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Thursday, Jan. 22

Illini cage the Lions     Send a link to a friend

By LDN staff

[JAN. 22, 2004]  After watching the Illini go through the paces recently, the LDN staff could never have never guessed what was in store for everyone Wednesday night in the Assembly Hall. An inspired group of Illinois players was a stark contrast to what was in evidence earlier in the week. However, some of the drills that the players have been working on are paying rich dividends. Notice the shooting touch of Deron Williams beginning to return. Coach Jay Price has been working Williams diligently to that end.

We don't know if the team got together sometime before Wednesday night, but there was definitely a change of heart over the last couple of days.

Illinois started quickly, and by the 11:59 mark of the first half Illinois led 16-9. However, by the next timeout, the Nittany Lions had gone on a 7-4 run and pulled within 20-16. That was as close as they would ever get. Once again it was Roger Powell with the early hot hand, as he had 12 first-half points. Dee Brown chipped in nine and Luther Head added six. Illinois shot a blistering 55 percent from the field but finished the game near 60 percent, mostly due to outstanding shot selection and breaking down the Lions from the inside out.

Illinois was not content to rest on their first-half laurels. A smothering 10-0 run to start play after the intermission quickly put the game out of reach. Illinois' hunger and renewed attack mentality had paid off! The 10-0 blitz eventually led to a 12-2 run, then to an 18-4 mark. By then it was just a matter of what the final score would be. It turned out to be 80-37 in favor of the good guys.

Penn State had started off the Big 10 season playing surprisingly well. They started the night in a tie for second at 2-1, a half game ahead of the Illini and trailing the first-place IU Hoosiers by only a half game. That record changed in a hurry. The topsy-turvy league may just be that crazy all season long.


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Leading the way for the Illini on the night was Roger Powell with 16 points and Deron Williams with 12. Dee Brown threw in nine points as did James Augustine, who also had 12 rebounds. AND, with 4:40 left to play, Brian Randle had a monstrous dunk that had players and fans scurrying to the TVs to see if it made SportCenter's top 10 highlights of the night. Brian Cook's former roommate Jerrance Howard nailed two long 3s and finished the night with a career-high seven points in Illinois' big second half.

However, the stat of the night was on the defensive side of the ball. The Illini held Penn State to an all-time Assembly Hall low of 21 percent shooting! We will go on record right now and predict that if they hold Wisconsin to that number they will beat the Badgers!

With the win Illinois advanced its record to 12-4 and 3-2 in conference play. PSU fell to 9-5 and 2-2. Former Illinois SID Mike Pearson, who now lives in Michigan, was on hand for the game.

Illinois' next contest will be a tough test on the road at Wisconsin on Saturday.

[LDN staff]

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