It was a win in the exhibition opener for No. 13 Illinois, but the Illini wanted so much more in the first exhibition game. The defense didn't show as much improvement as hoped, and the offense got into a rush.
CHAMPAIGN -- The scoreboard showed No. 13 Illinois defeated Division II Lewis 75-65 in the basketball exhibition opener at Assembly Hall Friday.
But nobody on the Illini appeared pleased with a performance that was less than expected on defense, more ragged than hoped with offense and closer than a program on the rebound wanted to see.
Coach Bruce Weber and the Illini both talked about the disappointment from the first impression left in a season loaded with high expectation. It starts with the defense, Weber said, after making it a priority in the preseason.
"I was disappointed that we put all the time into it and it wasn't as good as it should be,'' Weber said. "Defense is desire and pride. It's habits. It's concentration.
"This was the same as last year. Our field goal percentage defense was good. We turned it over, gave up too many offense rebounds and didn't give ourselves a chance. I hope it's not a repeat (of last year). At least we made improvement in the second half.''
Perhaps it hasn't taken long to get the Illini's attention after the preseason buzz created by returning five starters and adding three highly rated incoming freshmen. Illinois hosts Division II Southern Indiana in the final exhibition Tuesday.
When Illinois won last season, it was because of offense instead of defense, but the Illini offense was ragged against Lewis. The Illini were 1-for-10 from the 3-point line, lost 20 turnovers while compiling 11 assists and shot 64 percent from the free-throw line. Illinois wants to run, but the Illini played too fast and made too many mistakes with the ball.
"Sometimes we were trying to hit the home run, trying to throw a lob or make a fancy play,'' said Illini forward Mike Davis, who led the Illini with 15 points and seven rebonds.
The smaller Flyers had 11 offensive rebounds to extend possessions, and Lewis often broke the Illini defense down by working well into the shot clock. The Illini gave a hint they would like to extend the defense up the floor, but Weber must begin spending more time on offense with the season opener vs. Cal-Irvine on Nov. 8 getting closer.
The Illini were "a little shaky'' on offense and didn't carryover the concepts on defense from the practice court to the Hall, admitted Davis.
"We didn't get rebounds. We didn't run the floor,'' he said. "We didn't do the things we were supposed to do. It was only an exhibition game. We won the game, made some key plays in the end and skated to the victory.
Davis led the Illini with 15 points and seven rebounds. Guard Demetri McCamey had 12 points and played only 22 minutes after getting whistled for two charges in the first half, and sophomore Brandon Paul handled the majority of the backup point guard duty, Weber said.
Freshman Jereme Richmond, the program's first McDonald's All-American since Dee Brown, had 11 points with three assists and six turnovers. Guard D.J. Richardson tallied 10 points.
"It's a big adjustment period for me,'' Richmond said. "I didn't expect to have the best game in my career in the first game. It's something I have to get through, as far as turnovers and learning different things like that.
"I wasn't too uncomfortable. It was valueing the basketball. I tried to make too many plays that maybe would have worked last year. This year, it's gotten a lot faster. It's cleaning up my game.''
Illinois broke the game open with an 11-0 run. Lewis, picked to finish second in the Great Lakes Valley Conference north division, pulled within 66-63 before missing two 3-pointers and chances to tie with a little more than 2 minutes left.