CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- After three weeks of slogging through
three-hour practices, Dee Brown finally could play in a game that
"The games are everything. I love playing basketball," Brown
said after scoring 17 points to lead Illinois (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today; No. 6 AP) to a
season-opening 87-67 win over Delaware State on Friday night.
Brown hit 5-of-6 shots from the field -- 4-of-5 from 3-point
range -- and was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. His first miss
came on his last shot, with 3:53 to go.
Brown scored five straight points to key an 11-0 first-half run
that turned a 5-point deficit into a 6-point lead, and then had a
6-point outburst that ended a Delaware State rally early in the
"He is a gamer. He loves the lights," said Illinois coach
Bruce Weber. "The last week to 10 days, Dee has played much better
in practice. He has really stepped it up."
Trailing by 13 points at the half, the Hornets got within 55-46
with 15:43 to go. But a basket and free throw from Brown, followed
by his 3-point shot 26 seconds later put Illinois up 61-46.
The Illini then held Delaware State (0-1) scoreless for the next
6:05, but weren't happy with their defensive effort against the
small but quick Hornets.
"They made us go to sleep a little bit. They just exploited by
penetrating," said Luther Head, who finished with 15 points and
five assists. "Tonight, we had a bad defensive game, but it was
hard when the other team has five guys on the floor who can
Weber said it took his players some time to begin respecting
Delaware State's quickness.
"We've been harping on defense. Our guard defense has to get
better," he said. "This (game) did us some good."
Delaware State, with three sophomores and nobody taller than
6-foot-7 in the starting lineup, hit four of its first five shots
and dropped its first four 3-pointers to take a 28-23 lead with
8:38 left in the first half.
"These kids came out and put forth a great effort, but you can
only play on emotion for so long until talent takes over," said
Hornets coach Greg Jackson. "The difference in this ballgame was
The Illini relied on the 3-point range of Head and Brown to keep
pace early before a layup from James Augustine and a dunk from
Roger Powell closed the gap to 28-27 and ignited a 15-2 run that
included five straight points from Brown to put Illinois up 32-28.
Augustine scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the
Illini. Deron Williams scored 12 points and had six assists.