More than seven minutes into Wednesday’s game, No. 16 Illinois trailed Oakland (Mich.) 15-6 and missed 10 of 13 shots. Something was amiss.
That something was the ball.
The two teams played the first 7:22 with a women’s basketball, which weighs two ounces less and is an inch smaller than a men’s ball. Yet it wasn’t until Illinois forward Mike Tisdale (or was it Oakland’s Travis Bader?) said something that they finally switched.
“It felt like a NERF ball,” Illini guard Demtri McCamery told the News-Gazette.
Not that it solved their issues. Illinois continued to trail until five minutes into the second half before eventually pulling away for a 74-63 victory. Illini coach Bruce Weber wasn’t one for excuses, though. Oakland hit 7 of its 16 shots with the smaller ball.
“Our kids said something right away, but I’m like, ‘You guys are just missing shots, shut up and play,’ ” Weber told the paper. “There should be no excuses. They scored with the basketball. It should be easier to score, to be honest. It’s smaller. It should go in the hoop better.”
How’d it happen? Officials were mum. Weber figured it was because the most recent Assembly Hall game was a women’s game on Dec. 1 and the ball stayed on the rack. But for a full week? I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out with camera in tow.
Now I’m just waiting for Oakland to sneak in a women’s ball for every game. Certainly helped the Grizzlies’ game.
“I don’t know how you start off the game with a women’s ball,” Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton told Jeff Eisenberg. “At first it was working in our favor. Illinois wasn’t making that many shots. Maybe we should have kept it.”
Want more? I’m also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: