Indiana 59

(14-15, 7-9 Big Ten)

(12) Illinois 71

(23-5, 13-3 Big Ten)

    12:00 PM ET, March 12, 2004

    Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

    1 2 T
    IND 21 3859
    #12ILL 28 4371

    Williams shines down stretch for Illinois

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Deron Williams felt sick just before Illinois' game against Indiana.

    Fortunately for the 12th-ranked Illini, Williams recovered just in time.

    Williams scored 12 of his 20 points in the final five minutes to lead Illinois past Indiana 71-59 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday.

    "I don't know if it was nerves or what, but I told my trainer, he'll probably have his best game of the year," coach Bruce Weber said.

    Weber said Williams did not tell him until three minutes before game time that he would play. On the court, Williams appeared perfectly healthy.

    He went 7-of-16 from the field, made three 3-pointers, all three of his free throws, grabbed five rebounds and had seven assists. And he was the catalyst in Illinois' closing run after Indiana tied it at 54.

    Although Luther Head scored 29 points and helped seal the win with free throws, Williams was the difference.

    "You can tell he's worked on his shot because when we were in high school, he didn't really shoot that well," said Indiana's Bracey Wright, who defended his high school teammate most of the day. "Tonight he hit two big 3s for them."

    Williams' performance helped Illinois (23-5) win its 11th straight and sent the Big Ten's regular-season champion into the tournament semifinals for the seventh straight year. The Illini, the tournament's top seed, will meet fifth-seeded Michigan, a 79-70 winner over Iowa, on Saturday.

    Williams also ended Indiana's worst and most frustrating season in decades.

    The Hoosiers (14-15) dropped their ninth game in the last 12 and posted their first losing season since 1969-70, when they went 7-17. They will not make a postseason tournament for the first time since the 1976-77 season.

    Mark Johnson led Indiana with 16 points -- his second career-high in two days after entering the tournament with only 11 points in his career.

    A.J. Moye added 13 points and nine rebounds in his final college game, and the Hoosiers shot just 34.5 percent from the field.

    Indiana could not overcome Williams and the Illini's stifling defense.

    "It hurts because it comes down to pride," Moye said. "If we were 14-15 and we gave everything we had (this year), I'd be OK with that. But we didn't."

    Still, Indiana played like a different team the last two games when coach Mike Davis gambled by inserting little-used backups to try and make an improbable tournament run.

    Indiana played with more passion Thursday and Friday. Against Illinois, the Hoosiers fought their way back after trailing 28-21 at halftime and falling behind 45-32 midway through the second half.

    Johnson hit two free throws, Wright a 3-pointer and Johnson two more free throws to make get the Hoosiers within 47-42 with 8:36 left. Johnson's fourth 3 of the game with 5:44 left tied the score at 52.

    That's when Williams took control.

    "I just found gaps in their defense and was able to score," he said. "It just happened to be my time."

    Williams broke a 54-54 tie with a driving layup, a play that turned the game.

    Illinois got a defensive stop and on its next possession, Williams hit a 3-pointer. After Jack Ingram hit one of two free throws, Williams hit another 3 to make it 63-54 with 2:45 left and Indiana was finished.

    The Illini allowed just five points in the last 4:53.

    "Deron did the same thing to us at home," Davis said. "He's a heck of a basketball player."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2003-04 Season

    Feb 3, 2004 ILL 51, @IND 49Recap
    » Mar 12, 2004 @ILL 71, IND 59Recap