Illini Defeat Lewis in Exhibition Opener

Wednesday night in Champaign was a welcome sign for an announced 16,618 orange clad fans in Assembly Hall, it was the start of the 2006-2007 basketball season. The Illini welcomed Lewis University into Assembly Hall, and thanked them for coming by beating them 83-58. Warren Carter led all scorers with thirteen points, and three other Illini scored in double figures.

The Fighting Illini opened up their exhibition season on Wednesday night without a couple of familiar faces in the starting lineup. No, not James Augustine and Dee Brown, but Rich McBride (suspension for his arrest for driving under the influence) and Brian Randle (sitting out with a groin injury). With McBride and Randle watching from the bench, Bruce Weber was able to get a nice long look at the other perimeter players on the Illini roster, especially two players who could become key cogs in the Illini backcourt's rotation, Calvin Brock and Trent Meacham.

The starters for Bruce Weber on Wednesday evening were Calvin Brock and Warren Carter at the forward positions, Shaun Pruitt at center, with Chester Frazier and Jamar Smith in the backcourt. After you replace Calvin Brock with Brian Randle, this looks like the lineup the Illini could possibly use for the rest of the season, as it is difficult to think that Smith would lose his starting job to McBride after being the Illini's starting two guard for the first two games of the season while McBride watches the game from the sidelines due to his suspension.

The Illini saw another team for the first time this season, and they started out the game slowly. The score after the first TV (media in this instance) timeout was just 11-7, but after the media time out, the Illini went on a 27-8 run over the next fourteen minutes in the game to take a 38-15. The Illini closed out the final two minutes in the half and took a 44-20 lead into the break. In the second half the Illini and Lewis pretty much exchanged baskets back and forth, as the Illini won the game 83-58.

Bruce Weber was able to get a look at Calvin Brock and Trent Meacham on Wednesday night, and he is probably pretty happy with what he saw. Sure, it was Lewis University, but there was a foundation from both Brock and Meacham that they can build on. In twenty-seven minutes of action, Calvin Brock scored nine points on three-for-eight shooting, pulled down five rebounds, and had two steals, all while not committing a turnover. Coming off the bench, Meacham played twenty-nine minutes Meacham scored six points on two-for-five shooting from behind the arc, while contributing two assists, but also adding two turnovers.

The battle to be the next in the line of starting point guards at the University of Illinois appears to have been won by sophomore Chester Frazier. Frazier looked strong for the second straight game (the first being the Orange and Blue Scrimmage on Friday night) scoring ten points, handing out ten assists, recording two steals, and pulling down seven defensive rebounds. The one bad part of Chester Frazier's night on Wednesday was his free throw shooting, which was extremely poor at one-for-six, and something you do not want from your teams point guard.

  • The Illini were outrebounded by Lewis. Yes, while Emmanuel Lewis was not on the roster, the tallest player on their team was 6'6". There should be no excuse for Illinois to get outrebounded by this team. After the first exhibition game (though it was without Randle), it looks right now like the Illini don't have any one on the team that will replace James Augustine's rebounding.
  • The freshmen Brian Carlwell and Richard Semrau both got some significant minutes. Carlwell scored seven points on three-of-four shooting, and pulled down two rebounds. Semrau scored just three points in seventeen minutes, but he was second on the team in rebounds with five (Frazier led the Illini with seven).

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