NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Illinois was unable to dominate
as it did against top-ranked Wake Forest, so the Illini took
advantage of Arkansas' breakdowns whenever it could and came away
with a 72-60 victory Saturday.
Roger Powell had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Dee Brown and
Deron Williams each scored 13, helping Illinois (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 AP) overcome a
sluggish offense and poor free-throw shooting to win.
"Overall, several guys didn't play well, but we kept them from
scoring, too," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Eventually,
somebody made a nice screen or somebody made a nice pass and Roger
was able to finish it."
But the Illini (6-0) rarely looked like the team that beat Wake
Forest by 18 Wednesday night. Illinois was playing its first game
in front of a hostile crowd and, while never rattled, it committed
14 turnovers -- more than twice the six it had against the Demon
"It was important that we got this win on the road," Williams
said. "They came out aggressive and tried to force turnovers. It
was definitely the most pressure we have had all year."
But Arkansas (5-1) was a step behind throughout the first half,
as the Illini built a nine-point lead. Illinois patiently worked
the ball around the perimeter and took advantage when the
Razorbacks missed an assignment or overreached in a passing lane.
"The real key was not getting off to a good start and giving
them a lead," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said.
The Razorbacks played tighter in the second half, but suffered
from poor shooting after closing the gap to 57-53 with 7:47 left.
"If they get their big guys to be productive, they'll be a
pretty good team," Weber said.
Powell converted a three-point play a half-minute later after
working the ball inside against Charles Thomas. The Razorbacks
managed only Brewer's dunk and Steven Hill's free throw over the
next six minutes, as Illinois extended its lead to 10.
Brewer scored 21 for Arkansas, but was the only Razorbacks
player with more than nine points.
"Our goal was to do the best we could in the first half and
wear them down early and still have a chance to get in the game in
the second half," Heath said. "There were a few possessions where
we really hurt ourselves by missing the shot, or getting the foul
but not making the free throw.
"Honestly, though, I'm not disappointed in the way we played
overall," Heath said.
Through the game's first 30 minutes, Illinois made only seven of
16 free throw attempts, including only one of its six second-half
tries. As Arkansas went cold and turned to fouling to stop the
Illini, Illinois made 14 of its final 19 tries.
"I'm proud of us. We didn't play pretty and the stats aren't
pretty," Weber said. "I'm happy we didn't wear down physically."
Saturday's trip was Illinois' first outside the Midwest. The
Illini had won four games at home and another in Indianapolis, a
neutral site, against Gonzaga.
While Arkansas wasn't playing at home, either -- it schedules a
game away from its Fayetteville campus to appease fans outside the
Ozarks -- the crowd was far from neutral and stayed loud until the
game became a dull parade of free throws.
"That's a low roof up there and when they got their Woo-Sooie
or whatever it is going, it was pretty loud," Weber said
The final basket of the game was Brewer's dunk with 7:07 left,
which made it 60-55. The last 17 points were scored from the free
Illinois, which put together a number of scoring streaks against
Wake Forest on Wednesday as it built a 32-point lead, had only a
9-2 spurt in the first half to go up 26-18. The lead reached 40-28
before the Razorbacks narrowed it to 40-31 and Hill blocked Nick
Smith's shot in the closing seconds of the first half.