Byline: Lindsey Willhite Daily Herald Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN - The day after Illinois' loss to Northwestern, James Augustine spent a little time surfing the Internet to discern what Illini fans think.
One particular topic made the 6-foot-10 sophomore center laugh, so he came to Thursday's practice determined to make others laugh by joking about it with head coach Bruce Weber.
"He goes, 'Hey, on the Internet, coach, they said we're having a fight. Are we having a fight?' " Weber said. "I said, 'I don't know of one.' I've gotten along with him better than anyone."
Weber was amused by Augustine's anecdote but bemused by the power such outside forces can have on his Illini.
"I told the kids, 'I don't give a darn about all the (crud),' " Weber said. "The fans. The Internet. All the talk radio. All that.
"I am disappointed that I haven't gotten them to buy in - and get them to play hard like I want them to."
Weber appreciates the way the Illini played in Saturday's 88-82 win over Iowa, but he recognizes it's not a problem that gets solved with one game.
"We've got to keep working at it," Weber said. "We worked hard this week. We've got to accomplish teaching them how to win, teaching them how to play hard, teach them how to do all the little things that make a difference.
"I think their whole life, these guys are so talented that they've been able to just live off the talent. But you also have to play hard. That's how you win. That's how Purdue beat us the other night. We didn't play hard against Northwestern. If we just play hard against Northwestern, we win that game."
Hawkeye Pierce: Sophomore guard Pierre Pierce paced Iowa in scoring Saturday with 26 points, many of them on acrobatic shots in the lane.
After one of Pierce's circus shots, a finger roll that soared four feet over the rim before nestling in the net, he stopped and glared at the Orange Krush student rooting section.
Perhaps Pierce was making up for the treatment he received from the Krush. Though nowhere near as obnoxious as Big Ten student sections have been in recent years, the Krush did chant "No Means No!" at Pierce when he shot free throws in the first half.
Pierce was convicted of assault causing injury, a serious misdemeanor, in November 2002 after an incident where he originally was charged with third-degree assault of an Iowa student.
A day off: Since Illinois resumes classes Tuesday, head coach Bruce Weber must resume giving his players one day off per week.
That NCAA regulation is suspended during winter break, so today marks Illinois' first day off since Dec. 26.
As glad as the players were to get time off, Weber's glad that school returns to give his players a normal schedule.
"It's good for them," said Weber, whose players live in a hotel during break. "We've bowled. We've gone to movies. What else can you do? PlayStation for eight hours a day gets old."