Salukis vs. Illini Full-Court Vision: Blogging, Commentary & Analysis


1:12 a.m. Update: Well, take that 12-point prediction and add 10 more points as Illinois pounds SIU 85-63.

This game was close for about the first 15 minutes before Illinois really put it away.

For as hard as I was on the Illini following two sloppy exhibition games, I’ll give them much credit tonight.

Illinois came out with great intensity and played a fast, physical and focused brand of basketball that was very impressive indeed.

Check out my observations after the jump.

Game Prediction

Eight years after leaving Southern Illinois for Illinois, Bruce Weber faces off against the university that gave him his big head coaching break.

With Weber going against his former Illini assistant Chris Lowery, familiarity should breed some comfort and discomfort in tonight’s game.

Even though Southern Illinois has been down the last couple of seasons, don’t be surprised if the Salukis compete with the Illini for a good 35 minutes before Illinois pulls away for a 10- to 12-point victory.

Whatever the final margin, here’s hoping that the Illinois basketball squad can wash out the bad taste left over from the Illinois football team’s discouraging loss to Minnesota earlier this afternoon.

Tonight’s SIU-UI game tips off at 7 p.m. central on the Big Ten Network.

Writing Illini will not be doing a live blog but will share its game observations, commentary and analysis later tonight, so be sure to check back in.

Final Score

Illinois led by 29 points at one point in the second half and won by 22, 85-63.

A 22-5 Illinois run at the end of the first half and start of the second half proved to be the difference in making a close contest a convincing blowout.

Illinois played with great defensive intensity from the get go and pushed the ball at every opportunity, using the team’s depth to its advantage.

All in all, Illinois was very impressive, especially in terms of not only creating some distance against the Salukis but putting its throats on SIU in the second half.

Player of the Game:

Demetri McCamey, Senior Guard

18 points on 7-10 shooting (1-3 from three and 3-4 from FT), 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover and 1 foul in 28 minutes.

McCamey set the tone on Saturday night, pushing the ball early in the game’s first four minutes, during which Illinois scored 15 points and created a breakneck pace.

McCamey attacked off the dribble early and often, drawing two and-one opportunities in the first half due to his controlled aggressiveness.

Finishing with a team-high 18 points, McCamey displayed spectacular court vision, dropping 9 assists in comparison to just 1 turnover while leading countless Illinois fast breaks.

In comparison to the first exhibition game when he tried to make the spectacular play on the break, McCamey made all of the right decisions last night.

McCamey even got in the ear of freshman Meyers Leonard after the center threw an elbow at an SIU player, causing the refs to stop play.

It’s nice to see McCamey play with such focus and leadership.

Can he keep it up all year?

A Few Observations on the Other Illini

D.J. Richardson, Sophomore Guard

16 points (6-9 from the field, 4-5 from three), 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in 29 minutes.

  • Is there a better sight than Richardson getting ready to shoot his feet set and squared up at the hoop? Richardson was money when set in the first half, hitting 4-5 threes for 12 points and needing little time to get his shot off.
  • Richardson may be Illinois’ best offensive player off the ball, especially when curling off screens, although McCamey is good at this facet of the game as well. Richardson hit two beautiful curl jumpers in the second half.
  • Richardson displayed great unselfishness in the second half when bypassing a layup on the fast break and dishing back to Mike Davis for an emphatic dunk.
  • I love the fact that Weber was having Richardson pick up full-court, man-to-man pressure after Illinois baskets in the first half. Given the team’s depth, Illinois needs to pick up the defense, with Richardson the best candidate as he is the team’s best on-ball defender.

Bill Cole, Senior Forward

2 points on 1-3 shooting (0-1 from three), 0 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover and 1 foul in 17 minutes.

  • Cole struggled at times containing SIU wing Justin Bocot, specifically in terms of penetration.
  • With that said, Cole had a couple of hustle plays (as he usually does each game), including a nice overplay in the passing lane in the first half and an offensive rebound/stick back late in the second half.
  • Jereme Richmond hasn’t done enough to supplant Cole yet.
  • If Illinois keeps winning, Cole will remain a starter. If the team drops a few, Richmond may get his chance then.

Mike Davis, Senior Forward

14 points on 6-11 shooting (2-2 from FT), 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnovers and 3 fouls in 30 minutes.

  • Along with McCamey and Richardson, Davis was a key player in the first half, finishing with 10 points in the first 20 minutes.
  • Played with great activity all night, and showed the ability to put the ball on the deck and create his shot on two separate occasions in the first half.
  • Has been playing much more physical, consistently hard and more focused early on, which is a good sign.
  • Did struggle early on in terms of containing SIU forward Carlton Fay, who had 6 quick points.
  • Had a couple of emphatic dunks in the second half and was better with his emotions, though this aspect of his game will have to be monitored throughout the year.

Mike Tisdale, Senior Center

6 points on 2-2 shooting (2-2 free throws), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 blocks and 4 fouls in 20 minutes.

  • Picked up two bad offensive fouls that resulted in him sitting most of the first half (needs to be much more disciplined in terms of using his fouls).
  • I liked the fact that Illinois went to Tisdale in the post at least once early in the first and second halves. Tisdale is a very underrated passer out of the post.
  • Overall, Tisdale did not get many touches in the offense due to foul trouble but had a very nice impact on the defensive end in the second half.
  • Used his length with great effectiveness in second half (see 3 blocks).
  • Did a great job of blocking a shot on one end and then running down the court to receive a lob from McCamey for a dunk.
  • Like Davis, is playing more physical early in the year, as evidenced by his 7 rebounds.
  • I like Tisdale playing with emotion but could have lived without him waving his finger like Mount Mutombo after a nice second-half block. Let’s see how Tisdale fares against Texas’ athletic front line and possibly Pittsburgh’s Gary McGee or Maryland’s Jordan Williams before exhibiting such brashness.

