Men's Basketball
Balanced Attack Leads Illinois Past Oregon, 83-66

Luther Head drives to the basket as Oregon's Ian Crosswhite defends during the second half.
Luther Head drives to the basket as Oregon's Ian Crosswhite defends during the second half.

Dec. 11, 2004

Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery

AP National Writer

CHICAGO (AP) - When Luther Head came off the floor after pregame warmups, he realized he'd forgotten to put his uniform jersey on.

It might have been No. 1 Illinois' only lapse of the day.

Head had a season-high 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and all five starters reached double figures to lead Illinois to an 83-66 rout of Oregon at the United Center on Saturday.

Deron Williams added 17 and seven assists, Dee Brown had 13 points and James Augustine had 10 points and eight rebounds. Roger Powell Jr. finished with 12 points despite spending most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble.

"If you have any type of slippage whatsoever, they really make you pay," Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. "Every ranking they've gotten, they deserve. They've got a chance to have a special year."

This is the third time in school history Illinois (9-0) has been ranked No. 1, but it's never been able to stay on top for more than a week. The Illini should break that streak now, winning all three of their games this week in convincing fashion.

"We're just worried about getting better and preparing for each game as it came to us," Williams said. "Hopefully we can keep that ranking for a little longer."

All of the Illini's wins have been by double digits, and they've yet to trail in the second half. While they weren't as dominant as they were in last week's victory over then-No. 1 Wake Forest - playing in four arenas in eight days might have something to do with that - they still put on quite a show.

They led the Ducks (4-1) from the opening tip and shot 58 percent. Oregon couldn't get within single digits the last 25 minutes of the game, and Illinois led by as much as 21 in the second half.

The Illini had assists on 20 of their 29 baskets, and were 19-of-22 from the free throw line, not missing one until almost midway through the second half.

"That gives us confidence, knowing we're playing so well in the No. 1 spot," Head said.

Bryce Taylor (19) and Malik Hairston (14) were the only Oregon players in double figures. Leading scorer Aaron Brooks was held to a season-low seven points while Ian Crosswhite had just four, 10 below his average.

"They're very disciplined," Taylor said. "Their coach has them to the point where they never take any plays off, no possessions off. We ran, they ran. They saw that if we wanted to run, they could run with us."

Oregon had final exams this week and hadn't played since last Saturday. But the Illini might have been too much for the Ducks even in a regular week - especially with the game at the United Center.

Though Chicago is 2{ hours north of Illinois' campus in Champaign, the United Center may as well be considered a campus extension. Illinois has won 11 straight here, and is 24-6 at the United Center since it opened during the 1994-95 season.

James Augustine celebrates with teammates Jack Ingram, left, and Roger Powell Jr., center, during the final seconds.

The game was sold out for weeks, and the building was an ocean of orange. When the Illini took the floor before the game, the roar of applause rivaled the reception Michael Jordan got in his farewell appearance here almost two years ago.

"When they told me it was going to be a packed house, it kind of shook me a little bit," said Head, one of the Illini's eight Chicago-area natives. "I was hoping we were going to have a good game, and we did."

Illinois didn't give Oregon a chance to settle in, racing out to a 12-2 lead about 3 minutes into the game and holding the Ducks to one basket. Taylor finally stopped the spurt with a jumper, starting a run that pulled the Ducks within 15-11 with 12:57 left in the first half.

But that was the closest the Ducks would get the rest of the afternoon. Illinois is just too good and too deep, playing with such precision it's almost numbing.

"That is a very, very good basketball team," Kent said. "If I compare them to people in our conference, they remind me of some of the great Stanford teams of old. They understand the mentality, how to work you every single possession. Very rarely do they take a play off offensively or defensively."

Head started and finished a 15-7 run with 3-pointers, giving Illinois a 30-18 lead with 8:33 left in the first half. Illinois went the next 3:18 without a field goal, allowing Oregon to get within single digits again on Mitch Platt's layup with 5:41 left.

But the Illini closed the half with an 11-7 run, capped by Head's alley-oop from Brown, and took a 43-29 lead into the locker room at halftime. Illinois put the game out of reach with an 8-4 run to start the second half, highlighted by a monster dunk by Powell that brought the Illini bench to its feet.

"As long as we keep winning like this, it's fun," coach Bruce Weber said of the No. 1 ranking. "I don't think it's any pressure. It's fun we're up there. We knew we were going to be one of top teams and I think they want to hold onto it as long as they can."