Victory against Flyers shows depth

Lewis University led by nine points past the midway point of the first half before Illinois pulled to within two before the break. But the Illini put the game away with an 11-point run midway through the second half, and went on to defeat the Flyers 75-65.

“Obviously, (it) was a little closer than you hope in an exhibition, but I think a great learning lesson.” Illini head coach Bruce Weber said. “It was good for us.”

Senior Mike Davis wasn’t surprised that the Flyers came to play.

“Lewis is a good team. They ran their stuff well. They knew us. They play that pack defense,” Davis said. “We didn’t do a good job screening. We just have to do better on offense, we just have to run our stuff better.”

Davis led the way for the Illini offense, tallying 15 points and grabbing seven boards. And senior point guard Demetri McCamey added 12.

Jereme Richmond got in on the scoring too, tallying 11 points on the night. But the freshman wasn’t satisfied with his performance.

“I didn’t expect to have the best game of my career the first game, but my teammates and my coaches helped me get through it,” Richmond said. “It’s just something I’ve got to get through as far as turnovers and different things like that.”

Bruce Weber said many of the guard-forward’s struggles on the night happened because he was trying to do too much. But Weber added that Richmond played at least three different positions against Lewis.

“He played a little bit of point, not a pure point. He definitely played inside,” Weber said. “You could see he’s pretty good with his post moves around the basket and in between he played a little two, three. He can do a lot of things for us.”

And Richmond already has an idea what it will take to improve his game.

“It’s just valuing the basketball,” Richmond said. “I was trying to make too many plays that maybe would have worked last year, but this year the guys are a lot faster, a lot quicker and overall better, so just cleaning up my game.”

The opening minutes of the contest were a flashback to last season, as Weber started the same five as most games a year ago in seniors Mike Tisdale, Davis, McCamey and Bill Cole to go along with sophomore D.J. Richardson. But it didn’t take long for the substitutions to begin, and they continued throughout the game.

Everyone on the roster saw the court on the night, with everyone but walk-on freshman Kevin Berardini seeing significant minutes.

“If we’re going to really have the depth that everybody talks about, those guys are going to have to play and make some plays,” Weber said. “If you don’t put them in now, it’s going to be tough to put them in next week.”

For the veteran Davis, Friday’s competition was just a preview of what is to come, as the Illini open the regular season a week from Monday.

“We needed a good, close game. We go to New York soon, all those games are going to be close,” Davis said. “So guys got to play some crunch minutes, had to play some crunch defense, get stops.

“It’s the little things we do in practice here and there that we got to get better at — jumping to the ball, stopping the ball.”

More online: Missed Friday’s game at the Assembly Hall? To see photos of Illinois’ preseason victory over Lewis University, visit us online at DailyIllini.com.