3:30 PM ET, March 13, 2005
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
CHICAGO (AP) -- As top-ranked Illinois celebrated its big Ten tournament title with the traditional net-cutting ceremony, James Augustine was trying to figure out what he was going to eat.Then in the middle of the euphoria came an announcement he wasn't expecting: he'd been voted the MVP of the tournament. "I was just over there talking to Nick [Smith] about what was going to be for dinner," Augustine said. "He gave me a hard time and I had to give a speech. I had no idea. I was surprised with it." With Augustine and Roger Power clogging up the middle for most of the game, the Illini built a 16-point lead and held on Sunday to beat No. 23 Wisconsin 54-43 for the Big Ten title. "He [Augustine] said, 'I'm so hungry, what the heck are they going to have in that room?' He really wasn't thinking about being the MVP. They're all like that. They're loose and free and very competitive," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber, who coached his second straight game following his mother's death Friday. Known for its stellar guard play, Illinois' big men were a major factor in sending the Illini to a school-record 32nd win. Now on to the NCAAs, where the overall No. 1 seed (32-1) faces Fairleigh Dickinson in the opening round Thursday at Indianapolis, a two-hour drive from Champaign. "At the beginning of the season everybody questioned our big men. We showed it's not a weakness but one of our strengths," said guard Deron Williams, who dribbled out the final seconds of the clock Sunday after the Illini had held off a late Badgers run. The Illini didn't shoot well again Sunday -- Dee Brown went scoreless and was 0-for-8 from the field -- but they turned up the defense, especially on Wisconsin scoring leaders Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson. "We have showed all year we were able to run with people and go by them. And at the same time when they make it a slower game -- Wisconsin, that's their style -- we're still able to deal with it," Weber said. Tucker, whose 3-point buzzer-beater in the semifinals carried the Badgers (22-8) over Iowa, managed just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting but was instrumental in Wisconsin's comeback. Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin's second-leading scorer, also struggled, scoring eight points on 1-for-7 shooting as the Badgers made only 14 of 54 field goal attempts (26 percent). Top reserve Zach Morley, who had 40 points in the first two Wisconsin wins, managed five on Sunday. Augustine and Powell helped each other inside as the Illini doubled whomever had the ball. Wisconsin made only 14 baskets in the game. "He was very aggressive," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said of Augustine, who averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds in the three tournament games. "He made a statement. He intimidated our guys a little bit." Powell finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds Sunday while Augustine and Luther Head had 12 points apiece. Augustine also blocked three shots. Wisconsin (22-8) will keep playing, too, facing Northern Iowa in a first-round game at Oklahoma City on Friday. "You can't get too down on yourselves after a loss. You have to take good with bad," Tucker said. "We'll look at this, see the things we can improve on and that's going to help us down the road." The Illini went up 16 when Head and Powell hit 3-pointers and then Head raced ahead on a fastbreak for a dunk on a pass from Brown with 8:42 left. But Wisconsin, which lost for the third time to Illinois this season after beating the Illini in the tournament finals a year ago, had one run left, most with Augustine sitting with his fourth foul. Tucker, scoreless in the first half, hit a basket and a 3-pointer, Kammron Taylor made a 3 and two free throws and the Badgers got to 46-41 with 4:41 to go. Still trailing 48-43, the Badgers then missed five straight shots that could have cut into the lead, including a 3-point miss by Tucker with just over a minute to go. Powell, fouled on the rebound, then hit two free throws to make it 50-43. Augustine dropped in two from the line with 36 seconds left and Powell two more 9 seconds later as the Illini hung on. Illinois improved to 27-6 at the United Center -- where it has won 14 straight games and Sunday was boosted by a boisterous sellout crowd of 22,157, many of them dressed in orange. Now the Illini, No. 1 since early December, hope to take their fans on another ride through the NCAA Tournament. "Hopefully we can do something special," Head said.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||14-54 (.259)||19-53 (.358)|
|3P Made-Attempted||7-19 (.368)||7-22 (.318)|
|FT Made-Attempted||8-8 (1.000)||9-12 (.750)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||12 (0/0)||11 (0/0)|