WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- A team coached by Lon Kruger sent Pennsylvania home from the NCAA Tournament for the second time in seven years.
Despite a subpar performance from leading scorer Cory Bradford, Illinois' depth was too much for the Ivy League champion Quakers, who were eliminated by the fourth-seeded Fighting Illini, 68-58, in an East Region first-round contest.
"It was a really tough game as expected," Kruger said. "Penn is an experienced group and Fran (Dunphy) does a terrific job. We made some shots early. We made some stops defensively." Pennsylvania (21-8), seeded 13th, has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1994, when it beat Nebraska in the first round before losing to Kruger's Florida squad that eventually reached the Final Four.
The Fighting Illini (22-9) will face Florida in the second round.
The deep bench of Illinois and the foul trouble of the Quakers were the game's two biggest storylines.
Ivy League Player of the Year Michael Jordan and center Geoff Owens were limited because of fouls. Jordan picked up three in a 39-second span of the first half and Owens departed for good with 7 1/2 minutes left in the game.
"I have never gotten three fouls that quickly before," Jordan said. "I should have backed off. I tried to play aggressive defense and the chose to call fouls on those possessions." Illinois won its third straight first-round game in the NCAA Tournament despite going over seven minutes without a field goal down the stretch. But Marcus Griffin's basket in the lane, which broke the drought, gave the Illini a 63-52 lead with 1:39 left.
Freshman Frank Williams scored a season-high 21 points for Illinois, which has not gone beyond the second round since advancing to the Final Four in 1989.
"It was the practices," said Williams of the reason for his team's success. "Everyone is playing good ball right now and I credit my teammates for this. We opened the ballgame up early and get off to a good start. In order to be successful that's what we have to do." It was the final collegiate game for Jordan, Owens, Matt Langel and Frank Brown, who won won back-to-back Ivy League titles and finished second to archrival Princeton in 1997 and 1998.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," Quakers coach Fran Dunphy said. "We fell behind early which hurt us. Atainst a team like Illinois tht will hurt you badly.
The Quakers trailed by 15 points 12 minutes into the game but used a 15-4 run near the end of the first half and a small 8-4 burst at the beginning of the second to fight within 38-37 on Brown's jumper with 17 minutes to play.
Williams drove for a layup and, following an officials' timeout, Lucas Johnson scored in the lane and Bradford converted a layup on the break for his first ponts of the game as Illinois responded.
"Everything they did we expected," Bradford said. "They made great plays, they're solid on the defensive end. We just kept our head up. Once they smacked us we didn't back down." Braford, who entered the contest averaging 15.3 points, was held to five on 2-of-9 shooting. But reserve Marcus Griffin picked up the slack with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Lucas Johnson contributed 10 points.
"Griffin really stepped up," said Bradford. "He's playing good ball right now." Possibly inspired from his first basket, Bradford drained a 3-pointer moments later and a quick 6-0 burst, featuring four points by Griffin, shortly thereafter gave Illinois a 57-46 lead with 8:54 remaining.
The Fighting Illini committed 17 turnovers to just 13 by the Quakers, but shot 49 percent (24-of-49), including 5-of-12 from beyond the arc and held a 39-38 rebounding advantage. They also outscored Pennsylvania at the foul line, 15-6.
"That was something that was our main focus," Griffin said. "We saw the tapes and we knew we had to be more physical with them to let them know the Big Ten is a rough and tough conference. We had to let them know it wouldn't be easy." Ugonna Onyekwe, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, led the Quakers with 17 points and six rebounds. Langel had 11 points but Jordan was held to eight points, half of his season average.
With Jordan and Langel cold early, the Fighting Illini put together a 16-0 run and seemed on verge of blowing open the game.
"I was ready to go," said Langel. "Early in the game I got a few open looks but I wasn't able to make them. We talked about not letting them get good looks on transition and we were not able to do that, especially early in the game." Williams began the outburst with a 3-pointer just under three minutes into the game and also had a jumper during the spurt, which was capped by Damir Krupalija's steal and layup that made it 18-6 with 12:40 to go before halftime.
"I think early on we got the ball inside, outside, back out and knocked down some shots," Williams said.
Illinois' biggest lead of the first half came with 7:57 to go after a three-point play by Griffin made it 27-12.
Pennsylvania was 8-of-28 from 3-point range. Langel, who shot 40 percent from beyond the arc this season, connected on just three of his 11 attempts.