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The night Illinois and Oakland played with a women’s ball

Dec 9, 2010, 1:47 AM EDT

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.