No. 16 Illinois rallies to beat Oakland 74-63
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—From his first shot, Demetri McCamey knew something was wrong. The ball just didn’t feel right.
“After my first shot I thought, ‘This can’t be right,”’ McCamey, who finished with 30 points, said about the women’s ball making it into the game.
The first seven-plus minutes were played with the size 6 ball. McCamey noticed the odd ball early but couldn’t convince the officials. Illini center Mike Tisdale finally did.
“I’ve coached 33 years and that’s a first,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said.
Play quickly restarted with a size 7 men’s ball—about an inch larger and 2 ounces heavier—but neither team’s shooting immediately improved.
McCamey and his teammates turned to defense to wipe out an early deficit.
“Everybody picked up the defensive intensity in the first half,” he added. “We were dead and acted like we were in the desert.”
Oakland (5-4) led the Illini (9-1) 28-24 at halftime.
Kampe said his team his team made too many mistakes against an opponent they couldn’t afford to make many against.
“We’re really disappointed. We did the same thing at Purdue,” he said of a loss last month in which the Golden Grizzlies had a lead. “We got a lead and made a few mistakes and they got back in it.”
McCamey gave the Illini their first lead of the game with less than 15 minutes to play, driving the lane for two on a finger roll and drawing a foul. The basket tied the game at 36 and the free throw put Illinois up by one.
With McCamey still at the line, Kampe loudly reminded his team to take good shots, but they didn’t listen.
The Golden Grizzlies’ Travis Bader missed a fast jumper, and the Illini went the other way in a hurry, with McCamey draining a 3 before Oakland’s defense was set.
Another quick turnover by Oakland put the ball in McCamey’s hands again, and he delivered, hitting yet another 3 for a 43-36 lead with 13:57 to play.
Oakland closed within 45-42 on a spinning layup by Ledrick Eackles with 10:44 to play. But Illinois, and primarily McCamey, quickly widened the gap on the Grizzlies.
He fed Jereme Richmond for a dunk with 7:51 to play for a 54-44 lead, and less than a minute later drew a foul and made both free throws for a 56-45 lead.
McCamey followed that with a decisive 3-pointer and a layup on consecutive possessions to put Illinois up 63-49 with 5:32 to play.
“He takes good shots and if he’s feeling it, he’s gonna hit it,” said Illinois’ D.J. Richardson, who added 16 points, 12 on 3-pointers.
Reggie Hamilton led Oakland (5-4) with 18 points and Will Hudson added 14.
Oakland struggled most of the half to hit from outside—and missed wildly on many shots—but rode second-chance baskets from close range to a 28-24 lead.
The Golden Grizzlies led by as many as 11. They took a 15-4 lead on a jumper by Eackles just under 6 minutes into the game.
Oakland was 12 of 33 in the first half, but most of its scoring came courtesy of nine offensive rebounds and nine first-half points from Hamilton. The Grizzlies were 3 of 15 from behind the 3-point line.
As sluggish as Oakland was, the Illini were worse.
Illinois was 10 of 32 in the first half and just 1 of 8 from 3-point range, and those numbers improved drastically after the first 9 minutes. The Illini had just 11 points with 9:23 to play and were down by nine.
Suddenly they found their jump shot—all but absent at that point—and closed the gap on long-range baskets by Tisdale, Mike Davis and two by Richardson.
Richardson’s 2-pointer pulled Illinois within 28-24 with 1:59 to play.
Wrapping up the half the way they had played most of it, the teams were a combined 0 for 5 with two turnovers the rest of the way.
“We’ve been playing on a pretty big high and we’ve played pretty good basketball (but) you know there’s gonna be a letdown,” he said.