Illinois overpowers Florida Southern



By Jeff LaBelle

Illinois head basketball coach Bruce Weber said his team’s 82-61 win Sunday was important.

Not in the sense that the final score mattered, or that they should have won by more — it was the first men’s basketball exhibition game of the year against a Division II opponent, Florida Southern.

He joked, “I think it’s obvious I’m still a first half coach and not as good in the second half.”


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Illini beat Southern Florida

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It was important, he said, because the players needed it. They needed to get out of the gym, stop bickering like “brothers and sisters” and test themselves against players other than their roommates. In the minutes before the second half, Weber liked what he saw.

“At the beginning, they took it to us a little bit, but we picked up the intensity,” Weber said. “We played a pretty good 15, 16 minutes to finish the half. Shutouts, pushed the ball, had offensive rebounds, and shot the ball pretty well.”

Illinois started four guards – Calvin Brock, Trent Meacham, Chester Frazier, and Demetri McCamey- next to center Mike Tisdale. Three of them had productive games. The other, McCamey, was neutralized by Florida Southern’s defense. McCamey was 1-for-9 from the field in 24 minutes of play. He had three assists to go with three turnovers.

Trent Meacham led the team on offense with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Brock had 10 points but made his mark with rebounds – five of his eight boards were on the offensive side. And although Frazier had only three points, he helped stir the offense after the first five minutes of action left Illinois trailing 6-2.

“I think our offense really got going for everyone once we picked it up on defense,” Meacham said. “We were able to get some stops, were able to get out on the break, were a little more fluid in our motion offense. Guys were screening and we were running.”

Weber said McCamey’s game didn’t bother him. It’s what McCamey does every other day that matters.

“(Demetri) has got to be more consistent in practice,” Weber said. “He has to realize, you can’t just play games. If you’re the best player you should come and dominate practice every day.”

Illinois played all 12 players on their roster and all but one, forward Bill Cole, tallied a point. Cole attempted one shot in the first half and added three more attempts in the second. C.J. Jackson was the only player for Illinois that didn’t enter the game in the first half, but did finally check in with 1:39 remaining in the game. Jackson had a put-back with 40 seconds left in the game, had another 20 seconds later, and finished with four points.

Forward Mike Davis led the Illini bench with 11 points and six rebounds. In total, the Illinois bench accounted for 42 of the team’s points in the game.

“Coach told me this week that I’m a sophomore so I should act like it. I just have to play hard,” Davis said. “I know the motion offense now, I got it down a little bit, so I’m trying to find some open spots where I can hit my mid-range jump shot.”

Florida Southern came out crisp in the early going with 7-foot center Rashaad Singleton dominating. During the first four minutes of play, Singleton had three blocks, put a stiff body on Illinois center Mike Tisdale in the paint and disrupted interior passes on the defensive end.

Florida opened up a five-point lead with Singleton manhandling the paint.

But when the overpowering center was called for his second foul and left the game, things started to swing.

During the next five minutes, Illinois proceeded to score 18 points with Richard Semrau in for Tisdale. Semrau did not only contain Singleton, he was directing guards on the offensive end. At the next timeout, Illinois was ahead 20-15 and never looked back.

“I’ve talked about learning to finish plays, learning to finish games, learning to finish halves,” Weber said. “This was so important because the majority of our guys haven’t played a lot of minutes. They need this game experience.”