It’s time for another Illini Tale of the Tape, where I revisit nearly every Illini basketball game from last season by watching them all over again.
The second installment brings the upset-minded Wofford Terriers to the Assembly Hall, where the Illini discover the importance of getting the ball inside to Mike Tisdale in what looked like a seemingly comfortable victory but was actually much more difficult than the scoreboard indicated.
Now remember: only one of these teams would play in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Where I Was Initially For This Game:
I was watching from the comfort of home, the night before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I can safely say that I was very worried about this game while returning home from work on the Metra. This had the potential feel of an upset special, but really wouldn’t have been too much of an upset, as Wofford was very good (winning the Southern Conference) and Illinois was still starting two freshmen and three juniors who could be very solid or absolutely nonexistent.
Some Things I Remember:
● Nothing in particular, except that this game was a close one for a good 30 minutes.
● I was right to worry about Wofford, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament and played Wisconsin relatively tough in a first round loss.
Things That Surprised Me Upon Second Viewing:
● Forgot that this was the third round of the disastrous Las Vegas Invitational.
● Also didn’t remember that Wofford beat Georgia early in the season. Of course, the Illini would lose to Georgia in a couple of weeks.
● And that Wofford lost by two to Bradley, who would beat the Illini in Las Vegas.
● Wofford also lost to Pittsburgh, only by three points though, and won at Purdue when Boilermaker stars Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson were freshmen.
● Through three games, Demetri McCamey was second in the nation in assists.
● Looking back, this game has the feel of a first-round NCAA Tournament game (at least early), especially in terms of execution and the importance of every possession.
● Did not know that the late Skip Prosser’s son, Mark, is an assistant at Wofford.
First Half Observations:
● Commentating: In pregame, the ESPNU announcers describe this game as a David vs. Goliath matchup (a bit of hyperbole on their behalf). One of them then describes Wofford big man Noah Dahlman as a scientist down low. Dahlman and Illini freshman Brandon Paul are the featured players. Keys to the game are tempo for Wofford and half-court execution for Illini. Once Wofford takes a 7-point lead with about 7 minutes to go in the half, the announcers hit up on the David theme yet again.
● Bruce Weber: Offensively, the Illini coach has a good game plan at the start, looking to utilize Illinois’ size advantage. However, his players aren’t complying, leaving some points on the table. Defensively, the Illini haven’t seen a team that executes as well as Wofford, and are struggling to contain the three. Weber takes a timeout at 13:43 to chew out McCamey following a rushed shot, but keeps him on the court before bringing in four new players. Such mass substitutions are rare for Weber. Seems a bit unsure of having both freshmen in at the same time (at least for long stretches). Paul got a quick yank, and then replaced Richardson after a turnover 10 minutes in. Down eight at the under eight, it’s important for Weber to stay the course, especially in terms of getting the ball down low. The Illini do, continuing to go inside to Tisdale, which eventually opens up the outside shot (several threes for Richardson and McCamey). Great coaching at the end of the half by going offense/defense, and even bringing a full court press with 3.2 seconds left to set up a McCamey three-point and give the Illini a 42-39 lead at the half. Illinois hasn’t been perfect but has to be happy to be up in this much tougher game than the schedule would indicate.
