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updated: 11/13/2010 10:52 PM

Here's the word: Illini are good

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  • Illinois' Demetri McCamey scored 18 points and dished off 9 assists Saturday.

    Illinois' Demetri McCamey scored 18 points and dished off 9 assists Saturday.
    Associated Press


CHAMPAIGN -- Chris Lowery and Bruce Weber exchange tens of thousands of words each year.

Heck, maybe it's millions of words per year, seeing as how they both love to talk and phone each other multiple times per week to discuss hoops and everything else.

Whatever the official number of this year's words might be, Lowery added a mere three to the total when he shook his mentor's hand at the end of Illinois' 85-62 victory over Southern Illinois on Saturday night at Assembly Hall.

"He just said, 'Man, you're good,'" Weber said with a smile.

The Salukis stayed close for 10 minutes, but the Illini wore them down with voracious defense and vicious transition offense.

The official stats showed No. 13 Illinois (3-0) with just 10 fast-break points, but that didn't include the multiple baskets in the open court when Demetri McCamey (18 points, 9 assists) either slashed to the hoop or found teammates for dunks and layups.

"I've been saying all week, in transition they're like the Lakers," Lowery said. "They're as good as anybody getting up and down the floor.

"They have several guys (who can score), especially when Demetri's at the '1' and he's able to push and play and be kind of free and loosey-goosey with the basketball."

Senior forward Mike Davis threw down 2 fastbreak dunks on feeds from McCamey en route to 14 points and 7 rebounds.

Illinois had 7 slams for the night. On one of the few that didn't involve a McCamey feed, Brandon Paul took a pass from D.J. Richardson and dunked in Carlton Fay's face while getting fouled to cap a massive Illini run.

During a 19-minute stretch that bridged the halves, Illinois turned a 22-20 edge into a 64-38 blowout as the hosts forced the Salukis into 6-for-31 shooting and 13 turnovers.

"Transition? That's all we've been preaching," Davis said. "That's all we've been working on, really. We haven't been doing offense, honestly. We have so many athletes, you know what I'm saying?

"Good defense is a good offense. And if we get some quick points, some quick baskets and play good defense, we can be a scary team."

Illinois won't have to wait much longer to discover how scary.

After two practices, the Illini are off to Madison Square Garden for the final two rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

They'll face Texas (2-0), which was No. 27 in the preseason Associated Press poll, on Thursday before getting either No. 4 Pittsburgh (2-0) or Maryland on Friday.

Weber tried not to be too optimistic about his team's chances, but it's not hard to read between the lines.

"I had probably 4-5 guys ask out (of the game) tonight," he said. "One, hopefully our conditioning will get better. At the same time, I think they're playing so hard that they're taking themselves out.

"We might not have had three guys or four guys all last year that took themselves out. So it's a different level of intensity and it's paying off."