CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) – Before the start of the season, Illinois coach Bruce Weber said his team would go as the seniors go.
Weber’s seniors answered his call Wednesday night when No. 13 Illinois beat Toledo 84-45 in the second round of the 2K Sports Classic.
Toledo (0-1) took on the Illini (2-0) with only five of its players on scholarship, and Illinois proved to be too strong a force for the Rockets to stop.
“The biggest thing I’m exited about is that we did what we were supposed to,” Weber said. “We did it in the right way. We did it with great energy and we did it by moving the basketball.”
Demetri McCamey, one of the seniors, had 13 points and seven assists for the Illini, though he sat for most of the second half, playing a total of 18 minutes. Seniors Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Davis had six rebounds.
The Illini hit their first 10 shots from the field, half of them from beyond the 3-point line.
D.J. Richardson opened the 3-point surge early in the half, Bill Cole followed with one of his own and McCamey had three 3s, as the Illini led 25-5 with 14:13 to play in the first half.
McCamey credited his strong shooting to the extra work he put in since Monday’s win over UC Irvine, where he admitted he struggled offensively.
“I came in early at like 10 this morning when I had time off and just got up a lot of shots,” McCamey said. “I haven’t shot well since the season started in the exhibition (games), so it’s just getting in the gym and trying to carry over what I did this summer.”
It was all Illinois in the first half as the Illini went on runs of 6-0, 10-0 and 8-0. They led 47-18 at halftime after shooting 20 for 33 (60.6 percent) from the field, including and 5 for 11 from behind the arc (45.5 percent). McCamey finished the first half with 11 points and six assists.
After a sluggish start to the second half in their season opener, the Illini opened the final 20 minutes with an 8-2 run to go take a 55-20 lead.
“As seniors, we have to come out and set the tone and not give up,” McCamey said. “We were up, I don’t know how many points at halftime, but we treated it as 0-0 and came out like we were down and kept fighting and getting turnovers.”
Weber was pleased with the lack of complacency he saw in his team.
“We won the last 5-minute war of the (first) half, and we won the first 5-minute war of the second half,” Weber said. “Then, pretty much you knock them out and they don’t have a thought of making a run at you.”
Weber sat most of his starters for the second half, but there was no shortage of offensive production as Illinois’ bench scored 41 points.
Freshman reserve Meyers Leonard had 10 points and six rebounds.
“The first couple games I was only getting a few minutes here and there,” Leonard said. “I finally got into a rhythm. I felt like I did a lot better job tonight.”
Delino Dear scored 11 points for the Rockets, who have lost 33 straight road games and 49 of their last 50.
“We knew coming in how talented Illinois is,” Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “When they got as many shots as they did early, I was disappointed. We got quiet and didn’t compete.”
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