Illinois-Eastern Michigan: Illini Unimpressive, But Victorious

Oliver VanDervoortCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2008

Fresh off their best win of the season against "Braggin Rights" rival Missouri, its not a surprise that the Illini let up against 2-9 Eastern Michigan.  What was a surprise is just how much a team that had appeared so focused through much of the season relaxed.  Their loss of focus just about lead to an upset loss to a bad team.

When all was said and done, Mike Tisdale tied a career high with 25 points and Trent Meacham tossed in 16 of his own to lead the Illini to the 62-53 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Sunday.

With his team struggling, and leading by just three at the half, Tisdale took over and scored 17 after the break to lead his team to a victory in their final non-conference game of the season.

Eastern Michigan’s defense gave the Illini more trouble than they've had all season. Illinois came in as the best shooting team in the Big Ten and had shot 53.4 percent from the field in their last six games. But the Illini couldn’t find a rhythm early on, and managed just a 35 percent field goal percentage in the game's first 20 minutes.

Illinois played solid defense themselves, forcing more than 20 turnovers for the fourth time this season.  Eastern Michigan turned the ball over 21 times, offsetting a surprising dominance by the Eagles in the paint.

The win puts Illinois at an impressive 12-1 and almost assuredly will deposit them into the Top 25 when the new polls come out on Monday.  Bruce Weber and his team won't have much time to luxuriate in their recent success, as they will take on 10th ranked Purdue Tuesday night in both teams' Big Ten openers.