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Updated: Saturday, January 1, 2005 1:24 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(1) Illinois 67, (17) Cincinnati 45

LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- In a battle of unbeatens, Illinois proved to be the defensive stalwart.

Deron Williams scored 18 points and Dee Brown and Roger Powell Jr. added 13 apiece as top-ranked Illinois cruised to a 67-45 victory over No. 17 Cincinnati in the finale of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

The Fighting Illini (14-0), who beat the Bearcats for the third straight time, finished with a 4-0 mark in the round-robin event. They also extended their best start since the 1988-89 season, when the school's last Final Four team began with a 17-0 mark.

They did it on the defensive end, challenging nearly all of the Bearcats' attempts and outhustling them to loose balls. Forcing 15 turnovers, Illinois held a 20-5 advantage on points off turnovers.

"It was very good defense, we just battled," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We never let them get many looks. I think when we ended the half, they had six field goals at halftime and only two in the last 11 minutes. If it wasn't for the foul, them going to the free-throw line, it could have really been a (rout)."

On the other hand, Cincinnati (11-1) did not appear ready to face the nation's top team, as Brown stole a ball tipped nonchalantly by Eric Hicks off an inbounds pass and completed a three-point play for an 8-2 lead. Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins benched Hicks after a tirade, but the protest could not help his team offensively.

"Our guys were joking after the game, they said the Cincinnati players were complaining about how physical we were," Weber said. "We were too physical for them. That is a reversed role that is great."

The Bearcats, who entered the game holding opponents to an average of 55.3 points, shot just 23 percent (6-of-26) in the first half and trailed, 35-24, at the break.

In the second half, Illinois turned up its attack from long range, making 5-of-9 3-pointers. Williams and Brown both had a pair of long-range shots en route to finishing with three apiece.

Luther Head, who was named the tournament MVP, had 11 points and eight rebounds for the Fighting Illini, whose defense held the Bearcats to the lowest point total by an opponent this season.

Jason Maxiell scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Cincinnati, which finished 28 percent (14-of-50) from the floor and missed half of their 26 free throws.

Hicks added eight points and eight rebounds for the Bearcats, who fell to 6-4 all-time against No. 1 teams.


© 2005 STATS, Inc
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