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Illini Win Big With Style Points

March 22, 2004|Marlen Garcia | Chicago Tribune

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As soon as Deron Williams released the ball on his fourth three-pointer, teammate Luther Head had both arms up to tell the world it was going to swish through the net.

Not even five minutes into the game, Roger Powell raised clenched fists after connecting on his shots. Dee Brown stole the ball from Cincinnati's Field Williams and headed straight to the basket, wrapping the ball around his back just before scoring on a reverse layup.

Illinois had never looked better. And there was no better time for its spectacular display of shooting, passing and defensive authority than Sunday. The calm, cool Illini (26-6) dispatched Cincinnati, 92-68, at Nationwide Arena in the second round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.

They will play top-seeded Duke on Friday in a regional semifinal in Atlanta. Illinois is seeded fifth. "We talked about playing at the magical level," Illinois Coach Bruce Weber said. "We had some guys that were magic tonight."

Williams hit all six of his shots in the first half, including five three-pointers, and had 17 points by halftime.

The 6-foot-3 guard finished 10 for 13 from the field, going six for eight on three-pointers, and made five of seven free throws. He set a career high for three-pointers and tied a career best with 31 points. He added seven assists and three rebounds.

Cincinnati finished 25-7.

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