By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jan 27, 2005 at 5:09 AM

{image1} James Augustine's two dunks late in Tuesday's game helped the Fighting Illini break UW's 38-game home winning streak.

The 6-10 junior forward is from Mokena, Ill., but he might as well be a cheeser. His uncle is Jerry Augustine, the former Brewers' pitcher and current baseball coach at UW-Milwaukee.

Augustine's father, Dale, played basketball at UW-Oshkosh, and his mother, Barb, was a swimmer at that university. Augustine also had an uncle who played for the Miami Hurricanes and a cousin who played football for the St. Louis Rams, but they are irrelevant to this column.

State basketball fans can take some solace that it took somebody who almost qualifies as a resident to get two of the key baskets in the 75-65 win over the Badgers. It also took a great basketball team overall.

The Illini very well could end the season undefeated. Their biggest test left will be at Michigan State.

Coach Bo Ryan's Badgers gave the Illini everything they had, and led going into the closing minutes. But, as great teams do, the Illini dug deeper and mounted a comeback.

The game at the Kohl Center was one of the biggest collegiate games this state has seen in awhile. Tickets were going for $800 to $1,200 on the internet and through scalpers. If you could stand the ranting of ESPN's Dick Vitale, you could hardly miss the fact that Madison was for one night "the basketball capital of the world ... baaaby."

At least Vitale wasn't as moronic as the ESPN halftime commentator who called the Badgers the most overrated team in the Big 10. That guy was one of those "analysts," whose qualifications consist primarily of slicked down hair and an expensive suit. ESPN covers so many games that they have hired quite a few of those "experts."

Vitale also called for the fans at the Kohl Center to give the Badgers a standing ovation for building the longest home winning streak in the nation. And, in the closing seconds, Augustine and his teammates also gestured to the crowd to rise, which it did.

Athlete of the Month

A new feature of the Sports Buzz column will appear next week with the Athlete of the Month. In the first column of each month, called the State Sports Buzz, the top athlete in state sports for the previous month will be named. College, pro, high school and amateur athletes will be considered from all sports.

You will be invited in the last Weekend Sports Buzz column of each month to make your nominations in the talkback section after the column, and this writer will make the final pick. You can start this week.

Miller Happy to be Home

Catcher Damian Miller, who hails from West Salem, near La Crosse, couldn't be happier to be playing for the Brewers this season. "I grew up a Brewers' fans, so this is a dream come true," he said during the team's recent winter tour. "I really hope I can finish my career with the Brewers."

Miller has played with the Diamondbacks, Cubs and A's -- all who had winning records. "I've been fortunate to have been with some good clubs," he says. "As a young player, I tried to learn as much as I could from the veterans on those teams who did everything they could to win.

"I hope I can bring that to the Brewers. They seem to be poised to move in the right direction."

You can read more about Miller after Feb. 4 on this writer's new Web site, Midwest Diamond Report. An introductory version of the site is now up at

MDR will cover the Brewers, Cubs, White Sox and Twins, as well as minor league and amateur baseball in the Midwest.

Miller will also be featured in the first edition of Between the Lines magazine when the regular baseball season starts.

Hot Tix

Action in Milwaukee is rather thin this weekend. The Bucks host the Denver Nuggets at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Bradley Center.

All three Division I men's basketball teams are on the road Saturday. UW plays at Penn State and Marquette at St. Louis. And UWM stays in the state, traveling to UW-Green Bay.

The Admirals are also on the road over the weekend, and the Wave is idle.

If you're a baseball fan looking for a Hot Stove fix, you are invited to this writer's talk at the Ken Keltner Chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Tippecanoe Library.

Looking at what will be some long range Hot Tix. Remember the No. 5 prediction in the Jan. 6 Sports Buzz about more big-time golf coming to Whistling Straits. Well, golf fans should mark their calendars long for 2010 and 2015, when the PGA Championship tourney will return to the Straits, and 2020, when a Ryder Cup tourney is held at the course near Kohler. The announcements of these tourneys were made earlier this week.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.