Deron Williams hit his first seven attempts, setting the tone for a can't-miss attack, and fifth-seeded Illinois rolled to a 92-68 victory Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Big Ten's regular season champion will play Duke in Atlanta Regional on Friday at the Georgia Dome.
Williams matched his career high with 31 points, going 10-of-13 from the field, and Illinois (26-6) shot a season-high 63.6 percent as its two slick guards dominated from outside.
Dee Brown, nicknamed the "One-man Fastbreak," had 14 points, eight assists and two sleight-of-hand plays that helped Illinois take control early. The Fighting Illini starters went 32-of-47 from the field.
Coach Bob Huggins sat glumly in a folding chair, chin resting in his palm, as his fourth-seeded Bearcats (26-7) finished off their worst loss in the tournament during his 15 seasons.
This one came down to shooting and attitude, and Illinois had more of both. The Fighting Illini weren't about to be abused by the trash-talking Bearcats, who kept up the banter right until tip-off. As the teams left the court after the national anthem, one Bearcat warned the Illini, "Get ready for your bus ride home."
Instead, the blustery Bearcats got the tough trip - two hours back to their campus - while Illinois moved on to the round of 16 for the third time in the last four years. Cincinnati has dominated Conference USA, winning eight of its nine regular season championships, but can't seem to get the hang of the NCAA tournament.
The Bearcats have failed to make it past the first weekend of the tournament in seven of the last eight years. Their in-your-face style comes up short against teams that have the grit to give it back and the quickness to exploit them. Illinois was just such a team.
The Fighting Illini made 13 of their 14 shots during a 10-minute span of the first half, exploiting Cincinnati's weak perimeter defense. Williams had a perfect touch, making his first seven shots - five of them from behind the arc.
Brown, who was recruited heavily by Huggins as a high school star in Illinois, silenced the Bearcats with two signature plays during the first-half run. Brown stripped Field Williams of the ball near midcourt, drove to the basket, took the ball behind his back while in the air and made a lay-in that drew "oohs" from the crowd. He also had a behind-the-back bounce pass to set up one of Rich McBride's shots as Illinois built the lead to 24 and was never seriously threatened. Cincinnati tried everything - full-court press, half-court traps - but couldn't do any more than slow Illinois.
Deron Williams set a career high with six 3s in eight attempts, and Illinois went 11-of-19 from behind the arc overall. Roger Powell added 22 points. Tony Bobbitt, who won the Bearcats' first-round game with a late 3-pointer, twisted his right leg when he landed after making a 3-pointer midway through the second half, limiting
Story courtesy of the U of I SID office/Joe Kay