Illinois 74, Oakland 63: Hoops Musings for Two Mornings After, Game Ten


I finally got a chance to watch the Illinois-Oakland replay, and it looks like I didn’t miss much.

Here are some quick observations on the sloppy win for the Illini.

● How can the officials let the game go nearly 8 minutes without recognizing that they were using a women’s basketball? Just like the Illini for a good 25 minutes on Wednesday night, the officials apparently had their minds somewhere else.

● The Illini players can complain all they want about the ball affecting the game, but the ball didn’t result in them playing way too fast, getting outworked down low and looking choppy throughout the first half. Excuses are excuses. The Illini slept walk for a good 25 minutes before getting it together during a 18-0 run early in the second half that really was the difference. With that said, such a letdown was expected after the UNC and Gonzaga wins and with it being Finals week. At least the Illini won. As Bruce Weber said after the game, he’s not sure that Illinois would have won such an affair last year.

● Demetri McCamey led the Illini with 30 points, including 13 points during the 18-0 run when he was really good. However, in the first half, McCamey was brutal, playing way too fast, leaving his feet on passes and turning the ball over due to his sloppiness. Illinois settled down in the second with McCamey playing off the ball and Jereme Richmond running the point.

● Speaking of Richmond, this kid needs to start. Enough is enough. He’s clearly Illinois’ toughest player, followed by D.J. Richardson, and gives Illinois a much-needed edge. Richmond is the best post player on the team (Mike Tisdale was really soft against Oakland), as evidenced by a nice drop step/up-and-under in the second half and two vicious dunks at the rim.

● As written before, Illinois is just not physical enough down low, even though the Illini did do a good job on Oakland star Keith Benson, who was limited to 11 points on 2-9 from the field. With that said, Oakland outworked the Illini on the glass, finishing with 40 rebounds compared to 33 for the Illini. Ultimately, Illinois’ lack of consistent interior toughness will be this team’s downfall come March. Tisdale and Davis were nonexistent against the Golden Grizzlies. Even though Tisdale finished with 9 rebounds, he really didn’t have that noticeable of an impact on the glass.

● I still don’t like the way the bench is being used, particularly how Tyler Griffey is seeing no time and Meyers Leonard is starting to drop in minutes. Even with the Illini at 9-1, Weber needs to utilize this team’s depth much better. If there’s one complaint I have about this team thus far, that’s it.

● All in all, Illinois won, which is all that matters. I knew this would be a tough game because Oakland is a high-quality mid major and the Illini were coming off two big victories against UNC and Gonzaga. Sometimes you just have to be happy to get a win, make some corrections and move on. That was a classic game for the Illini to stumble, and they didn’t as I had predicted they would back in August.

Here are some player observations.

Demetri McCamey

30 points (10-18 from the field, 3-6 from three, 7-8 from foul line), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers, 2 steals and 2 fouls in 37 minutes

With the exception of his scoring barrage during the 18-0 run, I thought McCamey had an uneven game, despite falling 1 point short of a career high.

D.J. Richardson

16 points (6-11 from the field, 4-8 from three), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 foul in 37 minutes

Before missing his last two shots of the game, Richardson was really effective and Illinois’ stabilizer on Wednesday night, when he hit some big threes to keep the Illini within striking distance and help build a bit of a comfortable lead.

Brandon Paul

2 points (0-4 from the field, 0-1 from three, 2-4 from the foul line), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover and 1 block in 16 minutes

Getting his second consecutive start, Paul had a few nice moments early on in the passing lanes, but was out of control and overaggressive for the most part, beckoning back to his freshman season. Paul was benched for the first 9 minutes of the second half and didn’t get much tick in the final 20 minutes. Clearly, Oakland was the worst game of the season for Paul, who hasn’t made a field goal in the last two Illinois home games. While Paul was blanked against UNC, he wasn’t involved that much in the offense on a night when Davis and Tisdale really shined. Against Oakland, he was a little too reckless for his own good.

Mike Davis

5 points (2-6 from the field, 1-2 from the foul line), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal, 1 block and 4 fouls in 31 minutes

Davis was very quiet against Oakland, so much that nothing stands out in my mind about his game, with the exception of him hitting a push shot with 10 seconds left.

Mike Tisdale

7 points (1-6 from the field, 5-6 from the foul line), 9 rebounds, 3 assist, 1 steal, 1 block and 4 fouls in 27 minutes

Tisdale struggled with the physicality of Benson all night, especially when trying to make moves with the ball in the post, and had 4 fouls as well. The last two games (wins against Gonzaga and Oakland) show what Tisdale is: a finesse player, make that, a seven footer in a guard’s body.

Bill Cole

3 points (1-3 from the field, 1-3 from three), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 22 minutes

Starting for Paul out of halftime, Cole hit a corner three early in the second half to help the Illini whittle down an Oakland lead but was mostly quiet beyond that.

Jereme Richmond

10 points (5-7 from the field, 0-1 from the foul line), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 1 block and 4 fouls in 21 minutes

All in all, Richmond had another nice game off the bench, providing a spark and bringing some stability while running the point in the second half. See above in terms of my opinions about him starting.

Meyers Leonard

1 point (0-2 from the field, 1-2 from foul line), 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 1 block and 1 foul in 4 minutes

Leonard is part of the rotation but not giving the Illini much in recent games, which is a bit expected considering how raw he is. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Leonard is a spot player by the middle of the Big Ten and if Illinois is going with essentially what is a seven-man rotation by then, with Leonard and Griffey getting the type of minutes they saw against Oakland.

Tyler Griffey

0 points (0-1 from the field), 1 rebound, 1 turnover and 1 foul in 3 minutes

If you read Writing Illini, you’ll know that I feel Griffey needs much more time, even though he does struggle with the physicality of the game down low. Unfortunately, it looks like Griffey will be sitting for most of his sophomore season unless things change come the Big Ten and Weber goes with his experience instead of Leonard.

Crandall Head

0 points and 1 foul in 1 minute

Head committed a bad foul late in the game, resulting in an Oakland four-point play with the game basically decided.

Joseph Bertrand

No statistics in 1 minute

Bertrand got in late. I honestly can say that I haven’t seen enough of Bertrand to make a fair judgment about his game. I hope Bertrand and Griffey can be patient and stick through this season as they should be key contributors in the next two seasons.


Until next time, when Illinois hosts Northern Colorado on Sunday.