Illinois cruises past SIU

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By Lisa Koulias

It was no surprise that Illinois picked up a 78-58 win on Friday over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

The Illini, the preseason Big Ten favorite, return all of their starters from last year, including a handful of other top contributors.

But the big surprise on Friday came during the game – six minutes into the game to be exact.

After telling head coach Bruce Weber that he did not want to redshirt this season, freshman Calvin Brock changed his mind and told Illinois assistant coach Tracy Webster of his decision six minutes into the game.

“Both Calvin and Shaun (Pruitt) before the game told me that they wanted to play, that they didn’t want to redshirt,” Weber said. “And we don’t ever want to force it. I’m not going to force it on them. I really encouraged Calvin.

“I think it’s a great decision. I’m not sure what hit Calvin, a bolt of lightning or he was watching the game or something. I think it’s a very mature decision on his part,” he said.

This year’s other freshman, Pruitt, logged 11 minutes in Friday’s game. The Aurora, Ill., native had four rebounds, a block and a steal.

Weber said he could understand why Pruitt would not choose to redshirt and why Brock would.

“We have some of the best guards in the country and (Brock’s) minutes would be limited. But down the road, I think he could be a great player,” Weber said. “Shaun, he’s a little different. He’s been a little more in the mix I think. He plays decent in practice so he went forward. I think he really contemplated not doing it. It’s a tough thing; it’s a very mature decision and a tough decision to make.

“We’ll see which one it will work out for,” he said.

Senior Luther Head was the top scorer for the Illini Friday night. He was 6-of-9 from the field with 17 points. Roger Powell Jr. was right behind him with 16, while James Augustine and Jack Ingram finished with 10 points apiece.

Deron Williams saw limited playing time due to some early foul trouble. Williams had three fouls with 11 minutes left in the first half. He picked up his fourth only three minutes into the second half. Williams and Dee Brown combined for 11 points.

“While I would like to have Deron in there, at the same time I think it’s good because there are going to be games where he gets into foul trouble,” Weber said. “And maybe in practice when he is taking it easy and reaches or bumps somebody, maybe now he will have second thoughts.”

Southern Illinois’ Dan Heimos was the only Cougar to score in double-digits with 12 points.