Legion Plays As Illini Whip Detroit 82-51

The Fighting Illini basketball team used an 18-2 run to turn a close game into a rout as they defeated the Detroit Titans, 82-51, Saturday night at the Assembly Hall. Sophomore Alex Legion made his Illini debut a memorable one, hitting his first two three-pointers. The Illini fought off the effects of final exam week and the harassing defense of the spunky but outmanned Titans to pull away.

Titans coach Ray McCallum was impressed with the Illini, especially their 64.4% shooting percentage and 61.1% on threes.

"Illinois really shot the ball extremely well tonight. I was pleased with our first half defensive effort. But with their depth and their size, a lot of players were involved offensively. I thought they had great ball movement. Their production off the bench was a huge factor.

"I thought our pressure kept them off balance early. I'm sure Coach Weber got after his group at halftime, and they responded the right way with what seemed like a wave of players playing with great intensity and great ball movement. So it made for a long second half for us."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber was less thrilled.

"I was a little disappointed the first half. We were not quite ready to play. I thought our practices were pretty good all week. Our shooting kind of saved us. We've shot well for most of the year and tonight was even better, and that saved us from some breakdowns, offensive turnovers and things like that.

"The second half, we had a little better energy, we continued to make shots. And then we shut them out for the first 6-7 minutes of the second half and made the nice run and put the game away.

"The other positive thing is, once we got to 15-20, I didn't think we let up like we've done some other times. I thought our bench continued to play well, and we made some threes down the stretch."

Alex Legion admitted to some nerves in his first action since transferring from Kentucky but was excited to be back on the court.

"It felt great. I hadn't played in a year, so it felt great just to run up and down the court. I was just glad to help my team win. I was nervous. I was playing my eighth collegiate game, so I am kind of still a freshman when it comes to playing games."

It wasn't a perfect debut. After making his first two shots, he missed his last four as the adrenalin rush wore off. He had three turnovers and struggled defensively at times. He played only 4 minutes the first half as he had two quick fouls. He knows he has a lot of work to do.

"I need to work on defense. And coach said afterward, I had an opportunity to take charges and I didn't. I'm so used to trying to block shots rather than the team defense concept, so I really need to work on that. And I think shot selection. I need to take shots in rhythm and not just catch and shoot just because I'm wide open. I think the coaches would rather have me make a defensive play than hit a shot."

Coach McCallum recognizes the important role Legion can play for the Illini.

"He's really going to make opponents stretch their defenses because he's really a terrific outside shooter. We paid special attention to him because we are very aware of his ability to shoot the basketball. He's gonna be a bigtime scorer for them."

Always the teacher, Weber gave Alex a passing grade but not an A.

"He's a pretty good athlete, he can jump up and shoot it. You've got to give the kid credit, he made his first shot. He's not shy about shooting. He's got to get better on the defensive end in the team defensive concept. And then the passing, taking care of the ball. We have struggled in the past against zones, and with him in the mix with Trent, Tisdale, Davis, Demetri, I hope we can a very effective zone offensive team.

"He's got to get used to it again. He had a couple opportunities to take charges he didn't do. He hasn't had a chance to watch film in a long time. Now he's got a chance to see himself in live action. Now in the course of the next 5-6 games, I hope he can make progress."

Mike Tisdale got off to a quick start and tied Trent Meacham for scoring honors with 15 points for Illinois. Meacham was a perfect 5 for 5 from the floor including 3 of 3 from the three point line, and Tisdale hit 7 of 9 shots. Calvin Brock was a dynamo off the bench, totaling 12 points and providing rebounding and defense.

Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis, normally the top scorers, played less than usual. McCamey ended with 7 points and 3 assists in 19 minutes while Davis scored four points and pulled down 3 rebounds. Weber was not happy with their energy level.

"I didn't think they played hard, and their body language wasn't good. I gave them a couple shots the first half. Calvin played well. I hate to mess with lineups, and I don't like to play mind games with players. But at the same time, if you don't come ready to play with the intensity we want to play, and other people are doing it, they should get that opportunity. To his credit, Calvin did a good job first half, and he continued to do it the second half."

Everyone but probable redshirt Stan Simpson saw action. C. J. Jackson made three of four free throws, and crowd favorite walkon Bubba Chisholm added one of Illinois' 11 three-pointers. Dominique Keller played only 10 minutes, leaving for the locker room with a touch of flu.

Illinois' next game is Tuesday as they face a talented Missouri team in the Bragging Rights game in St. Louis.

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