INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Ticker) -- It was a little tougher than expected but top seeded Illinois made sure that No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson did not pull off an historic upset.
Dee Brown scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half as the Illini pulled away for a 67-55 victory over the Knights in the first round of the Chicago Region.
"Obviously, we weren't as sharp as we'd like to be," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We built a lead and let it slip. We had some breakdowns we normally don't have, but we came out focused in the second half and managed a bit of a run. The objective is to win and advance and we did that tonight."
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, no 16th seed had ever beaten a No. 1 but that did not deter the Northeast Conference champion Knights.
Fairleigh Dickinson (20-13) closed the first half with an 11-2 run to pull within 32-31 at the break.
"I thought our team dug down and played with heart for 40 minutes," Knights coach Tom Green said. "My biggest fear was their man-to-man defense, which is exceptional. We were able to break free for some open shots in the first half, but they really tightened it down in the second. I never would have dreamed we could control the boards like we did. I'm very proud of this team's effort."
The Knights outrebounded the Fighting Illini, 42-30, including a 15-8 edge on the offensive end.
Illinois (33-1) opened the second half with a 7-0 run to extend its lead to 39-31 with 17:20 to play. Brown then scored seven consecutive points on a jumper, layup and 3-pointer to make it 46-33 with 13:51 left.
"I thought it was important to come out, increase our energy, and get something going in the first five minutes," Brown said. "Coach talked about us being down to the last breath. If we lose, we go home. We really weren't playing team basketball in the first half and I knew that I had to come out and change that."
Luther Head scored 13 points and James Augustine added 11 and 15 rebounds for Illinois, which faces Nevada on Saturday for a trip to Chicago and the Sweet 16. Last year, Illinois fell to Duke in a regional semifinal showdown.
Gordon Klaiber scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Tamien Trent added 11 for the Knights, who have yet to advance past the first round in four tournament appearances.
"I just had to feed off my teammates," Klaiber said. "I hit some shots early and they (Illinois) made some defensive changes. I thought I was going to be on fire all night. I think this game will give me something to build on for next year."