Braggin’ Time: Backcourt leads Illinois over Missouri, 75-59

By Jeremy Werner

Since losing to Clemson on Dec. 2, the Illinois men’s basketball team has had Tuesday night’s matchup with Missouri circled on the calendar as their next chance for a marquee nonconference victory.

The Illini made a statement to the NCAA Tournament committee and poll voters, defeating the Tigers 75-59 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis for Illinois’ ninth-straight victory in the Busch Braggin’ Rights series.

After being benched to start the second half of Saturday’s win against Detroit-Mercy, Demetri McCamey responded with 20 points, all but two coming in the first half, to propel the Illini to a 40-22 halftime lead which the Illini never relented.

Including McCamey, four Illini scored in double figures. Trent Meacham scored a game-high 23 points, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Mike Tisdale had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Mike Davis added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Illinois (11-1) was able to handle Missouri’s full-court pressure and up-style tempo, limiting the Tigers to a season-low 59 points. Missouri came into the game averaging 86.3 points per game, and its previous low came in a 75-71 loss to Xavier.

While sporting a 7-4 record at this junction last season, Illinois coach Bruce Weber had been clamoring for a signature victory for the Illini to prove to the NCAA and themselves that the program was legitimate again. Pollsters will have the opportunity to legitimize the Illini as a nationally-ranked team in next week’s votes.

The Illini will face Eastern Michigan on Sunday before traveling to West Lafayette, Ind., to open the Big Ten season against No. 10 Purdue on Dec. 30.