In Men's Basketball Illini Beat Ottawa 73-56

OTTAWA, CANADA-- Just 12 hours following the conclusion of its tour-opening victory over Carleton, Illinois returned to the court today and registered another victory, defeating the University of Ottawa 73-56 to improve to 2-0 on its Canadian Exhibition Tour.

Senior Shaun Pruitt just missed a double-double, registering game highs of 17 points on 8-11 shooting and nine rebounds. Junior Rodney Alexander also scored in double figures for the second straight game, tallying 10 points on 5-9 from the field. Juniors Trent Meacham and Chester Frazier added eight points apiece while junior Calvin Brock scored seven. Freshman Demetri McCamey, meanwhile, led the Illini in assists for the second game in a row with a game-high seven dimes, while also grabbing a game-high four steals.  

Ottawa managed just 30.3 percent shooting against the UI defense. David Labentowicz led the Gee Gees with 12 points while Josh Gibson-Bascombe added 10.  

While the Illini played under NCAA rules last night, today's contest was played under FIBA rules. The game stayed close through much of the first half. Leading 30-27, the Illini went on a key 9-2 run over the final 1:50 of the second quarter to take a 39-29 lead into intermission. During that stretch, Alexander hit a jumper, Frazier hit a driving layup, Demetri McCamey had a steal and breakaway layup and Frazier closed out the half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.  

Illinois controlled the game in the second half, with the lead never dipping below seven points. Ahead 61-52, the Illini finished strong, outscoring Ottawa 12-4 over the final 5:30 to account for the 17-point margin of victory.     NOTES:

• Since international rules were used, the wider lane and bigger 3-point arc were in effect. Other rule changes that the Illini are still getting accustomed to include a 24-second shot clock, eight seconds to advance the ball past half court, and only the head coach and not players being allowed to call timeout. Those timeouts can only be called during dead-ball situations.

• Today's starters were Meacham-McCamey-Brock-Alexander-Carlwell.

Steve Holdren, who sprained his ankle during the second half of last night's game, did not dress today. That had the Illini down to 10 available players for the game. Coach Weber said he hopes Holdren will return tomorrow, but if not, he should be back by Monday.

• Coach Weber again scripted minutes for the players. This resulted in hockey-like line changes, with four and sometimes five new players entering the game at the same time.

• After the game, the Illini bussed to Montreal. Tomorrow's game vs. Concordia is scheduled for 1 p.m. Central Time. p>PLAY OF THE GAME:

• With the Illini ahead 61-52 and just under 5:30 remaining, Trent Meacham missed a runner at the end of the shot clock, but Rodney Alexander soared in from the weakside and threw down a two-handed dunk, bringing the crowd to its feet and kicking off the UI's 12-4 run to close out the game.  

Thoughts from Coach Weber

On the quick turnaround for today's game… "It's tough. Last night was a hard fought, competitive game. To be able to get right back out there and be cut in and focused; that's where maturity and leadership come into play, We weren't very sharp early. You could see it both in our team as well as theirs, we're not in the condition at this point of the season that we need to be in for games, and that leads to some sloppy play. We had a lot of turnovers today, and that goes back to concentration and being focused. We got more in the flow as the game went on, and I thought our two best stretches were before halftime and at the end of the game."

On the play of Shaun Pruitt…

"He didn't see as many double teams today. Last night there were three guys around him and he was shaded the whole time. Today, he was able to take advantage of some one-on-one opportunities. What we are working on with him is having him screen away from the basket and then going in to post. If he runs down the court and goes straight to the block, everyone knows he's there and the other defenders can help on him. But if he comes from the outside and then goes inside, now they can't focus on him as easily. So that's something we've got to help him get better at, and that will come with time."

On the defense…

"Once we got cut in and got our bodies going, we had some nice little runs. We had some early defensive breakdowns because they ran some stuff we've never guarded. But we still held them to 56 points and they only shot 30 percent, so that was positive. We haven't spent a lot of time in practice working on defense, so I was pleased with our effort on that end today."  

Thoughts from Shaun Pruitt

On his play today…

"I think I played alright. I just try to play hard. I'm happy that that we were able to put them away. That's something that we struggled with last year, putting teams away. Hopefully we can learn from this experience and keep making progress."

On what led to his offensive performance… "

At first they played one guy behind me. Then they tried to double me, but Richard Semrau did a good job of flashing to the high spot and opening things up. He can shoot it if he's got an open look, so they had to come out and guard him and that helped me get some one-on-one situations. Our guards also did a good job of cutting and moving the ball well, so the defense couldn't double as much as last night."  

On playing on such a short turnaround…

"It's very hard physically, but what sets people apart is the mental aspect. You've got to be ready for it even if you're tired. I think if you can stay mentally focused you're able to keep that edge and bounce back quicker from one game to the next."

Story by U of I press release

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