H-F, Hill know how to handle publicity

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H-F, Hill know how to handle publicity

Homewood-Flossmoor coach Jim McLaughlin rolled his eyes. It was the kind of thing every coach dreads to see--two full-page stories on his team on successive days in a daily metropolitan newspaper. Too much publicity can often lead to inflated egos, petty jealousies and overconfidence. And that isn't good.

But McLaughlin, in his eighth season at H-F, thinks his 2012-13 squad is mature enough to handle it. The No. 4 ranked Vikings are 7-0 going into Friday night's game against Lincoln-Way East. Then they'll meet Ellison on Dec. 22 in the opening round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

With three starters and nine players returning from a 22-8 squad that lost to Bloom in the sectional final, McLaughlin had every reason to believe that this team could be comparable to his 27-2 team in 2008 or his 28-4 team in 2006 or former coach Roy Condotti's 31-3 powerhouse with Julian Wright that lost to Peoria Central and Shaun Livingston in the Class AA state championship in 2004.

"We have some pieces," he said. "We have size, two 6-foot-8 kids, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound power forward, big people who an move and get up and down the floor. And we have guards who are long and lanky and have speed. Size and length with quickness. Potentially, we will be very good.

"We saw it last year in practice. The junior class was a unique group. They competed and played hard. They pushed the seniors. They never backed down. When we got them together in the summer for 25 days, they won some tournaments and beat good teams. We saw they were a unique group."

The leader is 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior power forward Maurius Hill, who averages 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. "He is our hardest worker, a great competitor. He brings his lunch bucket every day," McLaughlin said.

Other starters are 6-foot-4 senior point guard Rashaan Surles (16 ppg), 6-foot-8 senior Lamar Wofford-Humphrey (8 ppg, 4 rpg), 6-foot-4 senior Ricky Bullock (5 ppg) and 6-foot-4 senior Jason Scott (7 ppg, 4 rpg). Tai Odiase, a 6-foot-8 junior, contributes eight points and five rebounds off the bench.

"I like how hard they work every day," McLaughlin said. "They are committed to defending. Even on bad nights you can find a way to win when you play good defense. We have the pieces to apply a lot of pressure on people and execute in a half-court setting."

It all revolves around Hill. McLaughlin said he had circled last Sunday's game against Curie and 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander on his calendar. H-F scored only two points in the last 5:33 but still managed to win 42-40 as Hill had 14 points and 12 rebounds. For his effort, Hill was named Athlete of the Week by the Chicago Sun-Times. Two back-to-back full-page stories with color pictures to boot.

"The players saw it. The coach mentioned it but he didn't make a big deal of it. He said to be humble and continue to play with the same intensity," Hill said. "I feel it is like taking baby steps. The bigger prize is out there. I don't want it to make my head big. I'm the Athlete of the Week. I'm handling it pretty well. I enjoy the moment but I don't let it go to my head. I feel I can do better."

Hill admits he doesn't mind the spotlight. "Some friends gave me a lot of grief. But some congratulated me. I would like to have more of those days," he said.

And fewer of the kind of days he experienced last season. "It was a disappointment. It wasn't a failure but a learning experience. Some kids didn't work as hard as they should have. The seniors had too many egos. It showed us that nothing is handed to you. You have to earn it. You can't let egos get in the way. You have to be together on and off the court," he said.

"This is my team. My role is to keep everybody together, to keep everybody on the same page. Everybody knows what is going on. Everybody has a clue. I have to make sure everyone is dedicated to working hard. My personal goal is to get my team Downstate."

Hill said what he likes most about this team is the players all get along on and off the floor and push each other in practice. Every day, they play a game called 'war,' a box-out drill designed to prevent opponents from getting rebounds.

"There is a lot of intensity," he said. "You have to box out and not foul in the drill. There is a lot of pushing and shoving, a lot of cuts and bruises, very physical. It gets us ready for games."

But McLaughlin admits it isn't all roses. There is one dandelion in the garden. His team has a shortcoming that he hopes to remedy during the two weeks his team has to prepare for the Proviso West tournament.

"We must become smarter on offense, what is a good shot for us, where to take it from, get the right guys I the right spots," he said. "We have guys who want to be coached. They are quick learners. Proviso West is a big test every year. We have touched every trophy at Proviso West but only won once (2003). Our goal is to play our best basketball when we get to March."
   
