After he was yanked from the starting lineupo, Demetri McCamey showed some extra effort to lead the Illini.


 The starting lineup changed. Perhaps not coincidentally, so did the final result.

Looking for an electric shock or any kind of an alarm, Illinois coach Bruce Weber juggled the starting lineup, pulling guard Demetri McCamey and center Mike Tisdale for Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard, in an attempt to jump-start a team and perhaps get some accountability, then the Illini showed a spark and ended a four-game Big Ten road losing streak with a 71-62 win over Minnesota in a middle-of-the-pack basketball gameThursday.

"We played our butts off,'' said Illini senior forward Bill Cole. "When we do that, we're a top 10 team in the country.''

By shaking up the starting lineup, Weber sent a message. He's willing to make changes rather than go with the status quo and hope for the Illini to start clicking. With the long road losing streak putting the Illini back on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Illini needed this one in a meeting between teams trying to boost their tournament resume.

Illinois improved to 16-8 overall and 6-5 in the Big Ten, giving the season a boost just when it looked like it was time to jump off the bandwagon. The Illini did it with hard work, scoring a season-high 44 points on the Matto hustle chart.

McCamey and forward Mike Davis each scored 17 points. McCamey also scored a career-high nine on the Matto and finished with three steals. The move by Weber got people's attention.

"It did for Demetri,'' Davis said. "He played hard. He dived on the floor. Have hyou seen him dive on the floor lately? It motivated him.

"We just have to keep playing hard and defending. If we do that, teams can't beat us.''

McCamey played so hard he cramped in the second half. That's probably also a first.

"It wasn't about not starting,'' McCamey said. "I've been playing bad for the last two weeks. I wanted to go out and give my all. The Northwestern game, I waited too late to come to play. I promised my teammates that I got to play at 110 percent.

"We just have to keep it up. It's almost live and death right now. We let games slip.''

Said Weber: "The big thing is he responded. He played so hard he cramped.''

Paul scored 12 points, hitting six free throws in the final 1 minute 36 seconds, and guard D.J. Richardson scored 11. Illinois had lost six of its last seven games away from home.

The Orange Krush evidently still cares. About 150 Krushies made the 8-hour drive. After showing some backbone on the road, the Illini showed they still care, too, while also giving the season some new life.

"This is great, and I loved how hard they played, but I told them, 'Now you have to do it again Sunday,' '' Weber said.

Illinois hosts No. 14 Purdue (19-5, 8-3) Sunday (noon, CBS).

"We were hurting, there's no doubt,'' Weber said. "They responded. They came together. It was so discouraging that we didn't play hard at Northwestern (in a 71-70 loss). I talked about being in a foxhole. I wanted best defenders out there to start the game.''

After Minnesota rallied to tie, Davis scored for a 53-51 lead, and McCamey tallied a three-point play for a 56-51 lead, and the Illini didn't trail again.

Weber surprised everyone by making such big changes, but the Illini managed to get off to a good start. Habitually poor out of the gate, the Illini led 17-12 early. McCamey and Tisdale hit the floor with 15:47 left in the first half.

Following a competitive practice Tuesday when Weber said playing time was up for grabs, there was a Tyler Griffey sighting in the first half, his first meaningful minutes in six games. The lineup change snapped Tisdale's streak of 93 consecutive starts, dating to the start of his sophomore season.

An 11-0 run late in the first half put the Illini ahead 30-21 before Minnesota rallied to within 30-29 at halftime. McCamey scored eight points in the first half but didn't log an assist while committing three turnovers.

It doesn't get any easier on the road the rest of the way, if Michigan State's 75-57 win over Penn State showed the Spartans still had some life after a pair of blowout losses. The final three road trips of the regular season take the Illini to Michigan State, top-ranked Ohio State and Purdue.

The Illini and Gophers arrived at The Barn desperately seeking a victory in the only meeting in the regular season between the two teams.

Minnesota (16-8, 5-7) lost for the fourth straight game. Forward Trevor Mbakwe led the Gophers with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

These kind of games have a way of settling the pecking order. A year ago, Minnesota left the Hall with a 62-60 victory in late February. The win was a catalsyt for the Gophers to jump past the Illini on Selection Sunday, despite Illinois finishing one game ahead of Minnesota in the conference standings.

The Illini avoided falling below .500 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2007-08 season. 

NOTES: Illinois had two goofs in the first half. The Illini bench received a technical foul midway through the half, but the call was apparently on assistant coach Jay Price rather than Weber. Later in the half, Davis inexpicably left early to negate a free-throw attempt by Leonard.

  Illinois report card Front court -- B Forward Mike Davis showed some fight, and Bill Cole hit a big 3-pointer in the second half. The Illini had trouble battling with the Minnesota big men, especially Trevor Mbakwe (17 points, 16 rebounds). Back court -- A D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul were efficient in the second half. Paul made some big free throws down the stretch. Bench -- A With Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale coming off the bench, the Illini found a spark from the "reserves.''  Overall -- B The Illini didn't do everything well, but they found a way to win on the road. The season still has some life left in it.