KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP)—No. 19 Illinois played perhaps its best first half of the season on Saturday, at least according to coach Bruce Weber.
At this point, his opinion is the only one that matters.
The first 20 minutes were a springboard for Mike Tisdale’s 18 points and seven rebounds, and the Illini beat Western Michigan 78-63. Illinois led 49-24 at halftime, its biggest advantage in the game.
“We had it all going, offense, defense, transition,” Weber said.
Brandon Paul added 14 points and Demetri McCamey had eight points and 10 assists for the Illini (6-1), who have won three straight since losing to Texas in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Illinois also wasn’t looking ahead to Tuesday night’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge contest against North Carolina.
“We were focused. We were very focused,” said forward Mike Davis, who had 12 points and four rebounds. “We were guarding, we were running. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Matt Stainbrook led Western Michigan (1-3) with 16 points and Nate Hutcheson contributed 15. Mike Douglas had nine points and seven assists.
“Obviously, it took us the whole first half to adjust to Illinois’ length an athleticism … and just how good they were,” Broncos coach Steve Hawkins said.
Western Michigan got the contest’s first bucket on Flenard Whitfield’s tap-in with 19:37 left, but Illinois scored the next nine points on Davis’s jumper and dunk, Paul’s 3-pointer and D.J. Richardson’s jumper. Demetrius Ward’s 3-point shot pulled the Broncos within 11-7 with 16:16 left, but that was as close as Western Michigan got the rest of the game.
“I thought we were great early, cutting and passing,” McCamey said. “We got Mike Tisdale the ball and he did a god job in the first half.”
Tisdale led Illinois with 10 first-half points, while Davis and Paul each contributed eight. Stainbrook led Western Michigan with 10 at the break.
“They’ve got the whole package going on there,” Whitfield said.
Hutcheson’s 3-pointer with 16:03 left brought the Broncos within 53-36, but Tisdale’s tap-in with 7:59 left put Illinois ahead by 20 again at 70-50.
“Just a good overall effort from our guys,” Weber said. “I think ball pressure was the thing in the first half.”
Illinois forward Tyler Griffey went to the locker room with a towel against the left side of his face after taking a nasty fall, face-first onto the court, as he was fouled by Whitfield with 8:35 left. There was no word on his condition.
Weber said Griffey hit his face on the court and was still in the process of getting stitches when the team came back to the locker room after the game.
The Illinis coach said Griffey didn’t have a concussion and should be ready for Tuesday night’s game against North Carolina.