● Defense: Well, Wofford pounds the ball inside on the first possession, getting Dahlman an easy bucket against Tisdale, who provides no resistance and fell asleep on the dive after a back screen. On next possession, Wofford gets an open three on a down screen from Dahlman. Junior Salters hits it. Wofford cans another three on the next possession for an 8-2 game. Illini gets first stop when McCamey causes the opposition to step out of bounds. It’s clear that this will be a game of patience on defense, as Wofford picks apart the Illini with a feed to a diving Dahlman. Wofford with three threes in first 4:30 (this isn’t Presbyterian). Richard’s inability to keep man in front of him leads to dribble penetration, a corner jumper for Wofford and 15-10 deficit. Illinois trails 18-12 with 13:43 to go. Wofford with four threes and certainly making the Illini work on defense. Illinois brings four new players in (Keller, Legion, Jordan and Semrau), and the hockey-line change works early, with the Illini cutting the game to two. For a couple of minutes after the under-12, both teams are held scoreless until Wofford goes on a 5-0 run to take a 23-16 lead. Dahlman outmuscles Tisdale, and the Terriers get a great secondary break, with their big man filling the lane behind the point guard for a layup. Illinois with a couple of mental gaffes here after some solid defense. Wofford is making Illinois work, with Salters hitting a tough three over Paul for a 26-18 lead right before the under-8. Wofford with 10 assists, Illinois with 7. Weber goes to Cole for defense out of the under-8, and the Illini force a stop. On the next possession, Wofford’s smallest guard breaks down the Illini defense but misses a tough interior shot. Still, he grabs the rebound among three Illinois trees before falling down and traveling. Got outworked there. After feeding Richardson on a three that cuts the game to three, McCamey gives one back, getting beaten by a slower guard into the lane. This penetration leads to a Wofford three and 29-23 deficit. Down 32-27 at the under 4, Illinois is slowly imposing its will in this game, though a few lapses have allowed Wofford to get some opportunity baskets and remain in the lead for most of the half. Wofford is a really solid team, with 9 assists on its 10 baskets. 7 threes as well. Illinois gives up 39 points in the half (meaning that they are far from perfect), with breakdowns hurting the Illini at various points. Given Wofford’s execution and hot shooting, and the Illini not yet seeing a team like this in 2008-2009, such a half was a bit expected. Tightening the screws, reducing second-chance opportunities, being stouter down low and guarding the three better in the second 20 minutes will be key. 4 Wofford players with at least 1 three in the first half. 47% shooting from three. Wofford also with 18 rebounds
● Offense: Early on, Illinois is patient in the offense and looking to the get the ball to their big man. Good game planning as Tisdale and Davis get interior buckets. Illinois trying to push the tempo, down 10-9 at under-16. Illinois continue to go inside, but Tisdale can’t finish a chippie off a nice high-low pass from Davis, who a few minutes later, misses his own pair of chippies. The Illini going down low, but not taking full advantage. To the Illini’s credit, they have been mostly patient in the half court through the first 8 minutes (a 2-point deficit). Offense stalls for several minutes, until pounding the ball to Tisdale, who cuts a 7-point deficit to five. Down 26-18 at the under-8, Illlinois must remain patient in the half court and work the ball down low, as there are shots to be had. Illini go on a 5-0 run (Tisdale hook and Richardson three) to cut game to 26-23. Feel like Illinois is imposing its will on offense, but still trail by 5 at the under-4. Have been effective working Tisdale (who has 8 points; 1 above his 7-point average at the time). After the under-4, Illinois goes on a 8-0 run to take a 33-32 lead. The run is keyed by two three-pointers from D.J. Richardson. Illinois’ inside game to Tisdale eventually opens up its outside game, along with some patient execution and nice ball movement. Richardson (4 threes) and McCamey (2 threes) catch fire at the end of the half with the Illini leading by three. It will be key for the Illini to keep going inside to Tisdale and Davis in the second half.
● Demetri McCamey: Clanks first jumper on opening play of the game, a nice setup off the baseline. Before under-16 timeout, McCamey draws a foul on a jumper in the push game. Rattles home one-of-two free throws to tie game at 10. Hits a jumper to cut the game to 15-12 on a nice push following a Wofford basket. After a Wofford miss, pushes the ball and feeds Davis with a beautiful left-handed pass. Unfortunately, Davis misses two attempts. Forces/rushes a three on the ensuing possession, leading to an unbalanced floor and a Wofford three that forces a Weber timeout. Atones for mistake by making a nice spinning jumper to cut the game to 18-14. Playing with the four subs, makes a foolish, no-look pass to Legion on a break, leading to a turnover. A simpler pass would have been better. Then gets blown by on the baseline, forcing Semrau to help and eventually commit a foul that leads to one free throw. Replaced by Richardson at under 12. Bricks a three after the Illini fall by five. At 5:47, lets slower Wofford guard beat him into the lane, leading to a three and a 6-point deficit. After nearly forcing a five second call with 1 minute left (only to have the Wofford player hit a tough jumper for a 36-33 deficit), McCamey follows up with a four-point play. With 1.2 seconds left, hits a three to at the buzzer to give the Illini a 42-39 lead. Picks it up big time at the end of the half. 12 points at the break.
