Illinois survives Mizzou scare
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[DEC. 23, 2004]
Heading into the
annual Braggin' Rights battle against Missouri, No. 1 Illinois was a
heavy favorite. Many in Illini Nation spoke of a potential 30-point
blowout. However, Illinois coach Bruce Weber warned all week of the
craziness associated with such "rivalry" games. And he proved to be
correct, as Illinois held off a late Missouri rally for a 70-64
victory. The game marked the fifth straight border war victory for
the Illini and also provided the nation's best team its closest
margin of victory on the young season.
The game began with cold shooting by
both teams, but Dee Brown was able to get to the basket for three
layups, propelling Illinois to an early 11-8 lead. Illinois took
several long-range shots early, but without success, as the Illini's
first 3-pointer didn't fall until the eight-minute mark of the first
half. Illinois was able to make some baskets to extend the lead to
double digits midway through the first half, but the story of the
half was the intense Illinois defense. Missouri would shoot just 33
percent in the first half and the Men in Orange would find
themselves with a 15-point bulge at the break, 38-23. Senior Luther
Head led the way in the first half with 12 points, while Roger
Powell and Brown both chipped in eight points.
Luther Head leads the way for Illinois with another 20-point
The second half was very reminiscent of
last year's game, when a 14-point Illini bulge was turned into just
a one-point victory. Missouri was on the prowl again, as a seemingly
safe 15-point lead was slowly cut down by the Tigers, who at one
point found themselves down by just four points. The Missouri game
plan seemed to be simple -- get the Illinois big men in foul
trouble, and both Powell and James Augustine found themselves on the
bench for major stretches of the second half. While Head and Brown
carried Illinois in the first half, the final 20 minutes was all
Deron Williams. The preseason conference player of the year came up
big during crunch time, making seven of eight free throws in the
final three minutes along with a nice fadeaway jump shot to seal the
Head finished with 20 points, while
Williams added 19 and Powell threw in 14. Missouri was led by
sophomore forward Linas Kleiza, the game's high scorer with 25.
For No. 1 Illinois, the night
provided a much-needed game where they were forced to play strong
down the stretch. While 30-point blowouts are awesome, they are few
and far between down the stretch and in the postseason. While many
in attendance were disappointed with the close game, Weber seemed
positive afterward and looking forward to the Christmas break.
[to top of second column in
Dee Brown sizes up the competition in Illinois' 70-64 win over
Missouri to claim Braggin' Rights for yet another year.
Illinois will return to action
Monday night at the Assembly Hall for the second game of the Las
Vegas tournament. The time is 7 p.m. and there is no TV for the
game. Illinois will then play games in Vegas on the Dec. 30 and 31
against Northwestern State (6 p.m.) and Cincinnati (7 p.m.). The two
Vegas games can be seen on Fox Sports Chicago.
Conference play will begin in just
two weeks with a Jan. 5 home game against the much-improved Ohio
State Buckeyes, led by new coach and central Illinois native Thad
news and notes:
- Illinois was held to just six
- Missouri outrebounded the Illini
38-35 for the game and had nine more rebounds than Illinois in the
- Illinois was held to 42 percent
shooting and was just 5-of-19 from long distance for the game.
- Illinois was excellent from the
foul line, making 21 of 27 free throws.
- Illinois had four players in
double figures but received only four bench points.
- Illinois has won five straight in
the series and is now 16-8 all-time in the Braggin' Rights series
in St. Louis.
Taylor, photos by Ryan Seggelke]