Here’s the first try at Illini Tale of the Tape, a look back at the 2009-2010 season by re-watching Illinois basketball games that I recorded, beginning with the Presbyterian blowout from November 21, 2009.
The purpose: to use these games as observations of areas of improvement for the Illini players and coaches heading into next season.
Where Was I Initially For This Game: Dog sitting at my brother’s apartment. Anyways, I was certainly excited for this expected blowout, which was my first look at Illinois’ promising freshman class of Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey. I had missed Illinois first four wins (two exhibition games against Missouri Southern and Quincy and two regular season home games against SIU-Edwardsville and Northern Illinois) since they were not televised in Chicago. I did hear the first two regular-season wins on the radio, including Paul’s breakout 22-point performance against SIU-E.
Some Things I Remember:
- Junior Mike Davis was off to a double-double start (12 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game) while Paul scored 42 points in his first two games.
- Presbyterian, in only its third season in Division I, was young and played a brutal non-conference schedule (Clemson, North Carolina, Ohio State, Dayton, Marquette and Florida). They have 5 freshmen, and three redshirt freshmen.
Things That Surprised Me Upon Second Viewing:
- Illinois was ranked #25 entering this game.
- Illinois did not trail in the first two games of the season.
- Mike Davis led the Big Ten as a sophomore with 9 double doubles.
- Alex Legion and Dominique Keller were the first two Illini off the bench in this game. Bill Cole is the third man off the bench and then Jeff Jordan. Weber uses 11 Illini in the first half; 13 in the second half during blowout.
- Of Illinois’ first 37 points, 18 are from the freshmen (D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Tyler Griffey). The rest of the team with 19.
- Illinois only scored 80 points or more two times in the 2008-2009 season. They score 80 points in first three games of 2009-2010 (granted against severely less talented opponents).
First Half Observations:
- Commentating: Former Illini great Kendall Gill, doing color for this game, notes the keys to this game as follows: Presbyterian needs to slow down the game and pack in the 2-3 zone while Illinois needs to limit turnovers and take its opponent seriously. Gill talks about the surprising mental maturity of Paul and D.J. Richardson for freshman. With Illinois leading 23-21, Gill notes how the Illini should go inside to exploit size advantage.
- Bruce Weber: Weber, shown in the locker room, tells his team not to look ahead, with Clemson coming up in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Sticking to his pre-season declaration to develop a bench, Weber has played 8 Illini with 13:30 to go in the first half. Weber with hockey-like lane changes in first ten minutes. Good job using his bench in first half (11 Illini play). That looks promising. At halftime, Weber says better activity on defensive end was key to end of first half spark. He says that the team was not as ready as they should have been at the start of the game. Overall, he’s pleased with better ball movement and stresses continued defense in second half.
- Defense: The Illini defense is bad early, with the undersized Blue Hose leading 11-9 at the first timeout, getting dribble penetration, leading to a couple of mid-range jumpers and a three. In the second four minutes, Illinois picks it up a bit, forcing two Presbyterian possessions to under five on the shot clock. Notably, this unit includes Bill Cole and Jeff Jordan on the court. Illinois trails 17-16 at the 10 minute mark. Smaller Blue Hose facing up the Illini bigs and having some success. From under-8 to under-4 timeout, the Illini pick it up defensively, forcing some tough Pale Hose shots. Still a few mistakes (silly fouls by McCamey and Jordan). Illinois hold Presbyterian to roughly 7 points in the last 6 or 7 minutes, due to more aggressive and better position defense. Illinois allows two more points in half than Weber wanted (28 vs. 26). Presbyterian does shoot 46.2% in first half (2-for-10 from three). The Illini control the boards, 21-9.
- Offense: A couple of nice transition plays early in the game, but mostly jump-shot reliant in the first four minutes. Better movement in the second four minutes, leading to open Richardson and Keller threes. Perimeter-oriented as expected (will Illinois 4-for-8 from three in first 14 minutes). Offense starts to find rhythm with 25-21 lead at under-8 timeout, but it also looks like a lineup with two freshmen starters. 8-0 run breaks 21-21 tie as Illini start to go inside. Illinois up double figures (35-24) with under four minutes to go. Better ball movement leads to open shots in motion (Richardson three plus the foul, Griffey baseline half-hook). Illini finally do something on offensive boards with 2:47 to go in first half. One or two in the first 17 minutes; three on two straight possessions late. Final eight minutes are much better on offense, with better spacing and ball movement (11 assists in first half), as Illinois begins to dominate this game, leading 43-28 at the break. 20-7 run to end half. Illinois shoots 52.9% in the first half, and is 5-for-11 from three.
