Tisdale finds groove as Illinois stifles No. 25 Michigan, 66-51

By Jeremy Werner

What a difference a week made for Mike Tisdale.

The sophomore scored seven points and struggled against shorter, quicker defenders in a 74-64 Jan. 4 loss against Michigan at Ann Arbor.

But the 7-foot-1 center used a five-inch height advantage over Michigan forward DeShawn Sims on both ends of the court to lead the Illini to a 66-51 victory over the No. 25 Wolverines at the Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

Tisdale scored 24 points – including 18 in the second half – on 10-of-12 shooting, blocked three shots and helped limit Sims, the Big Ten’s third-highest scorer, to seven points on 3-of-14 shooting.

“Coach (Bruce Weber) talked at halftime about getting it inside,” Tisdale said. “Obviously Demetri (McCamey) and the rest of our guards did a good job of using my height, throwing it up high and letting me catch it and finish it. I got to credit it to the guards.”

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    McCamey, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, told his 7-foot teammate at halftime that he would be looking for him in the second half.

    “I told Tis at the locker room before the second half, ‘Let’s get you the ball big fella. Their tallest player is 6-foot-6; you’re 7-foot. Come on. I’m going to get you the ball. Just finish.'”

    The Illini held the Big Ten’s second-leading offense to a season-low 51 points – 22 points below Michigan’s average. The Wolverines shot 32.2 percent from the field, including 7-of-26 from beyond the arc. Manny Harris led the Wolverines with 20 points.

    “They got a really good team, guys,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said of Illinois. “I don’t know if you know that or not, but they’re pretty good … If you don’t make guarded shots against them with their length, their experience, their great defense, it’s tough to win.”

    Illinois fell behind at the half 31-30, which was the first time Illinois had trailed at halftime this season. But Tisdale scored nine points, including his first 3-point field goal of the year, to lead an 18-4 Illini run midway through the second half.

    Michigan shot 20.7 percent from the field in the second half and failed to make a field goal for a six-minute stretch.

    “We guarded and used the home court,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “Second half, the defense picked it up … It was almost an exact game as the one up there (in Ann Arbor) except reversed. We have the one-point lead at there at half then we struggled scoring in the second half. They kind of pick us apart. This game, they have the lead and we hold them. They have the dry spell and we make the run and we were able to sustain it.”

    Illinois (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) travels to East Lansing, Mich., to play No. 7 Michigan State (14-2, 4-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Spartans feature one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the conference and will be the Illini’s toughest test early in the Big Ten season.

    “It’s tough,” senior Calvin Brock said of playing at the Breslin Center. “The student section is out there before you get out for warm-ups. They know your whole bio, everything about you, and they’re talking trash an hour before the game. It’s just a tough environment to play in. We just got to be ready and focused and do whatever coach says to be successful.”