● Brandon Paul: Hits a ridiculous pop-back jumper to tie the game at 2. Wofford will live with that. Wofford wants to make Paul work on defense, according to the announcer, especially through screens. Paul picks up a tough defensive foul early. After Richardson steal, gets himself too far under the basket while on the attack, ultimately turning the ball over and leading to a transition/secondary three for a 13-10 Wofford lead. A bit out of control there. Down five before the under eight, plays great defense on Salters, keeping his feet on the ground and putting his hands up while chesting the Wofford shooter, who hits a tough three. On the Illini possession, gets caught in the air and is called for an offensive foul, wiping out a good basket. Does not play the remainder of the half. Only one shot in the first half.
● D.J. Richardson: Drills his first shot, a three to cut the game to 10-9. Feet were set. Forces a turnover with active hands right out of the under-16. Carelessly dribbling the ball at the 10-minute mark and has the ball stolen. Compounds error with a foul that prevents a fast break. Quickly replaced by Paul. Buries another three with 6:02 to go to cut the game to three. Nice patience by the Illini there against a matchup 3-2 zone. Solid pass from McCamey. At 4:31, gets lost defensively against an inbound, leading to a Salters three and 32-25 Wofford lead. Out of under-4, hits a three off dribble handoff from Legion. Once again, feet were square and had a good spring to his shot. Cuts game to 32-30. Shortly follows up with another three, this time from the top of the key, to give the Illini a 33-32 lead (the first lead of the night) with 1:54 to go. Richardson is 4-for-4 from three. Feeling it, Richardson misses a three on a nice cross-court pass from McCamey with the Illini down 34-33. Gets going in the final six minutes, hitting three of his threes. Tied with McCamey at the break with 12 points.
● Mike Davis: Misses tough turnaround early. Later dunks the ball (on a nice pass from the top of the key from Paul) to cut the game to 8-6. Has three close misses in the first 10 minutes. Making some nice passes out of the high low game. At 4:30, fails to grab a defensive board, leading to a Wofford second opportunity and trip to the free throw line. With Tisdale out, hits a tough outside corner jumper to cut the Wofford lead to 32-27. Finally makes himself a presence on defense, blocking a Dahlman shot with about a minute to go and the Illini down one after a previous Dahlman make. Down 39-37 with five seconds left in the half, Davis finds himself with the ball, drawing a foul on a drive and hitting two free throws to tie the game. Follows up with a nice show on full court pressure after the second make, forcing a turnover and giving the Illini the ball with 1.2 seconds left. Doing some little things quite well, but needs to be a bit more assertive in the second half.
● Mike Tisdale: Nice start for Tisdale. Illinois feeds him on second possession and he draws over-the-back foul. The Illini then get the ball back to Tisdale, who hits a nice turnaround hook shot. Nice post denial on Dahlman with 9:35 to go; however, Dahlman abuses him on the next possession, using his upper body strength to bank a shot over the longer Tisdale. Facing a 23-16 deficit, Illinois focuses on getting the ball to Tisdale, who gets a great feed from Davis. Two feet away from the basket, Tisdale spins and hits a nice hook. Would like to see a dunk there, but still a hoop’s a hoop. Out of the under-8, gets a nice post pass from Richardson and hits a nice hook shot over Dahlman. Tisdale’s skill game apparent there. With about 5:40 to go, gets another post feed and misses a nice baseline bank shot off the glass. Tough luck there off of good shot selection. Follows up with good defense on the other end, going straight up on the baseline and forcing a tie up with Dahlman. Good use of size there. The Illini are focusing on him now, with McCamey feeding him off a screen. Going up strong, Tisdale absorbs the contact down low and banks in a shot to cut the game to 29-25. Announcer says that Tisdale is dominating the game, and that Weber wants him to be more assertive. A bit gassed at 4:30 when Weber replaces him with Griffey. After Illinois takes 33-32 lead and Wofford calls timeout, Tisdale is to slow to stop Dahlman on the interior. Nice pass out of interior double to set up a four-point play for McCamey with 40 seconds left in the half. Has eight points at the break; his size has opened some things up for the Illini and have the Terriers concerned. Not perfect, but definitely his best half of the young season.
