Illini’s Frazier after win: “We made some shots, finally.”

Mike Davis goes for a dunk against Purdue in Assembly Hall on Sunday. Davis ended up with 14 points and 16 rebounds, helping the Illini beat the Boilermakers 66-48. Erica Magda

Mike Davis goes for a dunk against Purdue in Assembly Hall on Sunday. Davis ended up with 14 points and 16 rebounds, helping the Illini beat the Boilermakers 66-48. Erica Magda

By Jeff LaBelle

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber never said Sunday’s game against Purdue was a must-win in the big scheme of things, though the defining victory, a 66-48 trumping, ended a cold streak and righted a wavering Illini ship.

One player’s reaction, though, spoke volumes about the win and its impact on the season. With recent losses against Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road clear in his mind, senior Chester Frazier exhaled and addressed it.

“It’s just a big confidence boost,” Frazier said. “We made some shots, finally.”

Forward Mike Davis had 14 points and 16 rebounds in the win and Demetri McCamey added 13 points and 5 assists to lead Illinois. Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson was the game’s high scorer and finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.


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“It’s our home court – this is where I love to play, in front of our home crowd,” Davis said. “I got in the gym, shot some shots this week, so my shot’s starting to fall again. Hopefully these next two road games (against Northwestern and Indiana) I can pick it up like I did today.”

In the postgame press conference, Weber focused on his team’s intensity during a spirited practice on Saturday and the Illini’s recommitment to the basics after losing their way a few weeks ago. In other words, he tempered his enthusiasm for the victory itself.

“You know, we watched the Wisconsin game and sometimes we have a saying, ‘The videotape doesn’t lie,'” Weber said. “We tell them things during the game and they’re mad at us, we’re just trying to help them and correct them. But then you go watch the tape, we watched the whole game through, and I think some of that stuff – rebounding, not screening, not defending – it sticks out. It’s glaring. Maybe it sunk in.”

Weber said the CBS broadcasters that called Sunday’s game attended practice Saturday. He speculated, half-joking, that his team’s intensity during the session had something to do with the high profiles in attendance. Whatever the case, Illinois increased its own profile after beating No. 12 Purdue for the second time this year.

“I think we’ll know a little more (about our own team) after next week,” Weber said. “It’s a fact of life. I think we’ll know where we’re going, and even then every week is so crazy you can’t predict things. I thought this game would be close, to be honest.

“I’m just worried about the next one,” he added. “We’ve given them a goal for the season and we’re slowly creeping toward that. Along the way, if we get close, maybe we can be in the (Big Ten) race. But a lot of craziness can still happen.”

Although Illinois never trailed in the contest, it had a hard time building a lead throughout. The Illini managed to open up a nine-point advantage early in the second half, outscoring Purdue 9-4 in the first five minutes. Two of those points came on a high-flying alley-oop to forward Mike Davis from center Mike Tisdale, a play that sent shock waves through the crowd.

Purdue fought back to within four, however, on baskets by Lewis Jackson and JaJuan Johnson, before Illinois opened it up again, this time in a big way. A huge 23-6 run, capped by a Chester Frazier three from way beyond the arc, gave Illinois a 62-43 lead that all but put the game away.

“They play so hard. They play the way we should play every night,” Frazier said. “I think they bring the best out of us because you almost get that scared feeling when you play them because they’re coming at you so you just got to be on your toes, ready to punch back.”