Orange team wins annual scrimmage

Jeff Jordan plays defense during the Orange and Blue Scrimmage at Assembly Hall on Sunday. Laura Prusik

Jeff Jordan plays defense during the Orange and Blue Scrimmage at Assembly Hall on Sunday. Laura Prusik

By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois basketball team took the court at Assembly Hall for its annual Orange and Blue scrimmage Sunday night in its first public pickup game since Illini Madness more than three weeks ago.

The Illini scrimmaged for four eight-minute periods, with the score being reset after each period. Trent Meacham, Demetri McCamey, Rodney Alexander, Brian Randle, Brian Carlwell, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale made up the Orange squad to start the scrimmage, while Steve Holdren, Jeff Jordan, Calvin Brock, Richard Semrau, Shaun Pruitt, Bill Cole and Chris Hicks made up the Blue squad. Players switched teams between quarters.

“In reality this was easier than a practice and is more like a day off for us,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “As a coach you have a tendency to not always want to let them loose and play five-on-five, and we were forced to tonight, and they did some good things and got some good conditioning in. Now we’ll watch the tape and hammer on a couple of things that we need to improve on, just typical early season things.”

The Orange squad finished with 64 points to the Blue’s 63 in the four periods combined, despite losing in three of the periods. The Blue team won the first, third and fourth periods 18-14, 17-15 and 15-13 respectively, but lost the second period 22-13.

Randle led all scorers with 19 points and looked to have no signs of a lingering aftereffect from his groin surgery last season.

The fifth-year senior who was hampered by his injury last season was back to his high-flying athletic self, running the floor well and creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates by driving to the hoop on numerous occasions.

He also showed an improved shot from the perimeter, making three three-pointers while grabbing three rebounds and dishing out two assists.

“There have been too many frowns and tears over the past few years, so anytime I’m on the court it feels good,” Randle said. “We’ve been emphasizing the potential that we have on this team, and I expect this every night from myself. I’ve been here long enough to know how everything works, and now there is no more thinking, it’s just going out and playing.”

One player not in uniform for the scrimmage was junior guard Chester Frazier, who sat out the scrimmage with a left thumb injury.

Frazier, who was plagued all last season with a variety of injuries, sprained his thumb in practice on Saturday was listed as day-to-day. Weber said he would hold the Baltimore native out of the Illini’s exhibition on Wednesday against Quincy to give him an extra day’s rest.

“Chester probably could’ve played, but there was no sense in it,” Weber said. “It’s just like a jammed thumb where he sprained the tendon by getting it pushed back. We’ll probably hold him out Wednesday so he doesn’t make the injury worse. With him out it will give us a chance to get look at some of the other kids.”

With Pruitt, Randle and Frazier the only players certain to start, the rest of the Illini were looking to make a bid for playing time this season.

Every player who played scored, and the Illini shot the ball relatively well from the outside, making 14 three-pointers on 42 attempts from behind the arc.

While a normally good outside shooter, Meacham struggled to find his shot from the perimeter, missing all five of his three-point attempts, his high school teammate Holdren shot the ball well, finishing with 13 points.

Alexander also made a good impression on the Illini crowd, ending the scrimmage with 17 points and three rebounds. The junior college transfer was 6-for-11 from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point land.

“I’m not scared to shoot,” Alexander said. “I think I could’ve played a little better defense, but I think I played all right. It was good to play in front of a crowd, and I liked the chemistry we had.”

Weber knows both Holdren and Alexander can shoot but is more concerned with the pair’s progress on defense and rebounding.

“We know they can shoot, but now we have to start to get them to rebound and guard somebody,” Weber said. “We have enough guys who can shoot the ball with Rodney, Trent, Brian and Steve, so hopefully we don’t have to shoot so many threes and can work the ball inside more.”

After the scrimmage ended, Weber still said he isn’t close to determining what players will redshirt this season, but will have a better idea in the coming weeks after the Illini play their exhibition games against Quincy and Kentucky Wesleyan.

“I don’t think I’m close to knowing who’s going to redshirt,” Weber said. “It’ll be tough because just like (Sunday) somebody will look good on a couple of plays but on the next few they don’t.”