● Dominique Keller: Nice defense on his first possession in the game, causing a missed interior shot by the Terriers. Follows up with a layup that should have counted but is negated by an on-the-floor call. Tough one there. Good pass from Semrau off the cut. Misses an open three on next possession. With just under 12 minutes, misses a key block out, allowing Wofford to get the offensive board. However, the Terriers do not convert. Replaced by Tisdale after under 12. Returns with 3.2 seconds left for defensive purposes. Quickly replaced after Illinois forces a turnover off full-court pressure.
● Alex Legion: Comes in with Illlinois mass substitutions. Makes a nice defensive play. After getting beat on baseline, Legion recovers and steals the backcourt pass, leading a 4-on-1 break to Keller, who hits Jordan for a layup. After under-12, misses an open three. To his credit, gets back on defense and makes a steal under the basket. On ensuing possession, gets caught in the air before making a bailout pass to Davis, who misses a layup. Also enters again around 4:33. Feeds Richardson on a dribble drive/handoff for a three to cut the score to 32-30. Loses man on next defensive possession, though he recovers to get a hand up on a three that is missed.
● Jeff Jordan: Scores an easy layup on a pass from Keller. Sequence created by Legion. Runs team at 10:33 with McCamey out. Replaces McCamey at 4:33. In for defense in the final minute, plays tough defense as Salters hits a difficult rainbow three to give Wofford a 39-37 lead. Two points at break.
● Richard Semrau: Feeds a nice pass to a cutting Keller during first touch in the post. Replaced by Davis at under 12. Doesn’t see the floor again.
● Bill Cole: 10th Illini to check in, at the under 8 timeout. In for Paul. Starts doing some little things around the 5:30 mark, feeding Tisdale for a short banker that spins in and out.
● Tyler Griffey: Comes in for Tisdale at 4:28 mark. Shows on a screen but struggles to get back to his man. Eventually gives up an offensive rebound that leads to a Legion foul at the under-4 timeout.
Second Half Observations:
● Commentating: Announcers note how tempo changed at the end of the first half, with Illinois getting up and down and hitting some threes. With game tied at 50 with 14 minutes left, announcers talk upset again. Announcer says that Tisdale could be an NBA guy if he gains 20 pounds. With about 11 minutes to go, announcers say that Weber feels that Keller is the X-factor on this team. As Illinois pull away in last 11 minutes, the announcers credit Illinois’ defensive footwork and ability to push the ball as the reasons Illini win this game. Color guy says this could have been a game that the “suspect Illini” could have lost, but is now convinced after this showing that the Illini are top-four team in the Big Ten as opposed to a middle of the pack team.
● Bruce Weber: Key for Illini will be to keep getting the ball inside, with the hope of opening up the outside shot. It will be interesting to see if/how Weber shortens bench in the second half. Up 62-53 with 7:30 to go, Illinois actually goes to a 2-3 zone that leads to a missed three over the outstretched hands of Tisdale. Plays 11 in the second half, and Illinois’ offensive execution and better defensive intensity allow Illini to wear out Wofford. Nice insertion of Cole with about 12 minutes to go in second half helped changed this game and spark defining run. A bit surprised that he did not get Legion in the game in the second half.
