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Updated: Friday, March 19, 2004 5:11 PM EST
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(5) Illinois 72, (12) Murray St 53

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Illinois showed no lingering effects from its loss in the Big Ten Conference championship game.

Dee Brown scored 21 points as the fifth-seeded Fighting Illini posted a methodical 72-53 victory over No. 12 Murray State in the first round of the Atlanta Region.

"Dee's play on both offense and defense was great," said Illinois guard Deron Williams, who handed out eight assists. "He shot well, grabbed some rebounds and kept with his man the entire game."

Illinois, which won its first outright Big Ten crown in the regular season since 1952, lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, snapping a 12-game winning streak. But the Fighting Illini (25-6) coasted against Murray State after taking control late in the first half.

After trailing by four early in the game, Illinois used an 18-2 spurt to take a 35-28 halftime lead and maintained a double-figure advantage throughout the second half.

"I think they tired a little bit," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber, who led Southern Illinois to the "Sweet 16" two years ago. "Our pressure, I think, tired them a little as it went on. You could just see some tired legs as the game went on, maybe missed shots, and then we were able to go inside much better in the second half."

The Fighting Illini's superiority on the boards proved decisive as they had a huge rebounding edge, 44-26. Illinois grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, resulting in a number of second-chance opportunities.

Roger Powell scored 11 points and James Augustine added 10 for the Fighting Illini, who will face Cincinnati in the second round.

"Our rebounding was the difference maker in the game," Powell said. "We really did a nice job of not giving them any chances. We were, however, able to create some quality second chances and converted some good points off them."

Cuthbert Victor scored 15 points for Murray State (28-6), which played without second-leading scorer Kelvin Brown. He was suspended following last weekend's arrest on drug charges.

"We obviously feel we're better than we played today," Murray State coach Mick Cronin said. "They dominated us on the glass. I believe we only had two rebounds in the second half. We struggled to get into anything offensively."

A 3-pointer by Chris Shumate, who scored 13 points, gave Murray State a 21-17 lead with 7:05 left in the first half, but Williams' 3-pointer put Illinois ahead to stay, 22-21, with 5:44 remaining in the half.

"Overall, I think we were too oversized for them," Illinois forward Nick Smith said. "They were a tough team, but when you are going up against our frontcourt and giving up a couple inches, it is tough to get any momentum going."

The Racers trailed, 57-47, after a tip-in by Shumate with 8:35 to go before the Illini held Murray State scoreless for more than three minutes and opened a 62-47 edge on Augustine's layup with 5:48 remaining. The final score represented Illinois' biggest lead.

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