Illinois sluggish in win over Western Carolina

Mike+Tisdale+looks+around+a+Western+Carolina+player+on+Monday%2C+Dec.+17%2C+2007+at+Assembly+Hall.+Tisdale+lead+the+Illini%2C+scoring+13+points.+Illinois+won+58-35.+Erica+Magda%0A

Mike Tisdale looks around a Western Carolina player on Monday, Dec. 17, 2007 at Assembly Hall. Tisdale lead the Illini, scoring 13 points. Illinois won 58-35. Erica Magda

By Jason Grodsky

Not even former Illini and last year’s leading scorer Warren Carter could help the Illini find their scoring touch against Western Carolina.

Playing in their first game in nine days and with Carter in attendance, the Illinois basketball team fought through a sluggish performance to defeat the Catamounts 58-35 Monday night.

Illinois came out of the gate reflective of their long layoff, playing sloppy and turning the ball over early and often. But the team’s tough defense and an offensive spark from freshman Mike Tisdale led the Illini to their sixth win of the season.

“You hope things would go better after the long layoff, but sometimes things don’t go the way you script it,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We just have to keep dealing with what we have and keep learning as we go.”

The Illini were held to a season low 58 points and turned the ball over seven times in the first 13 minutes of the game. It wasn’t until a 13-3 run late in the first half that the Illini got things rolling on offense.

During Illinois’ run Tisdale came off the bench and scored six straight points. Tisdale would go on to lead the Illini in scoring with a career-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

“The last couple games I’ve been trying to put a few more shots up, and now I’m starting to get a little more confidence,” Tisdale said. “I played my role and stepped in and tried to not make any errors when I was in there.”

Illinois defense and rebounding made up for the team’s lack of offensive production.

The 35 points scored by Western Carolina is the third least allowed by an Illinois team at Assembly Hall. The Illini forced 22 turnovers and held the Catamounts to 27.1 percent shooting while out rebounding Western Carolina 41-31.

Junior guard Trent Meacham was held out of the game due to an ankle injury sustained in practice earlier in the week. Meacham had been the Illini’s hottest player coming into the game, averaging 17 points per game on 61.5 percent shooting in his last four games.

Weber said Meacham could have played in the game but decided it wouldn’t be worth it. He expects the Champaign native to play in the Illini’s game on Thursday against Miami, Ohio.

“Trent gives us a lot of different looks and he can shoot probably the best on the team right up there with Jamar (Smith),” senior forward Brian Randle said. “We hope to get him back in the next couple of days.”