Good isn't good enough for Illini's Davis

John Supinie

Illinois junior forward Mike Davis sat in front of the TV last week and found some motivation.

In a 100-60 blowout over Alcorn State, Ohio State guard Evan Turner finished with the second triple-double in school history – 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists.

"Watching him do what he does and seeing his name all over the country, getting a triple-double, I want to go out and prove that I could do that and dominate,'' said Davis, a second-team all-Big Ten selection by the coaches last season. "I look at Evan Turner and see how he dominates a game. I think, 'Why can't I do that?' ''

But as No. 23 Illinois prepares to host Northern Illinois on Tuesday, Davis remains in the shadows with freshman scoring guards Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson taking charge.

Following a breakout season when he averaged 11.3 points and 8.1 rebounds while leading the Big Ten with nine double-doubles last season, Davis promised "you'll see a different me'' after quietly working through the intrasquad scrimmage and two exhibition games.

His 10-point, 10-rebound game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the season opener was buried by big games from Paul (22 points) and Richardson (14 points). Davis missed only one shot but took just four. His numbers will go up when his minutes increase (he logged only 22).

"Mike has to rise up,'' said Illinois coach Bruce Weber, repeating this year's theme for the Illini. "Mike has to come along and take his game to another level and find ways to score. Since last spring when we had individual meetings, I talked to him about finding ways to steal baskets, get runouts. He got a couple putbacks the other night.

"If you don't get quite as many little easy shots, the little short jumpers, then find ways to steal baskets in other ways.''

Davis took advantage of open jumpers created last season by Chester Frazier, a pass-first point guard.

"I was too passive,'' Davis said. "I passed up a lot of shots that I would normally take. (The freshman guards) take it to the hole better. Chester would get in the lane and dish. I would get open jumpers all day. I might have to do little pullups. It won't be as easy as last year to get open shots.''

Davis played his best in big games last season – 28 points, eight rebounds vs. Clemson; 14 points, 16 rebounds vs. Purdue; 22 points, eight rebounds at Ohio State; 22 points, 10 rebounds against Michigan.

Weber continues to push Davis and guard Demetri McCamey.

Surgery to remove his tonsils and a broken foot ended any plans for Davis to improve his ballhandling and perimeter shooting in the offeseason. That rise up theme likely had Davis and McCamey in mind, and Weber doesn't hesitate to push their buttons.

"He does that through the media,'' Davis said. "He's trying to motivate us. Me and Demetri, sometimes we're lackadasical. (Weber) plays little mind games sometimes. We have to motivate ourselves. If we don't motivate ourselves, nobody can.''

Richardson practiced Sunday despite pain after hyperextending his right elbow in practice Thursday. He played the season-opener Friday with the elbow in an elastic sleeve, and Weber indicated it would take a week to 10 days to fully heal.

"It hurts when he bends his elbow,'' Weber said. "You have to bend your elbow to shoot. The further out, the more strength you need from your arm. I joked with him the other day. I said, 'Just guard, handle the ball and pass it to people, and you can help us.' He seemed fine in the game. It's kind of learning to deal with some pain that a lot of experience through the season.''

Northern Illinois, picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference west division, will play without junior guard Xavier Silas, who fractured his hand during a 77-55 loss at Northwestern Friday. A transfer from Colorado, Silas had 18 points and seven rebounds before fouling out against the Wildcats.

Silas will wear a splint for two weeks, and the injury will not require surgery. He will be reevaluated Dec. 1, when a return date will be determined. The Huskies host Bradley on Dec. 2.

"He's a guy who could play in the Big Ten or Big 12,'' Huskies coach Ricardo Patton said. "We're a team still finding itself. We take (the preseason ranking) as a compliment. Most people believe we're improved, but there's still work to do.''

John Supinie can be reached

No. 23 Illinois (1-0) vs. Northern Illinois (0-1)

7 p.m., Assembly Hall, Champaign (No TV, Illini Sports Network)

ILLINOIS (1-0)   ppg     rpg

F Mike Davis Jr. 6-9 10.0 10.0

C Mike Tisdale Jr. 7-1 8.0 6.0

G D.J. Richardson Fr. 6-3 14.0 1.0

G Brandon Paul Fr. 6-4 22.0 4.0

G Demetri McCamey Jr. 6-3 11.0 4.0

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (0-1)     ppg   rpg

F Tyler Storm So. 6-7 2.0 1.0

C Sean Kowal Jr. 6-11 8.0 3.0

G Mike DiNunno So. 5-11 1.0 1.0

G Tony Nixon Fr. 6-4 4.0 0.0

G Darion Anderson Jr. 6-2 15.0 8.0

Noteworthy: This is the first meeting between the two schools. . . Paul set a school record in scoring by a freshman in his debut by scoring 22 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Illinois' 96 points against SIUE marked its highest point total since scoring 105 vs. Longwood on Dec. 27, 2004. It also is Illinois' second-highest point total under coach Bruce Weber. . . Northern Illinois was 10-20 last season. The Huskies are 16-43 in coach Ricardo Patton's third season at the school. . . The game can be viewed online at . .

Key for Illini: While the freshman guards are good, the big men need to get more involved.

Key for Huskies: Cover up the loss of Silas, who is a capable scorer.

Key quote: "It's one step up a steep staircase. There's a long way to go and a lot to get done. We've got to keep improving, starting everyday in practice and Tuesday night vs. Northern Illinois.'' – Illinois coach Bruce Weber.

Prediction: Illinois 86, Northern Illinois 60