- Turnovers: Illinois miss a backdoor lob to Davis on the opening possession, with a bad pass, and Demetri McCamey travels on the second possession (after a Tisdale block). So much for limiting the turnovers early. 6 turnovers in first 10 minutes compared to three for Presbyterian (a much younger team). The Illini are better with the ball in the second 10 minutes of the first half. Illinois finishes with 8 turnovers, Presbyterian with 9. Illinois scores 10 points off turnovers; Presbyterian 7.
- Demetri McCamey: McCamey gets Illinois on the board, off a steal (forced by Davis) and layup. Gill later says the junior from St. Joe’s is the key for the Illini this year after McCamey buries a three. A couple of turnovers early in the game (two travels). Shows some point guard skills with alley-oop to Davis to give Illinois a 29-21 lead with 5:38 remaining. After committing a shooting foul due to gambling on defense, McCamey is pulled for the remainder of the first half, as Weber gets on him on the sidelines for better defense.
- Brandon Paul: Paul’s first three is a brick off the side of the iron while his shot looks a bit mechanical. His first two shots are rushed threes. Misses a baseline layup with about 10:47 to goes but shows his heralded athleticism with a tip rebound that does not fall. Weber is heard yelling at Paul to move during the first half. Clearly (and expectedly) the freshman does not have the motion down pat at this point. Uses athleticism to get in passing lane during with 8:26 to go in first half, makes the steal and has a nice double pump dunk (showing off his athleticism again). Beaten on backdoor baseline pass late in the first half but is lucky to kick the ball away. Beautiful slashing layup and put back late in the first half (see plays of the game). Like many young perimeter players, he is in love with the three (hits nothing but backboard on an awful three late in the first half), which can be a bailout shot.
- D.J. Richardson: After under-16 timeout of first half, Richardson hits first three, off a nice cross-court pass from McCamey. Richardson has a nice explosion to his shot when getting his legs into it. Goes two-for-two on threes, hitting a bailout of the corner on a nice cross-court pass from Richard Semrau (during a possession that was going nowhere) with 8:59 left in the first half. Once again, Richardson looks good when feet are set. Defensively, Richardson has quick feet while staying in front of the Blue Hose defenders. Makes nice hanging layup on baseline to give Illinois 27-21 lead and then picks up full-court defense. Gets 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th points of the game with four-point play late in first half. Love Richardson’s on-the-ball defense, especially for a freshman. Really knows how to move his feet. Finally misses (another three attempt with just a little more than 3 minutes to go in first half). Leads Illini with 12 points at half.
- Mike Davis: Flourishing early with his mid-range game. 2-for-3 on 15-17 foot jumpers in first 15 minutes. Gets a lob from McCamey for 29-21 lead. Doing a quietly nice job on the defensive boards. Hits another mid-range shot with 1:37 to go. Has 8 and 8 at the half.
- Mike Tisdale: Illinois trails for the first time all year when the Blue Hose’s 6-9’’ center faces up the 7’1 Tisdale and hits a jumper for a 2-0 deficit. A couple of possessions later, the same thing happens to Tisdale. Presbyterian’s Chase Holmes gives the Blue Hose a 6-5 lead on a 1-on-3 fast break, grabbing the offensive rebound on a missed layup and then scoring, all the while Tisdale looks at him and fails to even go for a block. Out of sync early with butter hands. Fans on a pass to him at the top of the key, leading to a Blue Hose layup. Benched for most of first half, due to ineffective play. No points at the half (unacceptable against a team so small).
- Dominique Keller: Like most of his junior season, Keller provides a nice early spark off the bench, scoring on a dunk (forced by a steal from Alex Legion of all people). He then grabs an offensive rebound and draws a foul. Keller makes one of two free throws and later hits a three before the under-12 timeout. After hot start, doesn’t see much time the rest of the way. Forces travel late in the first half.
- Alex Legion: Second man off bench. Sees two stints (early and late in first half). Gill notes how Legion needs to provide some offense for this team. Does not shoot the ball in the first 20 minutes. His defense looks better than last year. A Legion steal leads to an Illini break early in the first half.
- Bill Cole: Sees limited minutes in first half. Gets over-the-back foul late in the first half, but plays great defense on final possession, forcing a badly missed shot.
- Jeff Jordan: First action of the season following NCAA violation (participating in unsanctioned tournament). Makes a nice steal on the baseline at the midpoint of the first half but immediately turns the ball over with a sloppy pass. Hits corner jumper late in the first half (off great ball movement and pass from Richardson). Illinois extends the lead late in the first half with Jordan on the floor and McCamey sitting.
- Richard Semrau: 10th Illini off the bench, with a little more than 9 minutes to go in the first half. Scores on an offensive put back to give Illinois a 23-21 lead with 7:44 remaining in first half. On previous defensive possession, was slow to recover on screen, leading to Blue Hose three.
