Brown's 21 Moves Illini Past Murray State

<p>The court was a good omen for Illinois, and Dee Brown was even better.

Brown scored 21 points and the fifth-seeded Fighting Illini - playing on the same floor where they won their first outright Big Ten title in 52 years - advanced in the NCAA tournament Friday with a 72-53 win over 12th-seeded Murray State.

Roger Powell added 11 points and James Augustine 10 for Illinois (25-6), which took control with a late run in the first half and reached the second round of the Atlanta Regional.

Cuthbert Victor had 15 points and Chris Shumate 13 for the Racers (28-6), the Ohio Valley Conference champions who dropped to 0-12 in games against Big Ten schools.

If there was ever a year Murray State could end its drought against one of college basketball's major conferences, this was it. But the Racers couldn't get closer than six points in the second half and shot just 34 percent (17-of-49) from the field while being muscled by the bigger and broader Illini.

Nationwide Arena was a new venue for the Fighting Illini, but not Ohio State's court, which was shipped from Value City Arena by the host Buckeyes for the first- and second-round games.

On March 7, Illinois was crowned Big Ten champions on the same court - the school's first exclusive basketball title since 1954.

In a down year for the conference, Illinois was the league's highest seed as only three Big Ten schools made the 64-team field - the fewest since expansion in 1985.

Now it's up to Illinois and Wisconsin to uphold the league's reputation after Michigan State was upset on Thursday night.

With his team leading by eight, Brown hit a 3-pointer to make it 48-37. Three minutes later, the lightning-quick point guard drilled another 3 to put the Fighting Illini up 15.

Murray State tried to chip away, but Illinois' defense challenged every shot, and any thought of an upset disappeared with 6:27 left when Luther Head hit a 3-pointer and Augustine scored on a putback to make it 62-47.

The Racers played without their second-leading scorer, Kelvin Brown, who was suspended indefinitely following his arrest last weekend on drug charges.

Starting point guard Adam Chiles also was arrested, and didn't start for just the fifth time all season before coming in early in the first half.

Neither team could find its range early on. They combined to miss 10 straight 3-pointers before ending their droughts by making 3s that just beat the 35-second shot clock.

Shumate's 3-pointer - Murray State's third in a row - gave the Racers an 18-17 lead. After an Illinois turnover, Chiles tried to dunk over Brown but slammed it off the rim.

The play gave momentum back to the Fighting Illini, who after struggling against Murray State's 2-3 zone, finally started to figure it out.

Deron Williams made two 3-pointers and Head hit another, and Illinois used an 18-3 run to take a 35-23 lead.

Story courtesy of the U of I SID TOM WITHERS


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