Scores

Final

Northwestern St 51

(5-7, 0-7 away)

(1) Illinois 69

(13-0, 10-0 home)

    7:00 PM ET, December 30, 2004

    1 2 T
    NWST 28 2351
    #1ILL 42 2769

    Top Performers

    Northwestern State: J. Spencer 7 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

    Illinois: L. Head 18 Pts, 3 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl

    Illinois never trails in Las Vegas tourney win

    LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Illinois' great start could be a predictor of a fantastic finish.

    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.

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    NWST
    ILL
    Points 51 69
    FG Made-Attempted 19-53 (.358) 26-63 (.413)
    3P Made-Attempted 4-11 (.364) 8-24 (.333)
    FT Made-Attempted 9-16 (.563) 9-14 (.643)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 17 (0/0) 18 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 0 22

    2004-05 Season

    DATEGAMELINKS
    » Dec 30, 2004 @ILL 69, NWST 51Recap