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Braggin' Rights elude MU for ninth straight year

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press
Illinois' Mike Davis dunks against Missouri during the second half Tuesday in St. Louis. Illinois won 75-59.
ST. LOUIS -- Demetri McCamey got out of Illinois coach Bruce Weber's doghouse in a hurry by leading a rout of No. 25 Missouri.

McCamey scored all but two of his 20 points in an almost perfect first half of a 75-59 victory Tuesday night, the Fighting Illini's ninth straight in the annual Braggin' Rights game. Three days earlier, he had just seven points against Detroit.

"My first couple of shots, they were falling," McCamey said. "And I kept shooting."

Weber joked that maybe he should put McCamey on notice every week, noting that the sophomore guard was on his game from tipoff.

"A lot of it is his body language," Weber said. "I think he decides things ahead of time. Obviously, this one's a big one, and he knows it."

Missouri coach Mike Anderson looks up at the scoreboard during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Illinois on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008, in St. Louis. Illinois defeated No. 25 Missouri 75-59.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
The result was Illinois' first signature victory of the season, and a ridiculously easy one at that, in a neutral-site game featuring a 50-50 crowd and always charged with emotion. An announced sellout of 19,586 at Scottrade Center had some no-shows due to icy weather that delayed the Illinois pep band's arrival until about 6 minutes into the game.

"This game's huge every year," Illinois guard Trent Meacham said. "The intensity that everyone plays with, it's an NCAA tournament game.

"It's a lot of fun to play in and it feels good to go out as a senior with the win."

Leo Lyons had 22 points for Missouri (9-2), which flopped one day after cracking the Top 25 for the first time in nearly five seasons on the strength of a seven-game winning streak.

Tigers coach Mike Anderson said he would normally like to say his team was a "half-step off," but in this one he said it was a "full step off."

"It seemed like we got in a hole and we just couldn't find our way back," Anderson said. "We actually looked like a young team, you could see it.

"It's kind of like they punched us and we didn't really punch back."

Illinois led by 20 points in the first half and cruised to its fifth straight victory overall.

Meacham had 23 points with three 3-pointers and Mike Davis had 13 points and nine rebounds for Illinois (11-1), which won the previous two games in the series by a total of four points. The Fighting Illini shot 57 percent while beating a team that had been averaging 25-point blowouts during its winning streak.

Weber said the ease of the victory was something of a surprise, although he noted that stopping Missouri on offense neutralized Anderson's pressure tactics. Illinois led 40-22 at halftime and had committed just five turnovers against a school forcing nearly 20 per game.

"If we defend them, they don't get the opportunities to press," Weber said. "They rely so much on the press and steals in transition and I think we got it into our tempo."

The Tigers shot a season-worst 37 percent, going 2-for-18 from 3-point range, and were held well below their previous season low of 71 points.

Illinois took control early behind the hot hand of McCamey, who hit his first five shots and outscored the rest of his team 13-7 while fueling a 20-9 lead just more than 8 minutes into the game. McCamey was 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the half after failing to score in double figures in two of the three previous games.

Missouri trailed at halftime for only the third time after shooting 30 percen, missing all eight 3-point attempts and going without leading scorer DeMarre Carroll for 6 minutes after he injured his left ankle.

Carroll, who averages 17.6 points and seven rebounds, was held to six points and one rebound. After the game he refused comment.

"They started off pretty good, making a lot of shots," Lyons said. "We tried to force people to shoot a lot of jump shots and unfortunately, they were making them.

"We were playing on our heels the entire game."

Illinois' 18-point halftime lead matched the one in an 82-50 victory in 2005, the most lopsided in the series. The lead grew to 24 points in the second half.

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