The 2003-04 version of the Illini took the Assembly Hall floor for the first time this season in a scrimmage open to the public. The game featured the Illini dividing into two teams with the Blue defeating the Orange 70-53. The scrimmage gave insights into what fans have to look forward to.
My boys chillin with the O & B MVP D. Williams
The Illini backcourt was the star of the scrimmage, with Deron Williams scoring 25 points, including 3-3 on three-point attempts in the first quarter. Dee Brown pitched in with 19 points and Luther Head had 17 points. This trio will try to pick up the scoring void that Brian Cook left, and if tonight was any evidence of that, the Illini will have no problem putting points on the board.
The Illini did play extremely well on both ends of the floor, especially under the basket. The trio of Nick Smith (4 blocks), James Augustine (10 rebounds), and Jack Ingram (5 rebounds) were tough inside, limiting easy baskets and crashing the boards. These three stood out in the team's solid defensive showing.
Freshmen Warren Carter, Brian Randle, and Richard McBride saw their first action at Assembly Hall. Warren Carter led the freshmen with 6 points, but Brian Randle stole the show with a monster left-hand dunk in the second half.
"Randle is much tougher that we thought he would be, but all our freshmen are coming. along better than we thought they would," head coach Bruce Weber said after the scrimmage.
Overshadowed by Livingston and the game was the reaction for Bruce Weber. He received a standing ovation from the crowd at his entrance as they chanted "Bruuuce." Weber's first appearance at Assembly Hall gave him an opportunity to see his motion offense in work and how the new players have adjusted.
"It went a lot smoother than I thought it would be," Weber explained. "There were periods when we tried to do too much with the dribble. Dee, Deron and Luther need to do more things without the basketball."
Players stayed after for autographs, but Shaun Livingston was the main attraction. Livingston stayed around long after the game signing and taking pictures with kids. The fans flocked around him once they realized he was staying. Depending on his decision, he may be here next year signing them as an Illini.
The Illini will play two exhibition games before opening the season November 22 against Western Illinois. The next two weeks will be crucial in determining the rotation.
"It is going to be who makes the big step over the next two weeks to see who is going to get minutes," Weber said regarding his freshmen.
Freshmen included, the Illini have plenty to look forward to. Tonight they took their first step on a road that will potentially lead them deep into March.