Weber's second-half gamble pays off

Illini coach takes risk on playing two stars in foul trouble

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – When you are undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country, it is a matter of doing all the little things and pushing all the right buttons.

That is exactly what happened with Illinois and head coach Bruce Weber in the Illini's 70-59 win over Wisconsin Saturday.

With two of his starters battling foul trouble, Weber had to make a tough call early in the second half after both Roger Powell Jr. and Dee Brown picked up their third fouls within the first two minutes.

To bench or not to bench, that was the question.

Weber chose not to and it is a large reason why his team was able to play a strong second half and defeat Wisconsin for the second time this year.

"It could have backfired," Weber said. "I wanted to get something going and I just felt if we didn't get going the start of that second half we were playing into their hands and that's why I hesitated taking Dee out. Roger, he didn't play, if you sit him the rest of the time it doesn't (do) any good."

"I guess we lucked out," Weber added. "We didn't get into major foul trouble. We were able to get a nice lead and then get Dee out before he got the fourth."

Powell was called for his third foul just 16 seconds into the second half, allowing the Badgers to take a one-point lead on two free throws from sophomore Alando Tucker. But Weber's decision to keep Powell and Brown (who tallied his third foul on a 1:42 into the second half) in the game kept Illinois' starting five intact. The decision sparked a 10-0 Illini run, which put them ahead for good.

"We needed those guys in there," said junior Deron Williams, who made a pair of 3-pointers to start the run. "They are our starters. They did good things."

Weber agreed.

"Roger had sat so much, you got to figure, let's go with it," Weber said. "What we did with Dee, we rotated him off of a guy that drove to the basket [Kammron Taylor] and I think he went to [Clayton] Hanson, who is a good player but he doesn't use his dribble quite as much. We just told Dee to be smart."

Brown did not get his fourth foul until there was 4:12 left in the game and he fouled out with 30 seconds left. But by that point, he had done his damage in dashing any Badger hopes of a comeback.

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