- Tyler Griffey: First action comes at 5:31 of first half, when he proceeds to miss a block out on a free throw, leading to a Blue Hose rebound and layup. Off great ball movement from the Illini freshman (Paul to Richardson to Griffey), hits his first shot, a nice half-hook on the baseline. Good-looking fundamentals there, and no fear to put up an open shot as Illinois takes biggest lead 35-24 with 4:08. Nice help-line defense just before the under-four timeout, coming over after Jordan is beat off the dribble and forcing a timeout. A bit slow on several closeouts at the three-point line and gets beat on a back cut late in the first half (resulting in a Mike Davis goal tend).
Second Half Observations:
- Commentating: At halftime, Gill talks about Weber establishing an identity at Illinois (something that Lon Kruger and Bill Self weren’t able to do since they were only there for three seasons each). Gill says that Paul is too good of a talent not to score 16-17 points per game. Not sure if he means this for Paul’s freshman season, but maybe in time (his junior year). Already bored with about 14 minutes to go, Gill and play-by-play guy talking about Blue Hose nickname. Late in the game, Gill talks about Joseph Bertrand’s athleticism.
- Bruce Weber: Calls a 20-second timeout with 8:26 left in the second half, following a sloppy turnover from D.J. Richardson. Clearly a teaching point and a time for mass substitutions. Overall, very good and promising use of bench. After game, Weber notes how defense was better in second half. Does note how Illini big men struggled at times on defense, with Presbyterian running them off screens.
- Defense: Illini force a travel on the first defensive possession. Blue Hose don’t score until fifth possession of half. Give up only 1 bucket in first four minutes of second half. Through first eight minutes, Presbyterian with just two points. Second allowed basket comes at 11:22. Just four points for Presbyterian in first twelve minutes. The Blue Hose are 2-for-19 from three. Give up 9 points between under-8 and under-4. Illinois allows two three-pointers in second half, and just 20 points, holding Presbyterian to 3 points under season average. Much better intensity in second-half.
- Offense: Nice ball movement on first couple of possessions. The ball is swung from side to side (a beautiful thing to see in basketball). Great start to first five minutes of half as Illinois extends to a 55-30 lead. Illini on 25-2 run with 12:00 to go, for a 68-30 lead. Offense is clicking, as Illini hit three straight threes between under 16 and under 12. Pretty much a cakewalk with under-8 minutes to go, Illini up 75-32. Really strong and unselfish ball movement in second half as offense has been going side to side and crashing boards (a recipe for success). Illinois leads 87-41 with 2:58 remaining. Score 51 points in second half en route to 94-48 victory. Illinois shoots 54 percent for the game.
- Turnovers: Not much of an issue in first ten minutes. Richardson with a sloppy turnover with about eight minutes left. Very crisp half with the ball.
- Demetri McCamey: Gets quick hook from Weber one minute into the second half, with Jordan replacing him. Weber with a tight string on McCamey early in the year (let the battle of wills begin). Gets in passing lane with a little more than 12 minutes to go, forces steal and draws foul. Follows up with nice penetration and pass to Richard Semrau for a three-point play opportunity just before the under-12 timeout. Starting to pick up his play. Sits most of the rest of the second half as it is now massive garbage time. An up-and-down game for the junior, much like his sophomore year. Does have a very quiet but effective 10 assists to go with his 5 points.
- Brandon Paul: Strips the ball on third possession, but is too laissez-faire on fast break. Should have hit Mike Davis for layup. Misses difficult layup. Scores easy layup off inbound pass from Jordan. With 7:45 left in the half, gets on the floor for a loose ball. Nice to see a freshman still playing hard in a blowout. Overall, in my first view of Paul, it’s clear that this kid is an athlete, who like many youngsters, likes the three and the spectacular. Finishes with 8 points (0-for-4 from three).
- D.J. Richardson: Starts second half with a three and immediately brings full-court pressure. Misses baseline jumper on nice head fake. Causes five second call on second defensive possession. Coming out aggressive, drives easily to the basket but misses a layup. Misses a three after under-16. Up 26 with 10 minutes to go, dives for a loose ball. On next possession, hits Legion for a three. Richardson with five assists through first 32 minutes. Very impressive debut for me, especially in terms of passing skills and ability to rise and fire when set, and ability to slide his feet on defense. Leads Illini with 15 points.
- Mike Davis: Offensive board and put back early in the second half. Nice feed to Tisdale for dunk. Cans baseline jumper with 8 minutes left. Efficient shooting effort in spaced-out minutes. Finishes with 12 points and 9 boards on 6-for-8 shooting. No double-double but a nice game.
- Mike Tisdale: Illinois tries to get Tisdale first shot of second half but he can’t handle the pass. Finally scores with 18:07 to go in second half, off nice pass from Richardson. Strong move, hitting the bank shot layup and drawing the foul. Nice use of his body. Completes three-point play. Shows some aggressiveness on offensive boards, crashing on missed Paul layup but going over the back. Dunks the ball on a beautiful high low pass from Davis just before under-16 timeout. More energy in second half but sits during garbage time. Overall, got away with a nothing first half. Was better in the second half. Still was outscored at his position by Presbyterian’s smaller Jake Troyli (16 points). Needs to be a more consistent player. Probably the most disappointing of all the Illini in this game, with just 5 points and 4 rebounds.