● Defense: Better start to second half as Wofford does not score in first 2:30. Illini force a steal and get back in transition to block a Terriers layup. Give up baseline with 17:24 to go, leading to a three at the top of the key. A few mental lapses (Tisdale getting pinned down low and poor transition defense) allow Terriers to be down only two (49-47) after first four minutes. Illini outrebounded by nine at this point against Wofford. Pick up the intensity late in the game time between under 16 and under 12, with Tisdale and Davis converging on Dahlman for a block. Out of under 12, defense gets stingier, defending Wofford for good 30 seconds at a time and helping extend the game to eight. Strong defense after Wofford timeout is negated by another offensive board. Luckily, Wofford is unable to score. Poor transition defense following an unsuccessful fast break allows Wofford to cut the game to six with 9:26 left. Wofford has been able to beat the Illini off the dribble and get some open threes in the second half; they haven’t fallen though like the first half. Lead by seven at under-8; Cole and Jordan have been on the floor as Illinois’ defense has been better. Wofford is 4-for-17 from the field in the second half, and 11-for-26 from the three for the game. The Illini have a 14.5 rebound advantage entering this game, but are getting outrebounded 31-23 in this game. Just 14 points for Wofford in second half at this point. Illinois has worn out Wofford in the second half, with the Illini up 74-59 at the under 4 timeout. Wofford has had some success as of late with the dribble penetration, with containment not a strength of this Illini defense. With game in bag, Illinois gives up a transition three to make it 74-62. Wofford finishes with 25 points in the second half, and goes 12 for 31 from three.
● Offense: Go to Davis on first possession, who misses an open jumper. In first four minutes, the Illini’s offensive sets and ball movement are solid. Illinois has been getting open shots all half, but only leads by two after the first four minutes. Will be shooting their fifth, sixth and seventh free throws of the half, as Wofford is looking like it’s wearing out on defense. Illinois with only four turnovers in the game. Illini in bonus with 12:17 to go. Have left some points at the free throw line. Lead 54-50 at under 12. The offense wasn’t as smooth in that four minute period. The Illini are getting to the line but not taking full advantage. Illinois shooting 53% at this point. In first two minutes after the under-12, the Illini extend their lead to 8. Should be up 10, but McCamey makes a fancy bounce pass that Keller can’t handle on the break with 9:35 to go. That missed conversion is the difference between a 10-point and 6-point game as Wofford scores off the turnover. Up 60-53 at the under-8 as Cole has provided a nice spark in the second half. Illinois is 6-for-13 from the field at this point. The Illini are 6-for-12 from three in the game. Illinois leads by 15 points at under four timeout, as Illini go on 24-9 run since the game was tied at 50. The Illini’s offense is now hitting on nearly every possession, as Wofford looks gassed. Just 7 turnovers in 37+ minutes. The Illini end up scoring 36 points in second half. A big key was the Illini’s ability to get Wofford in foul trouble, likely due to the fact that they were wearing out and the Illini were having crisp possessions.
● Demetri McCamey: Good position defense on second Wofford possession, sliding his feet and coming up with the steal. On ensuing break, forces a tough banker that leads to Wofford break but missed shot. Misses his first shot of half at 15 minutes, a tough three with the shot clock winding down. Hits both ends of one and one to give Illinois 54-50 lead with 12 minutes left. A little sloppy with the ball right before the under-12, splitting the defense a bit erratically before getting bailed out by a foul. Comes out of under 12, and misses front end. Makes play of the game with 10:26 in the game, getting on a break, putting the ball behind his back and making a layup. Gives Illinois an eight-point lead. Has 16 points at this point, on 5-for-10 shooting (2-for-5 from three). Careless turnover with 8:27 to go, shortly after making too fancy of a pass to Keller on the break. Still tends to go for the spectacular rather than the smart play at times. Goes baseline and draws a foul leading into the under-8. Gets his 17th and 18th points on two free throws out of the timeout. Pushes the lead to 12 with 5:25 to go with a wide open three off a rare Wofford mistake. Finishes with 21 points in the game. Sloppy at times for parts of the first half, but picks up his game late in the first half and most of the second half, with good decision making a key.
● Brandon Paul: Gets away with goaltending early in the second half. Forces his offense with 17:36 to go but is bailed out with a foul on Wofford. Goes 1-for-2 at line to give Illini a 45-39 lead. Hits a runner on a nice back cut to give Illinois a 49-42 lead with 16:39. Nice body control on that play, avoiding contact and a possible offensive foul. Paul with three fouls at this point. Draws a foul leading into the under-16 on long, pop-back three. A bit of a wild and forced shot. Coming out of the break, goes 1-for-3 at the line. Makes a freshman mistake with 14:20 to go, losing his man on the weak side, which results in a Wofford three and ties the game at 50. Gives up dribble penetration with 6:30 to go, allowing two free throws for Wofford (64-55 game). Finishes with 6 points on just two shots. Fouls hurt him a bit.
