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Illinois Smothers White, Charlotte

March 19, 2001|VINCE KOWALICK

DAYTON, Ohio — Top-seeded Illinois put the freeze on freshman phenom Rodney White of Charlotte and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1989 with a 79-61 Midwest Regional victory Sunday at Dayton Arena.

The top-seeded Illini (26-7) closed out a weekend of mostly lopsided and predictable outcomes in the Midwest. Illinois will play fourth-seeded Kansas on Friday at San Antonio.

Brian Cook scored 16 points to lead four players in double figures for Illinois, which jumped to a 10-2 lead and had little trouble maintaining the advantage.

Like Kansas, the Illini had been eliminated in the second round each of the last three seasons.

"Last year, I was really disappointed," Cook said. "I felt I let the team down. This year, I came out and played hard and had fun."

Sophomore Frank Williams had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Sergio McClain had 14 points.

White, who averaged 19.0 points to lead all freshmen in Division I this season, was guarded heavily and held to nine points on four of 13 shooting.

White, who scored in double figures in 26 of 27 games, missed his first three shots and missed on all six of his three-point attempts.

"They did a great job on defense," White said. "They did a great job of shutting me down."

Demon Brown led Charlotte (22-11) with 19 points and Jobey Thomas had 14.

"From the start of the game they were very physical," Thomas said.

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