Illinois' Demetri McCamey looks for an opening during the first half. (AP Photo/Heather Coit)
Jan. 6, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - With just over a minute to play in the first half, Illinois was coasting, riding a 44-21 lead. You'd never have known by what Illini coach Bruce Weber shouted from the sideline.
"Come on, don't lose your energy! Don't lose your emotion!"
Moments later, he drove the point home again in the locker room at halftime.
"He put zero-zero on the (chalk) board," forward Mike Davis said.
Weber's message to a team he says doesn't handle success well apparently sunk in, and Northwestern paid the price, falling hard to No. 20 Illinois 88-63.
Demetri McCamey led the Illini with 14 points, and was one of six Illinois players to score in double figures. Mike Tisdale had 13, Davis 12, Meyers Leonard and Jereme Richmond 11 each and D.J. Richardson 10.
The Illini (13-3, 3-0 Big Ten) led by 25 at the half, 49-24, and several times pushed their edge past 30 in the final 20 minutes. They hit 18 of their 22 first-half shots - 81.8 percent - and finished at 70.5 percent.
Illinois toyed with Northwestern's defense for much of the first half, rattling off a run of 3-pointers for a 9-2 lead, and added three straight dunks, the last of which came from the 7-foot-1 Tisdale and put Illinois up 42-19 with 2:32 left in the half.
"They played extremely well," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "We had something to do with that, I think."
Illinois led 47-24 at the half and scored its 65th point - the Wildcats (9-4, 0-3) had been giving up 65.8 a game - less than 7 minutes into the second half.
"Good D fellas, good D," Carmody yelled hopefully to his team after forcing a late first-half turnover that didn't yield a point but at least kept Illinois away from the basket for a little longer.
Northwestern's problems were almost too many to count.
Illinois outrebounded the Wildcats 40-17, and, at one point, had an 11-1 edge - an advantage that, with just under 8 minutes to play in the first half had the Illini up 33-17.
John Shurna, the Wildcats' leading scorer at 21.3 a game and the country's most accurate 3-point shooter, didn't take a shot in the first 6 1/2 minutes and didn't make one until almost 9 minutes had passed. Struggling with an ankle sprain, he spent most of the second half on the bench and finished with seven points.
"He may not be 100 percent for three weeks," Carmody said.
The Wildcats shot just 34.3 percent overall.
McCamey and Davis finished with seven assists each.
"We've got a lot of unselfish people on this team that want to win ball games," McCamey said.
Weber said he particularly pushed Davis and Tisdale during his halftime talk.
If there was any doubt the Illini would defend their 23-point lead when they left the locker room, Davis erased it. The forward scored the first five points of the half - three on free throws and two on a short jumper - for a 52-24 lead.
He keyed a 14-7 run that stretched the lead to 32 at 63-31 with 14:34 to play.
"We came out more mature than we have in the past," Tisdale said. "We really stepped on their throats."
Northwestern struggled to get the deficit below 20 over the final 20 minutes. JerShon Cobb's 3 with 2:38 to play trimmed Illinois' lead to 19 at 78-59.
Cobb led Northwestern (9-4, 0-3) with 18 points, and Michael Thompson had 15.