Wednesday night at Assembly Hall, the Illini put up 75 points and shot 53% from the field against Michigan, and cruised to an 18 point win to earn their first victory in the Big 10.
"It was just a good win for us," said Illini head coach Bruce Weber. "We felt we made some steps last week. We told the kids that if you play like that (at home), the crowd gets involved, and we should win the game. You go as the seniors go."
The seniors (Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt) were the story for Illinois. Randle scored 5 of the first 7 points for Illinois, and had 15 points and 7 rebounds by halftime, including a pair of three-point baskets. After a relatively quiet first half, Pruitt scored 13 in the second half, including back to back dunks. Both players finished with 19 points. Randle added 10 rebounds, and Pruitt finished with 7 boards.
"The Indiana game gave everyone some motivation," said Randle. "We gained a better understanding of what we had to do. That game got us ready for tonight. We executed our game plan."
The game plan for Illinois was defense. Illinois held Michigan to 36% shooting from the field, and smothered heralded freshman Manny Harris. Harris, who averages 21 points per game, was held to only 5 points on 2-7 shooting. Illinois also held the Wolverines scoreless for 5+ minutes in the second half, breaking a 43-43 tie with 12:35 to go, and scoring 13 straight points to blow the game open.
"Illinois has a great team," said Michgan head coach John Beilein. "They're a great combination of playing very good defense as well as teamwork. We had a few open looks and didn't finish. We only scored 10 points over the last 10 minutes. They're a very good defensive team. They have great defensive stats."
Michigan was led in scoring by reserve Anthony Wright, who went 5-8 from 3-point range to score 15 points. The rest of the Wolverines were 3-19 from behind the arc. DeShawn Sims added 13 points and 5 rebounds.
Illinois freshman point guard Demetri McCamey continued his strong play of late, starting the game, and scoring 7 points to go along with 6 assists, while committing only 2 turnovers. McCamey started over junior Chester Frazier, who sat out the entire Indiana game due to a rib injury. Frazier saw 25 minutes of action against Michigan, spelling
McCamey and Trent Meacham in the back court, and even played some as a small forward. Frazier grabbed 8 rebounds and provided the team with a spark in the second half.
"When we recruited him (McCamey), we knew he had great court vision and a great feel for the game," said Weber. "Sometime he tries to do too much. He's had pretty good assist to turnover numbers lately. Now he has to take the next step-cutting a little harder, defending a little harder, getting a little more consistent. It was a nice positive step for him."
"Chester knows he's going to get his minutes. We need his energy, we need his defense, we need his rebounding. He got in the paint today at a key time, dished it off, and we got a layup. He got into the paint again and got an easy basket. Maybe sitting out a little bit, watching, listening to the coaches, maybe he's making some strides as a player."
The Illini face Purdue at Mackey Arena on Saturday, with a chance to get back a game in the standings, and make up for a blowout loss last year.
"They're very physical, and very quick," commented Weber. "Last year they beat us up, and we didn't respond very well. We have to take their shot, keep coming at them, and take care of the ball against their pressure. We need to use our inside presence and control the tempo of the game."