Illini Hold Off Broncs

At the start of the game, the team wearing orange came out on fire. Shooting nearly 60% for most of the first half, they were draining threes, causing turnovers, hustling on defense, and running out on dunks. They stretched their lead to 10 points with 8 minutes left in the half, and looked like they were ready to put their opponent away early.

Unfortunately, Illinois was wearing white today.

The Illini gritted out a 71-59 victory over Texas-Pan American before an announced sellout crowd of 16,618 Illini fans, who saw the visiting Broncos come out strong and take control of the game from the very start. The Broncos ran out to a lead of 13-7, then, when the Illini countered with 6 straight to tie it at 13, T-PA went on a 10 point run made up of mainly free throws and layups to take a 23-13 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. The Illini got back to back three pointers from Rich McBride to close to 25-22, and, after the 4 minute timeout, the Illini went on their own rum, reeling off 14 straight points to turn a 30-23 deficit into a 36-30 lead with less than a minute to go in the half, and went into halftime leading 36-32.

The second half was essentially a draw with the teams trading baskets and, after closing the lead to 2 by making the first bucket of the 2nd half, T-PA got no closer than 4, and the Illini never led by more than 12.

The game was played under experimental rules, with the 3-point line moving back a foot, a wider lane, and a "no-contact" arc three feet from the basket.

Texas Pan-American played much of the first half in a zone defense, challenging the young Illinois guards to shoot over it. Illinois didn't respond well, shooting only 40% for the half, and 31% on three pointers. In the second half the Broncos played primarily man-to-man, and the Illini continued to struggle with their shot, shooting 42% for the half and 41% for the game. Three point shooting was no better at 32% for the game, down from 53% in the game Friday against South Dakota State.

Dee Brown led the Illini in scoring with 20 points, hitting 5-13 three pointers and snaring 7 rebounds, including 3 offensive. Dee also had 4 asists, 4 turnovers, and 4 steals. James Augustine had 14 points to go with his 7 rebounds, Rich McBride had 11 points on 4-13 shooting (including 3 3's) and dished out 8 assists, and Jamar Smith had his first double-digit scoring game with 10 points on 4-9 shooting. The Illini were led in rebounding by Brian Randle, who snared 8 (6 offensive) to go along with 6 points. 34 of the Illini's 68 shot attempts were 3-pointers.

The Illini did a much better job of taking care of the basketball tonight, with only 12 turnovers to go with 20 assists, and won the rebounding battle 38-32. The Illini were outscored in the paint 32-22, mainly on tipins and putbacks of missed T-PA shots.

The Broncos were led in scoring by Derrick East and Dexter Shankle, both with 12 points, and Johnathan Chatman with 10 points.

News and notes:

1) The Illini big men looked a step slow and rarely flashed to the high post in the first half against the zone defense. Much of the offense was the guards passing the ball around the perimeter and launching threes when open. Once the bigs started moving late in the half, the Illini's offense looked MUCH better.

2) Calvin Brock and CJ Jackson did not play.

3) Marcus Arnold played 14 minutes compared to only 6 for Warren Carter. Marcus scored his first points in an Illini uniform today.

4) The Illini have now won 40 straight non-conference games., and 23 straight at Assembly Hall.

5) Chester Frazier hit his first career three pointer tonight.

6) James Augustine passed Bill Small for 43rd on the Illini career scoring list, and Don Freeman for 8th on the career rebounding list.

7) The 24 offensive rebounds were the most by an Illini team since November 27th, 2002, in a game against Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

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