INDIANAPOLIS – Illinois center Mike Tisdale credited Demetri McCamey’s passing ability. McCamey returned the praise to Tisdale and his shooting.
Neither point guard nor big man was willing to take full credit for their pick-and-pop success in the Illini’s 58-54 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, so just as they did with the ball all day, they decided to share it.
“Demetri did a good job of just kicking it back to Tisdale, and it was a wide-open shot for him,” Illinois junior Jeff Jordan said, acting as the non-partisan third party. "We knew could he could hit it. It was no problem.
“It was great. We executed today.”
The play is as old as the game of the basketball, but nevertheless effective. It begins with McCamey having the ball in the middle of the court and a few feet above the 3-point line. He motions to Tisdale to set a screen. Tisdale comes near the 3-point line, puts his arms down and squares his body toward McCamey. McCamey runs his defender off Tisdale and continues toward the rim. Tisdale turns his body toward the basket and takes a few steps back to create space.
From there, McCamey and the opposing defenders have choices. If both defenders follow McCamey, he’ll pass to Tisdale for an open jumper. If they sag toward Tisdale, McCamey will look to score himself.
“You just got to get a body on somebody,” Tisdale explained. “You just got to make sure Demetri has a little room, and the rest is up to him. He creates. I’m going to step back, and if I’m open, he’s going to find me. That’s how we’ve worked all year. So far, so good.”
McCamey and Tisdale nearly ran it to perfection all afternoon against the Badgers. Wisconsin’s tendency was to have both of its defenders chase after McCamey, and McCamey read it each time and delivered the ball back to Tisdale.
Ten of Tisdale’s game-high 21 points and four of McCamey’s game-high eight assists came from the play.
“We have one of the best ball handlers in the nation, a leading assist guy,” Tisdale said. “It makes it easy on everyone else. Setting a screen, they got to guard him or he’s going to score. You know, pick your poison with him. With myself, I can shoot a jumper. It’s definitely tough to guard.”
The duo’s numbers on Friday were similar to when Illinois won at Wisconsin on Feb. 9. Tisdale had 19 points, and McCamey finished with seven assists in the win. When the Illini lost in Champaign on Sunday, the two had little success.
“It worked up there at their place,” McCamey said. “We got away from it at our house and were going 1-on-1 and things like that and losing in frustration.
We talked about it and watched film of how we beat them up there, and we wanted to simulate that today with picks and pops and get Tisdale and Mike Davis a lot of looks.”
What Tisdale did do differently Friday than in either previous game with Wisconsin was to set up behind the 3-point line after he delivered the pick. After twice shooting 3-pointers all season – one make, one miss – Tisdale let two go on Friday, and both dropped into the net.
“My brother has been joking with me, ‘Stop shooting twos from the 3-point line,’” Tisdale said. “I worked a little bit on practice, and today I stepped back and got a 3-pointer. It can be a pretty bad shot if you’re shooting that far out and not getting another point. I’m not necessarily the 3-point specialist, but
if I’m open, I’m going to shoot that.”
Weber has seen Tisdale do it plenty during practice.
“There’s days when Tis comes in and makes 10-for-10 from 3,” Weber said. “ He’ll make 10 in a row. I was sitting with coaches the other day, and I said, ‘Watch him, he’ll make 10 in row.’
“He’s definitely one of our better shooters. He was on fire tonight.”
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.