spent time before we went out at halftime trying to get them fired up. That's something they (players) can control," Williams said of emotion that was missing Saturday. "We were not physically, mentally or emotionally ready."

His halftime words didn't hit home.

The Illini's Bradford, who hit six threes in a loss to KU last year, hit five of eight three-pointers in the second half while scoring 19 points.

Center Marcus Griffin had nine second-half points and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

"It was a tough second half for us," Williams said. "Their threes gave them a lot more enthusiasm. Illinois was dominant. The score was not indicative of how they dominated the game."

KU led, 35-33, when Bradford began to heat up. He hit two threes to go with a Frank Williams' steal and layin as the Illini led 41-35 at 16:51. A Boschee three and Nick Bradford's two pulled KU to within one at 41-40.

That's when Griffin scored seven straight for Illinois in a 12-3 surge that opened a 53-43 lead at 12:12.

"Griffin, on three to four possessions in a row, was able to beat us and score," Williams said, noting the Jayhawks must do a better job of fronting the post and getting perimeter players to help down low.

The Jayhawks crept within 59-54 on a Luke Axtell three with 7:21 left. Cory Bradford then hit a pair of threes and a two pointer in a 12-3 surge that opened an insurmountable 71-57 advantage at 4:34.

"Bradford was big in the second half. Cory's a good shooter and good shooters keep shooting," Williams said. "It was a very frustrating day for us. You've got to congratulate Illinois. They were very difficult to guard. Their guards broke us down with penetration. They pitched. We couldn't handle them."

Illinois led by as many as 17 points in improving to 6-2 with consecutive wins over Kansas State and KU.

The Jayhawks were outscored, 53-38, in the second half. KU hit 32.4 percent of its second-half shots and finished at 35.2 percent to the Illini's 42.6 mark. Boschee was the only Jayhawk to shoot better than 50 percent. He hit six of nine shots including six of eight threes.

"I'd never shot the ball too well in this place. I thought it was a jinx or something," Boschee said. "The shots I knocked down ... it's something that didn't matter because we lost."

KU will next meet Princeton at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His email address is gbedore@ljworld.com

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