"Other teams weren't as focused to go Downstate. This group is focused," Hill said. "The last time H-F was Downstate was the Julian Wright team. This team can do it. It would be a big disappointment if we don't do it. We have the pieces to get there."

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

Insert title of this "Bowl" game here...

Two teams. Three wins combined. December. So much for holiday cheer. The snow may provide a certain Christmas element on the lakefront Sunday. But something different has to happen for the Bears defensively. In their spirit of giving, the 49ers have allowed a league-high 76 points off their turnovers. Problem is, the Bears have just eight of them in eleven games. If that San Francisco generosity doesn't change – either by Vic Fangio's defense finally making plays despite the core of their defense missing, or by the visitors finding a way to protect the ball in those conditions after practicing in Orlando all week – it's a golden chance for the Bears to gain a smidge of momentum before becoming a factor in the division race (because they face all three other NFC North contenders in their final four games).

1. Read zone read

Colin Kaepernick has grown much more comfortable with time in Chip Kelly's offense. He had the Dolphins hanging on for dear life until the clock struck zero last week. He became just the sixth quarterback in league history to pass for three touchdowns in a game while rushing for over 100 (no, Bobby Douglass isn't one). The challenge becomes greater minus the talented inside linebacker tandem of Danny Trevathan (injury) and Jerrell Freeman (suspension). It becomes even greater if Leonard Floyd's quickness and speed is taken away as a shadowing option as he recovers from being carried off the field on a flat board two weeks ago. He's listed as questionable. So that makes it imperative for inside replacements John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski to find a way to be instinctive while remaining disciplined enough to contain the league's best rushing quarterback by yards per attempt (8.1).

2. Don't stray from the run

Give this Niners defense without NoVorro Bowman and Eric Reid enough opportunities to be gashed, and they'll let you. Too many times the pregame formula has been for Jordan Howard to get the ball, only to find reasons not to – whether it's looking at the clock while trailing by double digits, too much traffic at the line of scrimmage or panic after injuries up front (to name a few). The 172 rushing yards per game allowed by San Francisco is the worst in eight years (Detroit).  Howard's 5.14 average gain per attempt is fifth in the NFL. Enough said.

3. Catch the ball!!!

Okay, Marquess, Josh and Deonte. Okay, Cam, Jordan and Jeremy. Okay Daniel (and/or Eddie?). We know conditions might be a little slick if it's snowing/sleeting/raining. You're supposed to be among the best in the world at what you do, even if you're down the original depth chart. Can you get your mitts on the football and hang on to it this week? Help your guy Matt out a little bit? After all, if you cut last week's nightmare in half, and maybe you're shooting for (oooh!) a fourth win Sunday, not a third.

Get set for Sunday's noon kickoff at 11 a.m. on CSN as ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on "Bears Preagme Live." Then as soon as the second quarter ends, come back here to CSNChicago.com, where Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. And finally, when the game goes final on Fox, switch immediately back to CSN as Chris and the three former Bears give you 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on "Bears Postgame Live."

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

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USA TODAY

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

Things are not going too well in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes saw their losing streak stretch to four games Saturday with an upsetting 98-89 home loss to Omaha.

Iowa has been a high-scoring team this season, entering the weekend with the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense at 85.6 points a game, but it's also been the league's worst defensive team, allowing an average of 85 points a game. And that's before the Mavericks nearly hit the century mark on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded, including a big advantage for the Mavericks on the offensive boards, where they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Omaha's bench outscored Iowa's bench, 37-9, and the Mavericks had a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint.

Trailing by six after allowing 53 first-half points, the Hawkeyes led for just 18 seconds over the game's final 21-plus minutes.

Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer, poured in 33 points in this one, though efficiency was not his strong suit, going 8-for-21 from the field. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Iowa's losing streak stands at four, the loss to Omaha linking with losses to Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have surrendered an average of 96.7 points. In four of their five losses on the season — the heretofore unmentioned one coming against Seton Hall — opponents have scored at least 91 points.

The Hawkeyes' only wins this season have come against Kennesaw State, Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Iowa has five more non-conference games — including a date with ranked in-state rival Iowa State — prior to the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.