Plan A for Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber is getting the bench involved when the Illini host low-major Chicago State at Assembly Hall Sunday.
That means more minutes for Nnanna Egwu, Mike Shaw and Tracy Abrams. Weber also wants to get Crandall Head and Myke Henry involved.
Henry is a candidate for minutes at power forward. He can rebound, and there's always a use for a scorer, Weber said. Otherwise, Henry needs to improve his defense, but Weber needs more depth for games against Maryland Tuesday, Gonzaga next weekend and beyond.
Weber hit the main topics prior to meeting Chicago State, who sits at No. 342 in the Sagarin ratings among 345 teams in Division I.
On the bench:
"I hope I can get a little more confident. I don't know if it's extreme where everybody is splitting time. I'm hoping Nnanna can get 14-16 minutes, Tracy 14-16 minutes. Get Crandall involved. Mike Shaw hopefully gets a little more confidence in his game. Myke Henry can shoot the ball. You can always use someone who can shoot it. He's got to learn on the other things.
"Depth still has to be one of the keys to our season. Meyers (Leonard) played too many minutes. We extended (Sam Maniscalco's) minutes too much, especially the second night. We have to do a better job of giving (Abrams) extra time, make sure he's in there with Brandon (Paul), somebody who can help him.''
On the Cancun Challenge title: "It was a positive trip. You come out with two wins. We gave them the mindset, the goal of going and winning a championship. Hopefully, that was a big deal for them.''
On the team's play in Mexico:
"For big stretches of games, we played pretty well. We've had some breakdowns at the start of halves in both games defensively. We've got to improve that area.
"We didn't finish against Illinois State and Richmond. We didn't put them away. We gave Illinois State a chance, and we're fortunate to win the game.''
Maniscalco wasn't limping on the travel day after the heavy workload in Cancun, but Weber will want to get Abrams more work. Henry is a talented rebounder, Weber said, who has a nose for the ball but must learn to play defense.
John Supinie can ve reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.
Illinois (5-0) vs. Chicago State (0-5)noon, Assembly Hall, Champaign (BTN, Illini Sports Network) ILLINOIS (5-0) ppg rpg F Tyler Griffey 6-8 Jr. 7.2 6.0 C Meyers Leonard 7-1 So. 12.6 7.6 G Brandon Paul 6-4 Jr. 9.0 3.4 G D.J. Richardson 6-3 Jr. 14.0 2.8 G Sam Maniscalco 6-0 Sr. Fr. 12.2 2.0 CHICAGO STATE (0-5) ppg rpg F Aaron Williams 6-6 So. 7.2 4.0 F Lee Fisher 6-5 Sr. 12.0 2.6 F Jeremy Robinson 6-9 Jr. 16.2. 6.6 G Matt Samuels 9.6 2.0 G Ardarius Simmons 6.0 1.8 Noteworthy: Illinois is 5-0 for the first time since a 6-0 start three years ago. . . Former Illini great Eddie Johnson, whose basket defeated No. 1 Michigan State in 1979, will make his debut as an analyst for BTN. . . The Illini have a 21-game non-conference winning streak in Assembly Hall. . . Weber needs two wins to reach 200 in ninth year at Illinois. He ranks third among Illinois coaches behind Lou Henson (423 in 21 seasons) and Harry Combes (316 in 209 seasons). . . Jacobby Anderson, a Springfield Southeast graduate, is a Chicago State freshman. . .
Key for Illini: Play hard, get a lead and let the freshmen play.
Key for Cougars: Show up and cash the check.
Key quote: "I didn't probably get the freshmen enough minutes. Hopefully, that will change a little bit.'' -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber.
Prediction: Illinois 95, Chicago State 60