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Suffocating Illini defense dooms Bulldogs

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- After three straight blowout wins, Illinois (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) was looking forward to its first real test Saturday against Gonzaga (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP).

Now it looks as though the Illini will have to wait until top-ranked
Wake Forest comes to Champaign, Ill., on Wednesday.

Deron Williams and Luther Head scored 20 points apiece to lead Illinois to an 89-72 win over Gonzaga in the John Wooden Tradition at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The Illini (4-0) set the tone from the opening tip, using
superior 3-point shooting and suffocating defense to dominate the
Bulldogs (3-1) and set up an early-season showdown with the Demon
Deacons next week.

"We just came out and tried to make a statement, show we're for
real," Williams said.

They certainly did.

Illinois made 14 of 28 3-pointers and scored 29 points off 19
Gonzaga turnovers to turn the game into a rout in the first five
minutes.

"We were thoroughly dominated today, in every phase of the
game," Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. "There were times it didn't
appear we belonged out there on the court."

Adam Morrison led Gonzaga with 26 points and 11 rebounds, and
Ronny Turiaf added 12 points and nine rebounds.

Williams got the Illini started on an 11-0 run early in the
first half, and they never looked back. Illinois forced seven
turnovers in the first five minutes, which led to 14 points and an
18-4 lead.

Gonzaga's game plan going in was to get the ball down low to
Turiaf, who was coming off a career-high 40 points in a win over
Idaho on Wednesday.

However, every time Turiaf touched the ball Saturday, he was
immediately surrounded by two or three Illinois players, forcing
him to pass out of the post.

"They're young, but we bothered them even when Turiaf had good
position," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "He was saying, 'Get
me the ball!' But by the time they could get it to him, it was too
late."

Turiaf couldn't handle the pressure. He had six turnovers,
including one pass out of a double team that landed in the second
row of the stands.

"Every time I touched the ball, there were two guys on me and
three others watching me," Turiaf said. "I tried to find my
teammates and did a poor job ... I did a pathetic job tonight."

And his teammates just couldn't pick up the slack. Morrison
scored 11 points in the first half, but he was the only player at
all effective against the deep and athletic Illini.

The Illini made 10 of 17 3-pointers and shot 55 percent from the
field in the first half to take control.

"We shoot the ball so well, and with such confidence," said
Head, who also had nine assists. "Once we start making shots, it's
going to be a long night for the other team."

They closed the half in convincing fashion, with a 3-pointer by
Williams, a layup by Roger Powell and a layup by Head at the buzzer
for a 58-27 lead that turned the second half into garbage time.

The Bulldogs were overwhelmed by the lightning-quick Illini
break and physical inside play and trailed by as many as 38 points
in the second half.

Dee Brown was the facilitator, pushing the ball relentlessly up
the floor. Brown finished with 17 points and eight assists.

Gonzaga outrebounded Illinois 39-26, but that was about the only
thing the Bulldogs did right.

"That's a really, really good basketball team," Few said.
"Everybody is back. They're hungry. I don't think they have any
weaknesses at all."

It was all Illinois in a performance that surely got Wake
Forest's attention.

"It's a great game. This is the kind of game you're going to
play in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight," Weber said. "Can you
compete? Anything like this is going to help us down the road."