Turnovers, poor post defense did in Illini

By Jeremy Werner

The Illinois men’s basketball team did a lot of things that would usually win games in its 76-74 loss to Clemson on Tuesday. The Illini shot 51.7 percent from the field, outrebounded the Tigers 35-23 and received 20-plus point games from two players: Mike Davis (28 points) and Demetri McCamey (20).

But two statistics proved to be the downfall for the Illini: turnovers and points in the paint.

The Illini committed a season-high 17 turnovers, and Clemson took full advantage, scoring 26 points off Illinois’ miscues. The Illini turned the ball over 10 times in the second half, resulting in 19 points for Clemson.

“You’re going to turn it over against (Clemson). That’s just the way they play,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “We just said four or five unforced ones are probably the difference in the game, a close game like this.”

The Tigers employed full-court pressure for almost the entire game which took a toll on the Illini’s endurance.

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“I thought our pressure had a cumulative effect as the game wore on, just in terms of wearing them down,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “We’re tired certainly at the end. We always tell our kids if we’re tired, they got to be tired because we’re used to playing this way.”

Illinois also had no match for Clemson in the post. The Tigers scored 56 points in the paint for the game. Illinois’ thin big men Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis were no match for Clemson’s 6-foot-7, 240-pound Trevor Booker and 6-foot-9, 220-pound Raymond Sykes, who combined for 30 points.

Weber said junior forward Dominique Keller has the size and athleticism to compete with big-bodied forwards in the post but hasn’t yet developed a defensive aptitude.

“They spread you, and they have pretty good shooters, and you have to guard Booker,” Weber said. “I don’t think we have anyone that can guard him in the post. He’s so quick and athletic.”

Tisdale ineffective

Sophomore center Tisdale seemed to take a step forward last week after claiming the South Padre Invitational MVP award and earning Big Ten co-Player of the Week honors.

But the 7-foot-1 center took a step back, tallying zero points and zero rebounds against Clemson. Tisdale committed two turnovers and three fouls in 10 minutes. Tisdale has struggled early on against shorter, stronger and quicker post players.

“He started out bad,” Weber said of Tisdale. “He’s not a real confident kid. He’s coming off an MVP outing and a great week. But he’s still young and not as confident as he needs to be. He just didn’t give us really enough to make a difference in the game.”

Weber opted to play 6-foot-10, 240 pound redshirt sophomore Richard Semrau for a career-high 27 minutes to match up against Clemson’s big men. Semrau hauled in a career-high eight rebounds.

Frazier “finally wore down”

Chester Frazier drew the assignment of guarding Clemson point guard Demontez Stitt. Despite a deep bruise on his right thigh, Frazier had to deal with Stitt’s quickness and fought through several screens for 33 minutes before Weber said the injury finally “took a toll on him.”

The senior guard limped off the court late in the second half but returned in the closing minutes. Frazier scored seven points and dealt out a career-high 12 assists but committed five turnovers and was unable to attempt a shot as the second-half buzzer sounded.

“His leg finally gave in,” Weber said.

“He said he couldn’t even bend it and he’s trying to guard one of the quickest guys we’re going to face. Then it took a toll on him, and he threw it away a couple times. He had some careless turnovers in that one stretch.”

Weber said he will consider keeping Frazier off the court during the Illini’s stretch of three games in five days starting Saturday against Georgia. But the Illinois coach said it will be hard to keep the team’s high-energy defensive stopper on the bench.

“It’s tough, but it just kind of took a toll on him,” Weber said. “When he gives in, you know he’s given everything. He had nothing else left in the tank.”

Big Ten/ACC Challenge Results

As the Big Ten/ACC Challenge wrapped up, the Big Ten’s record was 5-6. Wednesday’s results are as follows:

Indiana 58

at Wake Forest 83

Penn State 85

at Georgia Tech 83

Michigan 70

at Maryland 75

North Carolina 98

at Michigan State 63

Florida State 59

at Northwestern 73