Illini End Exhibition Season with Win

On Wednesday night in Champaign, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini finished the exhibition season with a 78-52 victory over Quincy. Illinois' two seniors, Dee Brown and James Augustine led the Illini with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while sophomore Shaun Pruitt was the leading rebounder with 10 rebounds, 3 offensive.

On Wednesday Bruce Weber's basketball team received two Letters of Intent from Brian Carlwell and Richard Semrau, and closed out the exhibition season with a 78-52 victory over Quincy. The Illini will now practice for the next week before next Friday night's season opener in Champaign against South Dakota State. Since I was unable to watch Illinois' first exhibition game against Illinois Wesleyan, I cannot really compare these two games, but it appears the Illini played a little better Wednesday night than they did last Thursday evening.

Wednesday night's game was a little sloppy for the Illini as they had twenty turnovers spread almost evenly across the team (James Augustine was the only player without a turnover for Illinois), but that is still to be expected as the players are learning where each other is on the floor, and where they should be in the offense. If you ever wanted to remember just how much Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and Luther Head knew everything about each other on the basketball court, all you would have to do is compare any game at random from last season to this exhibition game. Those three players seemed to know what the other was doing before they did it, and it made the basketball they played on the court look like poetry in motion. This is not a term that can be used to describe Illinois' offensive movement on the court at this point in the season, and the Illini will probably never see the plateau they had last year, but there were some signs that this team is already learning more and more about where each other will be on the court at any given time.

The major difference in Wednesday night's game versus Thursday night's game for the Illini appears to be on the defensive side of the ball, but that could also be attributed to the fact Quincy was considered a weaker opponent than Illinois Wesleyan was. Let's look at the team numbers for the Illini for the game against Quincy.

Offensive Efficiency: 108.27
Defensive Efficiency: 72.95
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 41.38%
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 68.75%
True Shooting Percentage: 60.90%

When you compare these numbers to the previous exhibition game, the biggest difference is in the Illini's offensive efficiency, and this can be directly correlated to the high number of turnovers the Fighting Illini committed on Wednesday afternoon. The true shooting percentages were relatively close (60.9% against Quincy to 61.8% against Wesleyan), so when the Illini were taking shots, they were scoring points, but on Wednesday night they had twenty offensive possessions where they did not even take a shot, a number that will need to decrease.

Tomorrow morning, will go Behind the Boxscore for this game to provide a more detailed breakdown of the Illini's exhibition season, specifically a player review from the Quincy contest.

  • It was good to see the Illini raise their 2005 Big Ten Championship banner this evening, but I had no idea they were going to do it for this game. Why did the University of Illinois Marketing Department not make a big deal out of the ring ceremony and the banner raising? Heck, why did they not do it when the regular season opened up, so Assembly Hall could have been full (hopefully) instead of for an exhibition game where many seats were left gray.
  • I really liked the contributions that CJ Jackson had in Wednesday evening's game, but I still would prefer him to redshirt. It is not tough to see that he is behind James Augustine, Warren Carter, aand Shaun Pruitt in the Illini's big man rotation, so he most likely would see limited action unless one of these three players is injured, or gets in foul trouble. Luckily Bruce Weber has buffer to redshirt CJ in Marcus Arnold. It is not that I think CJ is not going to be a good player, it is that I think he will be a better player if he is given a year to get into complete basketball shape before manning the interior for the Illini.
  • The move of the night goes to Chester Frazier. It was early in the second half, and he was in front of the Illini bench on the wing with the basketball. As I was saying to a friend, "Chester Frazier can't shoot" Chester had a very nice crossover that left the defender backing up, and he pulled up to nail a deep two pointer (his foot was on the line). Chester's jump shot is still the weaker part of his offensive repertoire as he showed later in the game, but on that play it was nearly a perfect time to shut up the pessimist in me.
  • Midway through the second half, Quincy decided to zone Illinois when the Illini had a lineup on the court of James Augustine, Calvin Brock, Dee Brown, Shaun Pruitt, and Brian Randle. I immediately said to myself that Rich McBride and Jamar Smith needed to be inserted into the game, or Illinois would not be able to break this zone. Well, Bruce Weber agreed with me as he quickly got the two shooters off the bench and to the scorer's table, but it turned out that it would be for naught. Dee Brown decided the best way to break the Quincy zone would be to shoot from the "S" in Illinois and nail two very deep three pointers on consecutive possessions. Quincy quickly called a timeout, and abandoned the zone before either Smith or McBride could pick it apart from the outside alongside Dee.

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