Let's give Trent Meacham some credit as he scored 19 points on the night with 13 of them coming in the decisive second half. The junior guard was nearly perfect, going 6 of 7 from the field and 5 of 5 from beyond the arc. Meacham bounced back after a tough shooting night against Indiana, sparking the team on two second-half runs that boosted a narrow six-point halftime lead into a comfortable 60-39 lead midway through the final frame.
While the junior guard helped guide the way to victory, the night also showed another glimpse of the very bright future of Illinois basketball. The Illini got another star performance from freshman guard Demetri McCamey, who almost recorded a triple-double. McCamey posted very balanced statistics, tallying 10 points, 11 assist, and eight rebounds. The assist and rebound totals are both career highs, and come on the heels of his career-high scoring night against Indiana last time out.
But McCamey was not the only freshman to step up. Three other classmates contributed to this win: center Mike Tisdale, forward Mike Davis, and guard Jeff Jordan. Tisdale finished with 10 points and four blocked shots while Virginia-native, Davis, racked up nine points, on 4 of 5 shooting, and saw fifteen minutes of playing time. Jordan scored just one point but played 11 minutes of hard-nosed defense.
Coming into the season, Weber knew McCamey was further along than any of the other freshmen and was better prepared to make a difference this season. Now, with more playing time and certainly more confidence, McCamey has become one of the best players on the floor each game out, regardless of class.
With the win last night, the Illini extended their winning streak to 18 games over the Gophers--the longest active streak by any Big Ten team against a conference foe. The streak dates back to 1999. Illinois moved to 11-14 overall, and 3-9 in conference play. Up next, will be another road test, as the Illini travel east to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. Penn State has lost eight of their last nine contests, the lone win coming in a home-court upset of Michigan State, 85-76 on February 2, 2008.