(12) Milwaukee 63

(26-6, 14-2 Horizon)

(1) Illinois 77

(35-1, 15-1 Big Ten)

    7:25 PM ET, March 24, 2005

    Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois

    1 2 T
    #12MILW 32 3163
    #1ILL 39 3877

    Top Performers

    Milwaukee: J. Tucker 32 Pts, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    Illinois: D. Williams 21 Pts, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl

    Backcourt propels Fighting Illini into Chicago final

    ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- Containing Deron Williams is no easy feat. When backcourt mate Dee Brown is on his game, too, playing Illinois is anything but a fair fight.

    Williams and Brown gave upstart Wisconsin-Milwaukee all that it could handle and then some Thursday night, combining for 42 points, 10 assists and some pesky defense to lead Illinois to a 77-63 victory and a spot in the Chicago Regional finals.

    "They were knocking down shots. They were playing defense," Roger Powell Jr. said. "That's what we needed."

    No. 1 seeds in regional semifinals
    playing in home state, since 1985
    Year Matchup
    2005 Illinois def. 12 UWM by 14
    2003 Texas def. 5 Connecticut by 4
    2001 Stanford def. 5 Cincinnati by 13
    2000 Michigan St. def. 4 Cuse by 17
    1998 UNC def. 4 Michigan St. by 15
    1995 UCLA def. 5 Mississippi St by 19

    Williams scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and also had eight assists. Brown scored 15 of his 21 from 3-point range, was 7-of-12, and had two assists and two steals. Anytime the Illini needed a basket, a pass or a turnover, one -- or both -- of them was there.

    "We had to play our best basketball tonight. We didn't," UWM coach Bruce Pearl said. "They had a lot to do with it."

    The rest of the Illini weren't too shabby, either. Illinois shot 53 percent, and all five starters finished in double figures. Powell and Luther Head had 12 each, and James Augustine had a double-double for the third straight game with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

    The top-seeded Illini (35-1) will play Arizona on Saturday for a chance to go to their first Final Four since 1989. Arizona beat Oklahoma State 79-78.

    "It's wonderful," Brown said. "Our main goal was to get to the Final Four and win a national championship. Getting to the Elite Eight is a great accomplishment. We've got to just keep playing hard."

    UWM (26-6) was hoping to make some history of its own and be the first No. 12 seed to knock off a No. 1. Joah Tucker did his part, scoring a career-high 32 points. But he was essentially a one-man offense. UWM shot 39 percent, and leading scorer Ed McCants was 4-of-17 overall for 13 points.

    Illinois forced the Panthers into 12 turnovers while committing only nine.

    "They have three, four, maybe five NBA players that are so unselfish," UMW's Mark Pancratz said. "Anytime we felt we elevated our game a little bit, they just took it to another level."

    The Illini got some payback, too, for their fans who are still harboring a grudge against Pearl for the role he played in a recruiting scandal some 15 years ago. Pearl gave the NCAA a tape of a secretly recorded phone call in 1989, touching off a 16-month investigation. Illinois was cleared of the most serious violations, but had to skip the 1991 postseason.

    Pearl said earlier this week he expected a hostile reception, and he got it. The Illinois fans booed him loudly and long when he was introduced. The UWM fans were boisterous, but there weren't enough of them to drown out the thousands of Illini faithful who'd packed the Allstate Arena and made it a virtual home game.

    "I thought the fans were terrific from both teams," Pearl said. "You think this is the first building I've been booed in?"

    And the fans' treatment was nothing compared to what Williams and Brown did to the Panthers.

    UWM had stunned Alabama and Boston College with a suffocating, fullcourt press, and it gave the Illini some fits, too. The Panthers are tenacious to the point of annoyance, hanging so close to the opponents they're practically inside their jerseys. And just when the Illini thought they'd shed one, there was another, ready to stick a hand, an arm, anything in their face.

    But Brown and Williams were just too savvy for the Panthers to contain for long.

    "We knew they were going to speed us up," Williams said. "My job as a point guard is to slow the game and get everybody involved."

    The game looked more like a track meet for the first 10 minutes, with the teams racing up and down the court, trading shot for shot. But Illinois gradually slowed it down and took control.

    Clinging to a 29-26 lead with 3 minutes left in the first half, Williams worked the shot clock, dribbling around the top of the key, his eyes scanning the entire floor. Finally, with only 4 seconds left on the clock, he drove forward and dished to a wide-open Powell for a dunk.

    Head forced a turnover on the next possession and fed Brown for a 3-pointer. Williams than stole the ball and found Powell again for a layup that gave Illinois a 36-26 lead with 2:24 to play.

    Williams extended the lead in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions. He was hacked from behind as he went up for a layup, and made one free throw. He then scored on a fast-break layup -- fed by Brown after a steal -- and finished the run with a 3 to give Illinois a 51-37 lead with 16:29 to play.

    "Today I had to score a little more," Williams said. "My main job is to get people the ball and, after that, look for my shot."

    Illinois pushed the lead to as much as 17 before McCants made a 3-pointer to spark an 8-0 run that cut the Illini's lead to 70-61 with 4:17 to play. The Panthers got within 9 again with 1:09 to play, but Williams fed Head for a 3-pointer that sealed the victory.

    "We knew how it felt last year to lose in this position," Brown said. "We wanted to take a step farther, and that's what we did."

    Game notes

    Illinois didn't get any points from its bench. ... UWM was 7-of-29 from 3-point range. ... UWM reserve center Derrick Ford missed the game after slipping and injuring his left ankle in pregame warmups. ... Illinois improved to 10-1 at the Allstate Arena.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 63 77
    FG Made-Attempted 22-57 (.386) 28-57 (.491)
    3P Made-Attempted 7-29 (.241) 9-20 (.450)
    FT Made-Attempted 12-18 (.667) 12-15 (.800)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 12 (0/0) 20 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 17


    » Mar 24, 2005 @ILL 77, MILW 63Recap