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Illinois' Weber hopes to tap into Tebowmania

1/9/2012

As Illinois prepares to host No. 5 Ohio State on Tuesday, Illini coach Bruce Weber hopes to tap into the type of inspirational magic Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos displayed in Sunday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I guess we need a Bronco win," Weber said Monday. "We need a Tebow experience. It can change very quickly in sports, and that's part of it."

Illinois is tied for second place with a 3-1 record in the Big Ten, but the Illini haven't exactly been impressive in their wins early in the conference season. It needed two overtimes to top Minnesota in Champaign, then had to fight back from a 10-point deficit to defeat Northwestern and finally pulled out a five-point home win over Nebraska.

While Illinois fans and the media have been quick to point out the ugliness of the victory, Weber said he's actually been impressed with his team's efforts. He believed they should be commended for winning despite the injuries to senior point guard Sam Maniscalco and junior shooting guard D.J. Richardson and having multiple freshmen play significant minutes.

"I'll be honest -- those were masterpieces last week," Weber said of his wins over Northwestern and Nebraska. "You guys have no idea. On Saturday [against Nebraska], I drew two plays in the huddle, and I had to erase it three times because one guy couldn't catch, one guy couldn't shoot and the other guys didn't know what's going on because they haven't played those spots. To find a way to win was unbelievable for our guys.

"I was thrilled to win those games, to come back to grind it out, to find a way to win."

At the same time, Weber isn't blind to his team's struggles. The Illini's offense has sputtered much of the season, but especially as of late. Illinois hasn't scored more than 60 points in a game in their last three contests. Overall, its ranked 181st in the nation in scoring at 68.2 point a game.

"Do we have to get better? Heck yeah," Weber said. "It's got to be fast by tomorrow night."