McCamey Buzzer Beater Tops Indiana

Demetri McCamey hit a floater in the lane at the last second as the Fighting Illini held on to defeat Indiana 72-70 in the Assembly Hall Saturday afternoon. The Illini bolted to a 13 point lead in the first half but watched the Hoosiers battle back to take the lead and hold it most of the second half. McCamey led the Illini with 19 points and 8 assists.

With 4.4 seconds left in the game, Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey took a handoff from Bill Cole, split two defenders and pushed the ball up and into the basket as the clock expired. He explained the shot.

"It was a play for us to go backdoor, but they did a good job of switching. So I went to the basket. Once I got there I just threw up a teardrop, a shot I work on every day in practice. It was good once it left my hands."

Cole and his Illini teammates wanted the ball in McCamey's hands for the last possession.

"No question. In the huddle, everyone knew who it was going to when they drew it up. I just came and got it, and gave him a handoff trying to give him a little space. That kind of broke down too. Demetri just does what he does best, hit the lane and made a heck of a shot."

Indiana coach Tom Crean had his team well prepared, and they battled the whole way. He had no choice but to accept a play that worked to perfection against him.

"Most games, probably on both sides of the ball, coaches can always go back and look at buzzer-beaters where they made a few mistakes that should have never got to that point. I'm not sure that's the case in this game. On the last possession, they did something with it. Demetri McCamey had to change his shot, and he made a very tough shot. They deserved the victory."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber chimed in as well.

"Demetri's had a bunch of chances to win games. The one thing we told him was to go to the basket no matter what happens. I get after him about his dang floaters all the time, but this one went in."

The Illini looked like they would put the game away early. Tyler Griffey started his second straight contest and scored all nine of his points and all four rebounds in the first half. He helped keep the offense flowing. But after the Illini got up 28-15, they relaxed and allowed IU back into the game. The Hoosiers scored the last seven points of the half, including a halfcourt three from Devan Dumes to tie it up at the buzzer.

Indiana continued to outplay the Illini through long stretches of the second half, but each time the Illini regained their composure. Mike Tisdale hit a putback and four free throws to give Illinois a 70-66 lead, but the Illini gave Verdell Jones and Jeremiah Rivers two free throws each to tie it up prior to the last possession.

Cole said the team stayed together through the tough times, a tribute to their recent team meeting and the naming of him and McCamey as team captains. But they both lamented how the Illini relax and let teams back into games after getting a lead.

"What we really need to work on," Cole explains, "when we get a team down 8 or 10, like we've done with a lot of teams, we've got to keep pushing. Get it up to 15. We don't do that right now."

Weber has watched his team fail to go for the jugular numerous times this year. He will continue working with them.

"On the play hard, you think it's a simple thing, but we don't have enough guys that always lay it on the line. We've made some progress, but that's got to continue to improve."

Weber described a paradox relative to Illini play that continues to limit their success.

"We've done pretty good on defensive field goal percentages and three point percentages, I think we're leading the league. But we're in the bottom half when it comes to giving up points. So how does that happen? It doesn't make sense. If they're not shooting the ball well, how do they score so many points?

"Well, it's because we foul, get out of position, gamble. And then it's second chance points. It hurt us at the half, and it hurt us as the game went on."

Mike Davis didn't start for the second straight game. Weber explained why while also praising Dominique Keller for his maturity.

"Mike Davis has to change. I love him, he's a great kid. But he's got to come to practice and try to get better every day. He's always there physically. But he's got to have a good mindset. If he does that, he'll be one of the best players in the league.

"Ironically, our staff thought we weren't gonna play him in the second half. But Dominique, who fights for time with him and wants minutes, said, 'Hey, Mike Davis is ready. We need him.' That's pretty clutch for Dominique. He always wants to play. That was a mature move he made. That was impressive. It may have been the best move of the day.

"He (Davis) made a block nobody else on our team can make, he made a basket, he made a couple nice passes to Tis (Tisdale). At least he didn't pout and made some plays. Now we have to see if he can come every day and give us the intensity we need.

"I went back and forth over whether to start him. We held Demetri accountable, and it seemed to help. I made one good coaching move all year. Now, we've got to hold him accountable."

McCamey continues to be an enigma to his coaches and team. He possesses great potential which shows up frequently, but he is sometimes his own worst enemy according to Weber.

"We've all talked about this as a staff. With Demetri's personality, as soon as you let up, as soon as you compliment him, he just chills. I will stay on him, I will not let up on him whether it's the classroom or (basketball).

"I wish he would change, I wish he would just do everything right. The people at the academic center praise Demetri now. When he first got here, they were chasing him trying to find him. You've got to understand how far he's come. Obviously, he's got great numbers. He's made a lot of strides, and we'll stay on him until he shows me he can deal with compliments."

Nine players saw at least 11 minutes of action for the Illini, and Weber feels that is a good mix. Besides McCamey, who became the 42nd Illini player to top 1000 career points, Tisdale scored 12 points while grabbing 7 rebounds and contributing 3 blocks. Cole and D.J. Richardson each added 8. The Illini shot 49% for the game compared to 35% for Indiana.

Now the Illini travel to much improved Iowa for their next game. If they can win that one, they will have momentum going into their important Saturday showdown with conference-leading Michigan State.

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