Shaky Illinois beats Quincy



By Jeff LaBelle

The Illini were sloppy on both ends of the court in their exhibition opener at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night, bobbling passes and missing opportunities. But they didn’t need to be pretty in this one, not when they were dunking and cruising to an easy 82-61 victory against the Quincy Hawks.

Head coach Bruce Weber let most of his team in on the act and relied on multiple substitutions early, often changing out his entire lineup to give the coaching staff a more definite idea of what it has in all of its players.

“We got a chance to play a lot of guys,” Weber said. “I said this is a great opportunity to them. They’re applying for a job with me and the coaches. Whatever they do, they add on to their resume.”

One thing’s for sure: Weber noticed freshman Mike Davis’ play.

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    Davis, Brian Randle and Mike Tisdale all got in on the scoring early, combining for 16 points in the first half. But Davis, who’s fighting for a roster spot with redshirt announcements looming, chose the right time to stand out. He tallied six points in the first half, but it was impossible not to notice him on the defensive boards.

    “I said he’s about the most improved guy since he got here,” Weber said. “He got here when school started, he wasn’t here in the summer. He gets to the boards, he’s long, and he’s got a nice hook shot.

    “(But) he gets to be like a top, spins around and doesn’t know where to go. He has a chance to be a player.”

    With forward Shaun Pruitt sitting, Davis’ slender 6-feet-9, 195-pound body exploded above the rim for rebounds, putbacks and dunks. But his size might be a concern during the season. Matching up against 6-feet-10, 220 pound Cody Stoneburner with one minute left in the game, Davis unleashed a hook from six feet for the score.

    Davis led the team in scoring and rebounds, putting in 13 points and grabbing nine boards, three on the offensive glass, in 23 minutes. Davis said once he recovered from an early air ball and followed it with a dunk on the next possession, he started having fun.

    “We just got to be mature and close out games,” Davis said. “After I got the dunk I got comfortable, got into the game, got my emotions going and my blood flowing. It felt good.

    “I knew I could play, but I didn’t know I could catch on so fast.”

    Randle didn’t return in the second half because of an injury and finished with six points, three assists, and one rebound in 10 minutes of play. Weber didn’t know whether it was a groin strain or a problem with his knee that kept him out.

    Guard Chester Frazier sat with a sprained left thumb and Calvin Brock didn’t receive playing time. In their absence, the battle for the shooting guard spot took the spotlight, as both Trent Meacham and Steve Holdren received plenty of playing time. Weber said at a press conference Tuesday the starting job was Trent Meacham’s or Steve Holdren’s to lose. The two had similar numbers on the night and each finished with 11 points.