Illinois-W. Michigan Preview

BY foxsports • November 26, 2010

Despite a slow start on the offensive end, Illinois used stifling defense to rout its last opponent.

That same combination worked fine for the Fighting Illini against Western Michigan last season.

Playing their first true road game, the No. 19 Illini look to improve to 4-0 against the Broncos on Saturday at University Arena.

Although it shot 12 for 32 in the first half, Illinois (5-1) forced 22 turnovers and held Yale to 28.6 percent from the floor in a 73-47 victory Tuesday.

The Illini limited the Bulldogs to 4 of 20 from 3-point range. Their opponents are hitting 26.2 percent from beyond the arc.

"The last few games we've played at home we've shot the ball so well,'' said coach Bruce Weber, whose team has hit 53.1 percent from the field in four home games. "Today we didn't have that zone, that feeling. We found a way.

"When you guard at home, it gives you a chance to control games.''

Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins has seen it before. The Broncos were 3 for 29 from 3-point range and shot a season-low 24.2 percent in an 88-53 loss at Illinois on Dec. 13.

The Illini didn't make a field goal in the opening 5:11 of that matchup yet led by 23 at halftime.

Illinois, which split two games in New York last week in the 2K Sports Classic, opens a difficult portion of schedule with its first road game against a Mid-American Conference foe since 1981.

Following Saturday's game, the Fighting Illini host No. 25 North Carolina on Tuesday before playing at No. 22 Gonzaga on Dec. 4.

"This will probably be the toughest schedule we've played (since I've been here)," said senior center Mike Tisdale, who had 10 points and a career high-tying 13 rebounds Tuesday. "We're going to focus on this stretch and hopefully get a lot of wins."

Tisdale had eight points, nine boards and five blocks against Western Michigan in December.

Tisdale and senior Mike Davis, who needs 15 rebounds to move past Mark Smith (722) for 10th place in school history, will likely be matched up with the Broncos' biggest offensive threat, Flenard Whitfield.

The junior forward had a career high-tying 19 points and six rebounds in a 67-55 victory at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday.

The preseason All-MAC selection, averaging career highs of 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds, scored a team-high 17 with five boards at Illinois last season.

Guards Demetrius Ward and Mike Douglas helped Western Michigan (1-2) limit the Panthers to 6 of 29 from 3-point range, but the Broncos' starting backcourt could face a much tougher test against Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson. The two players are shooting a combined 47.3 percent (26 of 55) on 3s.

McCamey, the Big Ten leader with 7.1 assists per game last season, is averaging a team-best 16.2 points and 7.3 assists.

Richardson has gone 13 of 24 from beyond the arc in the last four games.

Illinois has won six straight and 25 of 28 all-time against the MAC.