Michigan Victory Draws Continued Interest

As the University of Illinois basketball team continues to win games, the interest in everything Illini increases as well. The Illini are surprising everyone but themselves with their sparkling 15-2 record and their reputation for unselfish team play and fundamentally sound defense.

Several Illini players discussed the present status of their team after the Michigan game. Trent Meacham says the beauty of this team is they have so many weapons. Opponents can't focus on anyone in particular.

"We don't just have one guy we go to every night. Different nights, different guys are gonna step up. We have a lot of guys that can fill that role. We don't always know who's gonna step up and make shots that night.

"I think unselfishness is key. When we see someone get hot, we continue to go to him. Last night in the second half, (Mike) Tisdale really had it going. He was hitting inside and even steps out and hits a three. That's tough when you've got your center doing that."

Meacham blows hot and cold with his shooting. He was hot against Indiana but struggled against Michigan. He has the maturity to realize team goals and personal goals are one and the same.

"Whether it's shooting or just playing consistently, there's a lot more than just shooting the ball. If I make shots, it's always great. But we've had a lot of guys step up. Demetri (McCamey) did the first half, and Mike Tisdale took over the second half. That's what makes us dangerous."

Senior fireman Calvin Brock concurs.

"I think we're real hard to defend. We can go inside with Tisdale and Mike Davis, and we can also go outside with Demetri and Trent. It's a nightmare for a lot of teams."

The Illini were somewhat helter skelter in the first half against Michigan. Often, they were in too big a hurry to shoot the ball. Brock says Weber calmed them down.

"Coach wanted us to slow down. We were trying to score on the first pass. We were misfiring and they were getting fast breaks. Coach wanted us to take care of the ball and make them play defense for 35 seconds."

Tisdale was the hot hand against Michigan, and the Illini began finding him for open shots once they settled down. He says the team can't plan ahead of time to create an open shooter. Wednesday was simply his turn.

"Not at all. We just concentrate on defense and let the offense come. Obviously, last night was my night, and the game before it was Trent. Every night is different. Thankfully, we have enough offensive weapons that it takes care of itself."

Everything began to snowball for Tisdale in the second half. He and his teammates both felt it and took advantage of it.

"Coach told the guys to throw it in (to the post). The guys began to realize it was a little bit of a mismatch and started doing it. Then I started posting up a little harder."

Big Mike is a good 3-point shooter, but he shot and made his first three of the season against the Wolverines.

"I'm not gonna focus on 3-pointers, but if I'm open I'll shoot it. I wasn't surprised I made it, but even the manager has been asking me why I haven't been shooting 3's. I tried it last night because I was kind of feeling it. I just felt good about it."

Demetri McCamey scored 15 points in the first half before finding joy in setting up Tisdale the second half. He and his fellow sophomores are continuing to improve, and it is no surprise to him.

"I knew Mike Davis was real athletic. I've been his roommate since this summer, so I've been standing at the arc throwing alley oops. And Tisdale's been coming along. When he gets a few more pounds on him, he's gonna be a monster. They've been stepping it up and carrying us so far this year."

McCamey still tends to relax some on defense, but he and his teammates did a good job overall in forcing Michigan into contested shots. He said Coach Bruce Weber and his assistants had them well prepared for Wolverine tendencies.

"We were getting out to their 3-point shooters and getting stops. They're a real good team, and they've got a lot of three point shooters. We forced everybody to go back the same way they caught the ball. That way, they can't get the loop pass in to the three point shooters for open shots."

Illinois is not yet ranked in the Top 25 in the country, which serves as continuing motivation for them. But when asked if the Illini are now back from last year's disappointment, McCamey mentioned a larger goal.

"I'm not gonna say we're back until we get to the NCAA Tournament. We're doing great right now, but we need to continue it so we can get to the Tournament."


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