Brandon Paul, Sophomore Guard

9 points on 3-6 shooting (1-2 from three and 2-3 from FT), 0 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal and 1 block in 17 minutes.

  • Had play of the game with second-half dunk over Fay.
  • With that spectacular highlight aside, Paul is playing under great control early in the year.
  • His decision-making has been very solid (with the exception of a couple of sloppy passes).
  • Paul has clearly become the backup point guard due to slowing down his game and making the right decisions.
  • I like the fact that he only took 2 threes tonight and attacked the basket on his other 4 shots.
  • Struggled with containment at times in first half but showed his prowess in passing lanes with second-half deflection.
  • First Illini off the bench and is suited perfectly on this year’s team as sixth man/energy guy. He must start next season!
  • Is too athletic not to get a couple of rebounds a game.

Jereme Richmond, Freshman Forward

6 points on 2-7 shooting (0-1 from three and 2-2 from FT), 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers in 17 minutes.

  • Had a nice pop-back jumper and post-up for two field goals.
  • Generally, it looks like Richmond is playing a bit too fast (normal for a freshman).
  • Richmond looks like he has his mind set on what he’s going to do when getting the ball (once again, he needs to slow down just a bit).
  • Have been impressed with his post/face-up game, although shots have been rolling in and out (those jumpers will fall in time).
  • Certainly brings some toughness (and attitude) to this team.
  • Will be a fine line in terms of playing under control and not too emotional.
  • Richmond will not be a fan favorite of other Big Ten programs.

Meyers Leonard, Freshman Center

4 points on (2-3 shooting), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2 steals and 2 fouls in 15 minutes.

  • Did I mention that Richmond and Leonard bring an attitude to this Illinois team that was not present last year?
  • Leonard runs the court like a deer. Not many 7-footers have his skill set.
  • I love Leonard’s physicality, although he needs to be more diligent with his elbows (could have been T’d up last night after drilling an SIU player in the mouth following a free throw). Watching Leonard throw his upper body around to get position down low in comparison to Tisdale during the last three seasons is a joy to see.
  • I like the fact that Richmond and Leonard play with an edge (it will be a matter of not jumping over the edge for both players).
  • If Leonard develops and keeps his head on straight, he won’t be at Illinois for more than 3 years and possibly 2 with some good play in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Had a beautiful reverse layup off a gorgeous McCamey feed in the second half.
  • Had an ill-advised three-point shot that was badly missed (stick to the interior).
  • With that said, made a beautiful high-low feed to Davis for a dunk in the first half.
  • Of all the freshmen, Leonard has impressed me most.

Tyler Griffey, Sophomore Forward

4 points on 1-3 shooting (2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 block in 15 minutes.

  • Stat line may not show it, but good things seem to happen when Griffey is on the floor.
  • Was on the floor as Illinois made first-half run.
  • Is just a really smart and heady basketball player.
  • Starting to bang more down low.
  • Still struggles moving his feet at times.
  • Must be a consistent part of rotation all year as he will be a glue guy as an upperclassman.

Crandall Head, Freshman Guard

4 points on 1-2 shooting (0-1 from three and 2-4 FT), 1 assist, 1 turnover and 2 fouls in 6 minutes.

  • Wow! Got in with about 9 minutes left in the game and chucked up 3 quick shots.
  • Is the spitting image of a young Luther Head, playing way too fast.
  • I think minutes will be tough for Head as a freshman.
  • The potential is certainly there though, but it will take a couple of seasons and some inevitable headbutting with Weber.

Joseph Bertrand, Redshirt Freshman Guard

2 points on 1-2 shooting, 1 rebound and 1 foul in 5 minutes.

  • Got in with about 6 minutes left.
  • Had a nice drive and layup.
  • Illinois will likely go 9-deep, with Head and Bertrand fighting for minutes in the 10th spot.
  • If Bertrand can be steady, he can move ahead of the youthful Head for those spot minutes.

Kevin Berardini, Freshman Walk-On Guard

No statistics in 1 minute.

  • In two games, Berardini has showed me more as a player than Bubba Chisholm ever did.

Bruce Weber, Head Coach

  • All in all, a great job, especially in terms of using the bench.
  • Weber wants to run a lot of players out onto the court and has lived up to his word early on. I see a 9-man rotation this season.

Final Observations


  • 22 assists (great ball movement and unselfishness all night long).
  • Defensive intensity was good from the beginning and especially strong at the start of second half.
  • Illinois did not get content in the second half and buried the Salukis.
  • Loved the running up and down the floor (let’s push the tempo this year).
  • Great job by Weber of using the bench in waves.


  • 16 turnovers (9 in first half). At least, the Illini turnovers were a matter of aggression and playing too quick rather than lacking any energy, as was the case too often last season.
  • Struggled with containment and closing out on the three ball at times.
  • A bit of a drop off from 6-minute to 4-minute mark in second half, resulting in McCamey and Tisdale getting reinserted.


Illinois will get its first test of the season on Thursday night when it plays Texas under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

That game and the following contest against either Pittsburgh or Maryland  on Friday should be good, early indications of just how far the Illini have progressed from last season.

Until then.