Illini Tip-Off Weber Era With Victory

<p>Dee Brown was the leading scorer as Illinois picked up a 94-66 victory over Western Illinois in Bruce's Weber's first game as the head coach of the Illini on Saturday night in Champaign. Brown scored 23 points, including 4 three-point baskets, and was one of five Illini to score in double digits

Illinois (1-0) jumped out to a 37-9 lead with six minutes to go in the first half. The Illini never looked back and led 49-28 at the half. Joining Brown in scoring in double digits were Roger Powell (14 points), Nick Smith (13 points), James Augustine (12 points) and Deron Williams (11 points).

Western Illinois (0-3) could not pick up their first win for first-year head coach Derek Thomas. The Leathernecks will try to make their mark in the victory column when they head to Las Vegas on Wednesday against UNLV, were Thomas spent the last few years as an assistant coach.

The Illini made 35 of 67 shots from the field (52 percent), including 7 of 22 from beyond the three-point arc (32 percent). Illinois made 17 of 23 shots from the charity stripe.

#5 Deron Williams just missed a tripple double AP

Augustine was the team's leading rebounder with a career high 13 boards. Williams led the Illini with eight assists and was second in rebounds with nine.

Three players put on the orange and blue for the first time in regular season competition. Warren Carter led the newcomers with nine points while Brian Randle, who cracked the starting lineup, added eight points and transfer Jack Ingram contributed four points.

Junior college transfer Doyle Cole was the leading scorer for the Leathernecks with 16 points, while Bobby Carter tallied 14. J.D. Summers grabbed a team high seven rebounds and T.J. Gray handed out five assists.

A fierce Illinois defense caused Western Illinois to turn the ball over 18 times, including nine steals. The Illini coughed up possession of the basketball 15 times.

The Illini played without Luther Head, Aaron Spears and Richard McBride, who have all been suspended due to the violation of team rules.

In his press conference, Weber discussed his nervous feelings before the game.

"You're kind of getting a little antsy because you don't know what's going to happen, you're a little bit short-handed and crazy things happen."

After playing in a game that sometimes resembled a track meet, the Illini will get back to the practice court and prepare for a Wednesday night home contest against Mercer. The players will have nothing but basketball to focus on for the next week, since the University of Illinois has dismissed students for Thanksgiving break. After the break, Illinois will play "neutral site" games against Temple and North Carolina.

For Illinois fans, it was great to finally see the team compete on the court. In the months since Illinois was knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Notre Dame, a lot of distractions have occurred off the court. 15,591 members of Illini Nation showed up at the Assembly Hall on Saturday night to put the past behind them and to begin living in the present. Hopefully, this team will continue to give its' fans a great show.

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