LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Illinois' great start could be a predictor of a
The last time the Illini (13-0) began a season this well, they
wound up in the Final Four.Luther Head scored 18 points and shot 5-for-9 from 3-point range
to lead the perfect Illini past Northwestern State 69-51 in the Las
Vegas Holiday Classic on Thursday night.Deron Williams added 14 points and six assists for the Illini,
who never trailed in the teams' second meeting in their history.
They last played in the 2001 NCAA tournament, and top-seeded
Illinois beat the Demons 93-54 in Dayton, Ohio.This is the best start for Illinois since 1988-89, when it began
17-0. The Illini have only trailed for 21 minutes, 32 seconds of
520 total minutes played this season.The Illini play No. 22 Cincinnati in the final round of the
Holiday Classic on Friday night."Northwestern State was good," Head said. They went to the
boards hard. It was a good way to get ready for Cincinnati."Jermaine Spencer, Clifton Lee and Jermaine Wallace each had
seven points to lead Northwestern State (5-7), which had 20
turnovers that Illinois turned into 23 points."I felt like we competed for the whole 40 minutes,"
Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. "We did have more
turnovers in the second half than we did in the first, but I think
a lot of that was the kids wanted it too bad and made a lot of not
very intelligent plays."Northwestern State tied it three times early in the first half,
the last at 18 with 11:37 left, but Illinois went on a 17-2 run and
built its largest lead of the half.The Demons cut the lead to 35-26 with 2:58 left in the half, but
Illinois was ahead 42-28 at halftime, capped by Williams' 3-pointer
from the right arc at the buzzer."I think our post game did a great job defending well early,"
Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "At the end of the first half, we
allowed them to hang in because our post game was not good."Illinois went 16-for-32 from the field in the first half, while
the Demons were 11-of-29 for 37.9 percent.The Illini's largest lead of the game came at 69-47 with 3:30
left. They shot 26-for-63 from the field for 41.3 percent, while
the Demons were 19-of-53 for 35.8 percent.Northwestern State failed to make a field goal for a span of
8:57 in the second half."They wore down and we wore them down and they never got
going," Weber said.James Augustine had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Dee Brown
scored 11 points for the Illini.