Illini defeat Weber State at home

By Jason Grodsky

A little home cooking was exactly what the Illinois basketball team needed to rediscover its shooting stroke.

Behind a career day from junior guard Trent Meacham, the Illini defeated Weber State 78-61 on Saturday in the team’s first home game in three weeks.

Meacham led the way for the Illini, scoring a career-high 26 points off the bench on 73 percent shooting from the field (11-15) and making four-of-eight three-pointers in the game.

“I just want to be able to come in and help the team in whatever way I can,” Meacham said. “Chester and everyone did a great job of getting me the ball and screening for me. I feel I’m more confident than I was last year. I just feel more prepared and take what the defense gives me.”

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The Champaign native nearly broke his former career high in the first half alone. Meacham put up 20 points in the first period, while the entire Weber State team had 22.

His previous career high had been 24 points against Florida A&M; last season in which he tied the school record for made three-pointers in a game with eight.

“I was just trying to get (Trent) the ball,” Frazier said. “When he’s hot like that you want the ball in his hands.”

Frazier added eight points and a team-high six assists and six rebounds for the Illini.

As a team the Illini shot 50.8 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the three-point line – a big improvement from the 33 percent and 31 percent the Illini shot, respectively, on Wednesday night in Maryland.

“It was a confidence boost for us,” Frazier said. “Being able to come back home and do this was big before we go up to Chicago and play another good team in Arizona.”

Freshmen Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale provided the Illini with a spark off the bench.

Davis electrified the home crowd with a pair of dunks in the first half during a 23-6 run by the Illini. He finished the game with six points, while Tisdale also added eight points as the Illini bench players outscored the Wildcats’ bench 53-33.

“We were in there getting more game experience, and hopefully it will help us out more down the road,” Tisdale said. “This period right now is big for us to get all the kinks out and make improvements.”

Weber State went on a 22-3 run in the final 7:57 of the game while the Illini starters and key reserve players were on the bench to make the final score closer than the game actually was.

“I was happy with how our guys kept fighting,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said. “Our kids stayed together and as far as our team is concerned we are going to build off that second half.”

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber wasn’t as enthusiastic about the Illini’s second-half performance in which Illinois went without a field goal for almost the whole eight-minute stretch.

“We have to find a good mixture,” Weber said. “You are obviously better when you play with older guys. But the freshman came in as stars on their teams, and now they are just playing the final minutes of the game. They got on their heels, and I started praying the clock ran out so they didn’t have to deal with it anymore.”