S. Illinois-Illinois Preview

The last time Illinois played Southern Illinois, Bruce Weber’s

team nearly pulled off a stunning upset.

He probably hopes his team doesn’t receive such a scare this

time.

Weber, who coached the Salukis in the last meeting, looks to get

another strong performance from his seniors when the 13th-ranked

Illini host Southern Illinois on Saturday night.

Illinois (2-0) is coming off an impressive 84-45 win over Toledo

on Wednesday in the second round of the 2K Sports Classic. The

tournament benefiting coaches vs. cancer resumes Thursday with the

Illini playing Texas at Madison Square Garden.

After a sluggish start to the second half in Monday’s

season-opening 79-65 win over UC Irvine, Weber wanted his team to

come out with more energy after halftime against the Rockets.

Despite leading 47-18 at the break, the Illini responded quickly,

opening up a 40-point advantage 5 minutes into the second half.

“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, who said before the season the Illini will go as the

seniors go, received solid contributions from his upperclassmen.

Senior Demetri McCamey led the way with 13 points and seven assists

in 18 minutes, while fellow seniors Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale

combined for 22 points.

“As seniors, we have to come out and set the tone and not give

up,” said McCamey, a preseason all-Big Ten selection. “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.”

With McCamey leading the way, the Illini are hopeful of making

their deepest run in the NCAA tournament since advancing to the

title game in 2005, Weber’s second season at Illinois.

Before taking over in Champaign, Weber coached at Southern

Illinois for five years, compiling a 103-54 record while winning

two Missouri Valley Conference championships. He nearly led the

Salukis to one of the biggest upsets in school history in 2001, but

his team squandered a late lead and lost to then-No. 2 Illinois

75-72 in the Las Vegas Invitational.

Southern Illinois went on to reach the regional semifinals that

season, the first of six straight trips to the NCAA tournament. The

Salukis haven’t made the tournament in three years since, however,

and return two starters from last season’s 15-15 team.

Senior forward Carlton Fey is the top returning scorer with an

average of 12.0 points in 2009-10, while senior guard Justin Boot

averaged 9.1 points.

“We don’t have any expectations – we want to get back to playing

hard,” coach Chris Lowery said. “Last year we did not play hard, we

did not play together, and those are things that need to be seen

because when we do those things we have a chance.”

Lowery was an assistant under Weber in his final two years at

SIU before moving with him to Illinois. He spent one season in

Champaign before being named coach of the Salukis prior to the

2004-05 season.