Illinois posts first win as top-ranked team

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- There was no celebrating when Illinois' players found out they were the No. 1-ranked team in college basketball on Monday afternoon. There was a game to play.

"We didn't jump for joy or anything like that," said Luther Head, who had 17 points to lead the Illini to a 79-58 victory over Chicago State on Monday night. "We just took it like, 'OK, we're
No. 1. Now, let's stay there.' "

The Illini (7-0) moved from fifth to the top spot in both the coaches' poll and The Associated Press poll, marking the third time in school history it reached No. 1. The other two appearances were in 1952 and 1989, each for one week.

"I always talk about two H's -- staying humble and staying hungry," said Roger Powell Jr., who had nine points against the Cougars. "That's something that's going to be real important to us."

Dee Brown added 15 points and nine assists for Illinois, which was playing its second game in three days.

Powell said the Illini were energized for the game but admitted it didn't appear that way, especially when Chicago State went into its slowdown offense.

"Sometimes you kind of fall asleep on the court for a little bit," Powell said. "I think that's what made it seem like we didn't get up for it, because it was real slow game."

The Illini jumped to a 13-4 lead and added a 6-0 run midway through the first half. They were never seriously threatened despite some sloppy play that resulted in 18 turnovers.

Deron Williams added nine points for Illinois, and reserve Warren Carter had eight.

Deji Akindele had 14 points for Chicago State (0-5), while Tony Weeden added 13 and Terren Wilson 11.

"You can't run up and down with Illinois," Cougars coach Kevin Jones said. "They're too quick at every position so we knew coming in the game we had to spread the floor, try to take advantage of some of our quickness, try to run the clock and try to get a good shot."

But the Cougars took some bad shots early and Illinois took the 13-4 lead behind 3-pointers from Williams, Head and Powell. Head also had a layup on a nifty pass from Brown.

But the Cougars outscored Illinois 9-4 over the next 3:15, prompting a bit of concern from the Illini bench.

"Got to pick up the energy," shouted coach Bruce Weber.

A 10-footer from Nick Smith, which came after 11 passes, broke the run and Illinois scored the next eight points to take a 25-13 lead with 9:32 remaining in the first half. The Illini pushed the lead to 18 points before a 3-pointer from Kevin Jones Jr. closed Chicago State's halftime deficit to 47-32.

Illinois won its 36th straight game over non-Big Ten opponents at the Assembly Hall and made more than half its shots for the fourth time this season and were 14-for-30 from 3-point range.

The Illini have another stretch of two games in three days beginning Thursday at Georgetown. They follow that with a game against Oregon in Chicago on Saturday.

"Everybody will get up for us," Brown said. "It's going to be tough but that's what makes those games fun. We know that any given day you can lose. We're not afraid of losing."