Quick thoughts after Illinois' 89-70 loss at No. 2 Ohio State on Tuesday, when senior guard Demetri McCamey pulled himself from the starting lineup and freshman guard Crandall Head received his first college start.
CHAMPAIGN -- Quick thoughts after Illinois' 89-70 loss at No. 2 Ohio State on Tuesday, when senior guard Demetri McCamey pulled himself from the starting lineup and freshman guard Crandall Head received his first college start.
-- Expect Head to get more playing time and perhaps stay in the rotation after a solid opening performance in the starting lineup against Ohio State. Head scored his only basket on a back-door play, and the coaching staff liked Head's ability to play to his strengths and get to the lane.
If anything, Head's time on the court showed he's back on the wing after earlier experimentation this season with him at point guard. Guard Brandon Paul started in place of McCamey, and Head's start came at the expense of sophomore D.J. Richardson.
Head had two points, two assists and two turnovers in a career-high 16 minutes against the Buckeyes. He played just two minutes in the previous 11 games.
McCamey didn't start for the second time in the last five games. He also came off the bench at Minnesota, where his hustle and the Illini energy played key roles in a rare road win, but it was an interesting move against the country's No. 2 team.
"Demetri thought he would be better coming off the bench to give us a little spark,'' coach Bruce Weber said. "And Crandall, we felt he's played well (in practice) and if you start him you know you're going to put him in. The first half he was OK. The second half, I thought he did a couple of good things. They turned up the heat, and he made a couple of mistakes.''
McCamey said he expected to return to the starting lineup when Illinois (17-11 overall, 7-8 in the Big Ten) hosts Iowa (10-17, 3-12) on Saturday (6 p.m., BTN).
-- Coupled with Michigan State's 53-48 win at Minnesota on Tuesday, the Illini fell into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big Ten. But the Illini were probably pulling for the Spartans.
Illinois would benefit if there's a clear division between the top five teams in the Big Ten Conference and the bottom six. The Illini seek the No. 4 or 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals and a preliminary-round bye. Minnesota would have thrown the middle of the pack into a five-way tie for fourth had the Gophers held onto a second-half lead.
Prior to the Wisconsin-Michigan game Wednesday, the Illini were tied with Michigan and Penn State for fifth.
"We want to get that 4-5 seed, stay right there and see if we can do some damage,'' said Illini forward Mike Davis.
-- The discussion over Big Ten MVP has boiled down to Ohio State freshman center Jared Sullinger and Purdue senior forward JaJuan Johnson. From Weber's point of view, it's not even close. He made it clear his vote will go to Ohio State guard David Lighty, who posted 21 points and a career-high six steals against the Illini. A fifth-year senior, Lighty holds the school record and leads active players nationally by playing in 121 victories.
"I think he's the MVP,'' Weber said. "He probably won't get it because people aren't smart enough. He's their heart and soul. In the second half, he took over the game.''
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.
Middle of the pack
Here's the rest of the schedule for teams in the Big Ten's midsection.
Michigan State (8-7): Purdue, Iowa, at Michigan.
Illinois (7-8): Iowa, at Purdue, Indiana
Penn State (7-8): at Northwestern, Ohio State, at Minnesota
Michigan (7-8): Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Michigan State
Minnesota (6-9): Michigan, at Northwestern, Penn State
Northwestern (6-9): Penn State, at Wisconsin, Minnesota