● D.J. Richardson: Showing playmaking skills early, feeding Davis for an open jumper and then driving baseline and hitting Tisdale in the opposite corner for a jumper, this time, one that falls through the hoop. Called for a grabbing foul on Salters shortly after the under-16. Gives up baseline a couple of possessions later, leading to open three that Salters misses. Finally gets on board in second half with 4:40 to go, on a corner three. All 15 points are from beyond the arc. Once again, his shot looks good when his feet are set and square. Already Illinois’ best perimeter defender among the starters, though he gave up some dribble penetration as well.
● Mike Davis: Misses open baseline jumper to start second half. Couple of possessions later, misses a turnaround hook. Good board work on missed Paul free throw, tipping the ball to open Tisdale, who can’t handle and put in an easy bucket. Switching on a ball screen with 13:30 to go, fails to contain a Wofford dribbler, who gets to the basket and luckily misses the basket. Can’t get a bucket as he misses an open 15-footer just before the under-12. Very quiet second half thus far. Looks a bit slow as he commits an interior foul with 8 minutes left. Finally gets one to fall with 6:53 to go, off nice penetration and kick from McCamey, giving Illinois its biggest lead at 64-53 and forcing another Wofford timeout. Makes nice high low pass to Tisdale with six minutes left, but good help defense from Wofford leads to a steal. Lackadaisical effort leads to 6’9” Wofford player getting to the basket and scoring with 5 minutes left. Hits a face-up baseline jumpers (that rolls around the rim and in) to give the Illini a 15-point lead with 3:44 to go. On next possession, hits a baseline jumper off a screen and roll. Nice response offensively after struggling earlier in the second half. With shot clock down to 2, hits another baseline jumper with under 2 minutes to go, giving him another double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds). Davis then hits two free throws following an offensive foul on the other end. Pads his stats late in the game as he caught fire in the last 8 or so minutes. A Mike Davis game. Really good in spurts, quiet for other periods.
● Mike Tisdale: Nice box out on first defensive possession, getting good position on Dahlman and allowing Illini to protect the glass. Follows up with a baseline jumper for 44-39 lead with 19 minutes to go. Abuses Dahlman with 17 minutes to go, getting a touch inside and spinning baseline to bank in a shot for a 47-42 lead. Then forces a turnover on Dahlman at the other end. Tisdale has been more aggressive. A couple of possessions later, finds himself pinned under the basket by Dahlman, who seals the Illini big man and draws a foul. Weber yanks Tisdale after that play, bringing in Semrau. Back in after the under-16, plays nice help defense, forcing a steal with Illinois leading 50-47. Good helpline defense again, when Illinois gives up interior and Tisdale comes over to block shot with 14:31 remaining. Fails to secure a tough offensive rebound following a Richardson miss. Got bumped on the play, but shows Tisdale’s trouble with upper-body strength. Good block of Dahlman right before under 12. Doesn’t do much the rest of the half, but does finish with an efficient 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Just five rebounds. Illinois getting the ball to Tisdale late in the first half was a key to turning this game around and opening up perimeter game.
● Dominique Keller: First Illini off the bench, replacing Davis with about 16:45 to go. Nice assist on backdoor runner for Paul. Shortly follows up with a nice baseline pass to Semrau, who is fouled under the goal. Doing a nice job within the offense. Back in the game after the under 12, gets a touch down low and draws a foul on missed banker. Keller makes both free throws. Nice post feed by McCamey on that play as Illinois leads 56-50 with 11 minutes to go. Misses a baseline one-hander with 9 minutes to go against the Wofford 3-2 matchup zone. Cole gets board and scores for 60-52 lead. Does not play the rest of half, finishes with 2 points.
● Alex Legion: Does not play in second half after doing several nice things defensively in the first half.
