South Padre Postgame Review

There is renewed optimism for the fate of the 2008-09 Fighting Illini basketball team. A 6-0 start, coupled with two last minute victories over quality opponents at South Padre Island, have given players, coaches and fans reason to feel uplifted and hopeful. A look back at the Illini's victory over Tulsa is worthwhile.

With the lateness of the game Saturday evening, not all the highlights of the Illini's championship run at the South Padre Tournament could be reported at the time. But as they continue to win and impress their fandom, more detail is desirable.

Illinois held Tulsa to 37.3% shooting for the game. The Illini weren't much better at 41.1%, but they were nine percentage points better in the second half when the game was decided. The Illini were in arrears by 5 in the rebounding department, despite 22 combined caroms for Mike Tisdale, Chester Frazier and Mike Davis. The scoring leader going into this game, Davis managed only 2 points but fought Tulsa for 8 boards.

Demetri McCamey did not play particularly well despite being named to the All-Tournament team. His 8 points came on 4-13 shooting including 0-5 from the three point line. And he added only one assist as he was seen playing the two-guard part of the time while Chester Frazier played point.

Richard Semrau and Calvin Brock came off the bench for 9 and 7 points respectively, outscoring the Tulsa bench by 7. Dominique Keller likely tried too hard in front of family and friends and never got untracked.

Afterward, coach Bruce Weber spoke on several subjects.

* On Illinois' minimal free throw opportunities and poor shooting from the three point line:

"Every one of our free throws was an 'and 1.' We had no free throws at halftime, so that was crazy. Kent Brown told me in 375 games Illinois basketball has had a three, and we didn't make one. A bunch were in and out.

"Usually in a gym like this, where it's more like a high school where the rims are closer to the shooting background, you shoot it better. But we didn't. In second games where you play Friday and Saturday, you don't have quite the legs. They didn't shoot it well from three either. So that might be a difference maker."

* On winning big games at the end:

"Just like we'd done at Vandy, last night and tonight we really picked our defense up down the stretch. And we rebounded when it really counted. They are a good rebounding team, but we got the key ones down the stretch. That made a difference in the game.

"Last year, we had so many disappointing games. And finally we found a way to win close games at the end. Now, we've been there, we've done it. We picked up our defense. I talked about execution in the timeouts and not worry about being tired. We'll have rest tomorrow. They picked it up every game and made some big shots.

"We had two seven point leads in the first half, and each time we got to seven it went right back down. That was a real point at half. We scored one out of ten possessions to finish the half. We never got it over seven (eight early).

* On Tulsa's motivation for the game.

"They're a good team, and they're fighting for their lives. They played very motivated. For them, this is a huge game for NCAA eligibility. They have a chance to get into the NCAA. They have Oklahoma coming up, but after that, Memphis and UAB in their league, maybe Charlotte. They need big wins, so they played very hard and didn't quit. He (Doug Wojcik) is a good coach and has done a good job getting his program restarted the way it was in the late '80's into the '90's.

"They were like Michigan State, to be honest. They were well prepared. The were switching on our ball screens, and they knew our plays. I changed the number of some out-of-bounds plays to confuse them. Their players were asking what plays those were. I was just trying to get the ball inbounds, to be honest."

* On Calvin Brock, Richard Semrau, Mike Tisdale and Trent Meacham:

"Calvin gave us great energy. Before the game, I said I wished Calvin would play well. He's trying to do everything we ask. Last night, he had the tip-in at the end that didn't go in. If he had made that thing, I would have been so happy for him. He's doing it right and has great energy. He got some deflections, he got a steal, got a runout, a little jumper.

"Richard Semrau came in and played well the whole time. He's still young, he's still immature, and he's not very strong. Maybe it wears on him. But Semrau and Mike Tisdale did a heck of a job on their big fella and made him earn every play he got.

"You've got to give Mike Tisdale a lot of credit. Big shots. Trent made a big shot to tie it that was right on the three point line. We got some big rebounds down the stretch. The other one we post-trapped, Trent got the ball and called timeout. That could be the play of the game."

* On Illinois' need for fan support in the Assembly Hall Tuesday against dynamic Clemson:

"The place is one of the best atmospheres in the country. We didn't play the way we should last year, and I think if you watch these early games, they're playing with a lot of heart, they're together, they shoot the basketball. We're really a young team, so we kind of feed off Chester's energy and leadership. So I'm hoping that place is rockin. We need the students there, we need everybody there."

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