Illinois has last word, routs Cincinnati, 92-68

Illini make it look easy, move on to play Duke

Ncaa Regional

Atlanta

March 22, 2004|By Marlen Garcia | Marlen Garcia,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As soon as Deron Williams released the ball on his fourth three-pointer, teammate Luther Head had both arms up to tell the world it was going to swish through the net.

Not even five minutes into the game, Roger Powell raised his clenched fists after connecting on his jump shots. Dee Brown stole the ball from Cincinnati's Field Williams and headed straight to the basket, wrapping the ball around his back just before scoring on a reverse layup.

Illinois had never looked better. And there was no better time for its spectacular display of shooting, passing and defensive authority than yesterday. The calm, cool Illini (26-6) dispatched Cincinnati, 92-68, at Nationwide Arena in the second round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.

They will play top-seeded Duke on Friday in a regional semifinal in Atlanta. Illinois is seeded fifth. "We talked about playing at the magical level," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We had some guys that were magic tonight."

Indeed. Williams hit all six of his shots in the first half, including five three-pointers, and had 17 points by halftime. He might have had more, but Weber sat him down with more than five minutes left in the first half when Williams drew his second foul.

The 6-foot-3 guard finished 10-for-13 from the field, going 6-for-8 on three-pointers and 5-for-7 from the line. He set a career high for three-pointers and tied a career best with 31 points.

If the team's enthusiasm waned after losing the Big Ten tournament title game to Wisconsin eight days ago, fourth-seeded Cincinnati (25-7) renewed the Illini's fervor with trash talking. Williams and Cincinnati's Tony Bobbitt, who scored 15 points, exchanged snide remarks throughout the game.

"I was hot, so I was going to let him know I was hot," Williams said. "And he came in and got hot, too, so he was talking right back to me."

It's safe to say Williams, and the rest of the Illini, had the last word with their actions. They shot a season-high 63.6 percent overall, 57.9 percent on three-pointers, and committed just four turnovers.

"We tried virtually everything we had," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "We tried playing matchup, we tried playing zone. We tried bumping with the zone. We're generally a fairly decent man-to-man team. They just ... they made a lot of shots."

It started with Powell, who made two of Illinois' first three baskets and scored 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting.

The Illini made 10 shots in a row in the first half and nine straight in the last 20 minutes. They led by as many as 24 in the first half and didn't allow the Bearcats to come closer than 12 in the second half.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

ILLINOIS-Augustine 5-6 1-2 11, Powell 9-11 3-3 22, Head 2-5 2-2 6, D.Williams 10-13 5-7 31, Brown 6-12 0-0 14, Spears 0-1 0-0 0, Howard 0-1 0-0 0, McBride 2-3 0-0 6, Nkemdi 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Randle 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Ingram 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 35-55 11-14 92.

CINCINNATI-Kirkland 3-7 0-1 6, Maxiell 6-10 3-5 15, Johnson 2-3 2-3 6, F.Williams 6-13 0-0 16, White 0-4 0-0 0, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Meeker 0-0 0-0 0, N.Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Hicks 3-6 2-2 8, Bobbitt 6-12 0-0 15, Whaley 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 27-58 7-11 68.

Half: Illinois 49, Cincinnati 33. 3-point goals-Illinois 11-19 (D.Williams 6-8, McBride 2-3, Brown 2-5, Powell 1-1, Head 0-2), Cincinnati 7-16 (F.Williams 4-8, Bobbitt 3-7, Moore 0-1). Rebounds-Illinois 21 (Head 5), Cincinnati 34 (Maxiell 8). Assists-Illinois 26 (Head 9), Cincinnati 14 (Kirkland 5). Total fouls-Illinois 14, Cincinnati 14.

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