- Dominique Keller: Second Illini off the bench. Hits his first shot of second half, a mid-range jumper. Misses one-and-one with 10:15 to go. Gets 19 minutes in the game, finishing with 8 points.
- Alex Legion: Third Illini off the bench. Misses a three after the under-16 timeout. Hits a three with under 12 minutes to go. Two possessions later, hits another three to give Illinois 65-30 lead with 12:24 left. Hits another three with 10 minutes left. Hits fourth three of second half with 6:51 to go. Also in love with the three-point line. Finishes with 11 points, mostly in garbage time. At the time, you were hoping Legion could develop into this type of the player off the bench but it wouldn’t happen.
- Bill Cole: Fourth Illini off the bench. Hits three following Legion’s first with 13:15 to go. After under-12 timeout, gets nice block, providing great help side defense. Good effort on offensive boards with 4:30 to go leads to Griffey basket. Filling the role of scrapper in this game. Gets another offensive board (and this time puts the ball in) on Griffey miss with 3:11 to go. Overall, a lot of hustle plays en route to 5 points and 6 boards.
- Jeff Jordan: First Illini off the bench in second half. Nice assist to Paul on inbound. Good offensive rebound late in second half after being late on help-side defense on previous possession. Rattles home baseline jumper just under 4 minutes. 2-for-2 from the field (5 points total) is a nice development early in the year.
- Richard Semrau: Fifth Illini off the bench in second half. Nice left handed layup off McCamey assist. Shows nice touch on baseline jumper with about 6 minutes left. Good ball movement here. 7 points in 11 minutes, and doesn’t miss a shot.
- Tyler Griffey: Sixth Illini off the bench. Shows nice urgency on offensive board with 9 minutes to go, grabbing a missed three from Cole and laying the ball in the hoop. Scored on during face-up jumper. Scores on another offensive rebound with 4:36 to go in game. Scores ninth point with just a little more than a minute left on a nice pass from Simpson and soft turnaround shot. For first impression, Griffey looks like he knows how to play the game, at least offensively.
- Stan Simpson: Enters game with 4:53 to go and Illinois up 80-36. Misses forced layup with under 2 minutes, then gives up bucket on other end (buying the head fake). Makes nice interior pass to Griffey, who scores. Hits baseline jumper with under a minute to go.
- Bubba Chisolm: Enters with 3:10 to go. Hits a three with 2:17 to go. Hometown crowd goes crazy. Commits silly foul with 45 seconds left and Illinois up 94-46. Misses three with 35 seconds left as Weber tells team “no more shots.”
Plays of the Game: At 3:35 mark of the first half, Paul shows his exciting athleticism, causing Gill to compare the Illini freshman to himself. Against a 2-3 zone, Paul catches the ball in the right corner, drives baseline, pops out at the block and then hits a nice scoop between several defenders. Haven’t seen that athletic play from an Illini player in a couple of seasons. At 2:21, Paul skies for an offensive rebound and lays the ball in. Once again, Illinois hasn’t had such athleticism on the perimeter in the last couple of seasons (see Chester Frazier and Trent Meacham).
Overall: About what you would expect against an early season cupcake. After a bit of a rough start for first 12 minutes, the Illini pick it up offensively and defensively, cruising to an easy victory. Weber does a nice job utilizing his bench in this game, with 11 Illini getting more than 10 minutes (which can’t be expected all year long). A superb second half effort, with the defense making life tough for the smaller Blue Hose and the offense playing unselfish, team ball. Here is the box score.
Three Things That I Thought Were Positive at The Time:
● Weber’s use of the bench, which played great.
● Scorching shooting off great ball movement in the second half.
● The freshman. They were all impressive in their own ways (Richardson’s shooting, passing and defense, Paul’s athleticism, and Griffey’s understanding of what to do with the ball around the goal).
Some Areas of Improvement:
● Tisdale’s consistency.
● Continued work on team defense, especially from the perimeter.
● Better understanding of the offense (especially with two freshman starting).
My Player of the Game: D.J. Richardson
That’s it for the first installment of Illini Tale of the Tape, which was a bit long this first time.
Until tomorrow, when I cover the Wofford-Illinois game from November 24, 2009.
Only one of these teams would be in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Topics: Alex Legion, Assembly Hall, Bill Cole, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, Bubba Chisholm, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Dominique Keller, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Illinois Vs. Presbyterian, Jeff Jordan, Joseph Bertrand, Kendall Gill, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Richard Semrau, Stan Simpson, Tyler Griffey