8:00 PM ET, December 31, 2004
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Illinois made good on coach Bruce Weber's preseason prediction.Muscling their way through a New Year's Eve matchup against undefeated Cincinnati, the Illini used strong defense to reach 14-0, one of the coach's goals before the season started.Deron Williams had 18 points and six rebounds to help top-ranked Illinois defeat Cincinnati 67-45 in the final game of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic on Friday."You don't have a chance to play a lot of top teams, so this was important for us for the RPI," Weber said, referring to the NCAA ranking system. "People said last year that we didn't set high enough goals. But when I said we would go 14-0 to start the season, (our assistant) coaches rolled their eyes."Dee Brown and Roger Powell added 13 points apiece for Illinois, which did not trail for the sixth consecutive game. Luther Head, who was named tournament MVP, had 11 points and eight rebounds."(Our) kids said that the Cincinnati players were complaining that we were too physical. I think that's good," Weber said. "It shows we can play different styles. We defended so well. We rebounded with them."Jason Maxiell led the Bearcats (11-1) with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Eric Hicks added eight points."We never let Maxiell get in a rhythm," Weber said. "They never let us get in a rhythm and we didn't let them get in a rhythm either."Illinois is off to its best start since 1988-89, when it began 17-0 and reached the Final Four. The Illini have only trailed for 21 minutes, 32 seconds of 560 minutes this season. The last time Illinois trailed was in the first half against Georgetown on Dec. 9.The Illini held Cincinnati (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today; No. 22 AP) to 28 percent shooting (14-of-50), and the Bearcats didn't help themselves, finishing 13-of-26 from the foul line. Cincinnati had just six assists."We had good looks and we were not hitting them," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "We had two, three-footers. By halftime, we missed eight free throws."After Illinois pulled ahead 21-11, the Bearcats got no closer than eight points the rest of the way. Cincinnati made just six shots in the first half, and the Illini held a 35-24 lead at the break."We didn't help ourselves," Huggins said. "We need to rebound better. We need to shoot 46 percent (from the field) or better. There needs to be less turnovers and we didn't do that. We didn't do what we had to do."Illinois beat Cincinnati by even more last year, pulling out a 24-point victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
It was the fourth-ever meeting between the teams, with the Illini leading 3-1. ... The last time Cincinnati faced a No. 1 team was a 77-75 victory over Duke in 1998 during the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. ... It seemed like a home game for Illinois, with about 1,600 Illini fans in attendance. About 200 Cincinnati fans made the game.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||14-50 (.280)||22-56 (.393)|
|3P Made-Attempted||4-15 (.267)||9-22 (.409)|
|FT Made-Attempted||13-26 (.500)||14-19 (.737)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||20 (0/0)|
|» Dec 31, 2004||@ILL 67, CINCY 45||Recap|