Oregon Drops First Game Of The Season To Illinois, 83-66

Dec. 11, 2004

By NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer

CHICAGO - Illinois apparently is going to spend a little longer at No.1 this time.

Luther Head had 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting and all five starters reacheddouble figures, leading top-ranked Illinois to an 83-66 rout of Oregon at theUnited Center on Saturday. Deron Williams added 17 and seven assists, Dee Brownhad 13 points and James Augustine had 10 points and eight rebounds.

Roger Powell Jr. finished with 12 points despite spending most of the firsthalf on the bench with foul trouble.

Bryce Taylor had 19 to lead Oregon (4-1), which lost for the first time thisyear.

This is the third time Illinois (9-0) has been ranked No. 1, but it's neverbeen able to stay on top for more than a week. The Illini won their three gamesthis week, though, and did so in convincing fashion.

The Illini led the Ducks from the opening tip, and Oregon couldn't getwithin double-digits the last 25 minutes of the game. Illinois shot ablistering 58 percent and led by as much as 21 in the second half. The Illinihad assists on 20 of their 29 baskets, and were 19-of-22 from the free throwline, not missing one until the second half.

Oregon had final exams this week and hadn't played since last Saturday. Butthe Illini might have been too much for the Ducks even in a regular week -especially with the game at the United Center.

Though Chicago is 2{ hours north of Illinois' campus in Champaign, theUnited Center may as well be considered a campus extension. Illinois has won 11straight here, and is 24-6 at the United Center since it opened during the1994-95 season.

The game was sold out for weeks, and the building was an ocean of orange.When the Illini took the floor before the game, the roar of applause rivaledthe reception Michael Jordan got in his farewell appearance here almost twoyears ago.

Illinois didn't give Oregon a chance to settle in, racing out to a 12-2 leadabout 3 minutes into the game and holding the Ducks to one basket. Taylorfinally stopped the spurt with a jumper, starting a run that pulled the Duckswithin 15-11 with 12:57 left in the first half.

But that was the closest the Ducks would get the rest of the afternoon.Illinois is just too good and too deep, playing with such precision it's almostnumbing. Even with Powell spending most of the first half on the bench becauseof foul trouble, the Ducks couldn't make a move.

Head started and finished a 15-7 run with 3-pointers, giving Illinois a30-18 lead with 8:33 left in the first half. Illinois went the next 3:18without a field goal, allowing Oregon to get within single digits again onMitch Platt's layup with 5:41 left.

But the Illini closed the half with an 11-7 run, capped by Head's alley-oopfrom Brown, and took a 43-29 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Illinois put the game out of reach with an 8-4 run to start the second half,highlighted by a monster dunk by Powell that brought the Illini bench to itsfeet.

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