● Jeff Jordan: Third Illini off the bench, comes in for McCamey at 14:26. Runs a nice break, feeding Cole on the wing to give the Illini a 52-50 lead just before under 12 timeout. Plays at other various points in the half, finishing with 2 points and hitting his only shot. Jordan is 3-for-3 to start the year from the field, but clearly not a player who looks for his offense.
● Richard Semrau: Second Illini off the bench, with 16:08 to go. Beneficiary of nice bounce pass from Keller, leading to a shooting foul. Bricks both free throws, which lead to a transition three for Wofford and a 49-47 deficit. Gets only a minute again, before sitting the rest of the half.
● Bill Cole: Fourth Illini in with a little more than 13 minutes left, with game tied and Wofford hanging around. On first defensive position, forces a tough shot by Wofford player and then fills the lane on the break, scoring a bucket and getting the foul. Misses free throw, but Tisdale gets offensive board. Nice offensive tip in with under 9 minutes to go to push Illini lead back to eight. Just before the under 8, provides another spark, getting in the passing lane, deflecting a ball and diving out of bounds, causing the Assembly Hall crowd to express its pleasure with the hustle. In 12 minutes of playing time, provides a spark, especially in second half.
● Tyler Griffey: Enters with 1:09 remaining and gets posted up right away. Commits a foul on Dahlman (who has 13 points in the game). Commits another foul with 1.8 seconds left after Illini give up offensive board. 2 fouls in 2 minutes. Looks like a young player adjusting to playing defense at a higher level.
● Bubba Chisholm: Comes in the final 20 seconds.
Play of the Game: With 10:26 to go, McCamey gets in the open court off an Illini defensive rebound. With a Wofford player coming at him, McCamey picks up his dribble, puts the ball behind his back, and blows by the defender for a gorgeous lay-in and eight-point Illinois lead that prompts a Wofford timeout.
Overall: Illinois wins 78-64, pulling away in game’s final 10 minutes. For the first 30 minutes, this is a game, with Illinois failing to put Wofford away. In the first 13 minutes, Wofford looks like the more disciplined team, as a patient offense breaks down the Illini defense for open threes. However, Illinois’ decision to feed the ball to Tisdale creates problems for the Terriers and helps the Illini get some open perimeter looks, with Richardson and McCamey hitting six threes in the second part of the first half. In the second half, Illinois is clearly the better, more athletic and deeper team. The Illini get up by 7-8 points before Wofford fights back to tie the game. The Illini pull away in the final 10 minutes, as the offense gets what it wants and the defense is much better. All in all, a nice win for the Illini, given the Terriers’ start in nonconference play. What could have been a nail biter becomes a comfortable win. Wofford is an impressive team, with Head Coach Mike Young at the helm.
Some Things That I Thought Were Positive:
● Illinois’ patience on offense, hot shooting and insistence on feeding the ball inside to Tisdale in the first half.
● McCamey’s overall floor game (he does have three turnovers on a few gaffes, but is solid for the most part).
● Illinois’ ability to get to the foul line 22 times in this game.
Some Areas of Improvement:
● Contain the dribble penetration, which allowed Wofford to get 31 three-point attempts (many of which were wide open).
● Rebounding (lose the rebounding deficit 34-29; not acceptable against a smaller, less athletic team).
● Free throw shooting (while 14-for-22 and better late in the game, the Illini could have extended the lead much earlier in the second half with a better job at the charity stripe).
Player of the Game: Mike Tisdale
Tough to call as Illinois gets balanced effort from four starters (McCamey, Tisdale, Davis and Richardson). I’ll say Tisdale, as he had his first meaningful game of the season, with his post touches putting Wofford on edge in the first half and allowing the Illini to get some perimeter action and even push the tempo a bit.
Well, that it’s for another Illini Tale of the Tape (I need to figure out a way to make these shorter).
Until tomorrow, when I look back at the amazing comeback against Clemson.
Topics: Alex Legion, Assembly Hall, Bill Cole, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Dominique Keller, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Jeff Jordan, Jeffrey Jordan, Junior Salters, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Mike Young, Noah Dahlman, Richard Semrau, Wofford Basketball, Wofford Terriers