Illinois survives against Arkansas

Sunday, December 5, 2004

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Illinois was unable to dominate as it did against top-ranked Wake Forest, so the Illini took advantage of Arkansas' breakdowns whenever it could and came away with a 72-60 victory Saturday.

Roger Powell had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Dee Brown and Deron Williams each scored 13, helping No. 5 Illinois overcome a sluggish offense and poor free-throw shooting to win.

"Overall, several guys didn't play well, but we kept them from scoring, too," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Eventually, somebody made a nice screen or somebody made a nice pass and Roger was able to finish it."

But the Illini (6-0) rarely looked like the team that beat Wake Forest by 18 Wednesday night. Illinois was playing its first game in front of a hostile crowd and, while never rattled, it committed 14 turnovers -- more than twice the six it had against the Demon Deacons.

"It was important that we got this win on the road," Williams said. "They came out aggressive and tried to force turnovers. It was definitely the most pressure we have had all year."

But Arkansas (5-1) was a step behind throughout the first half, as the Illini built a nine-point lead. Illinois patiently worked the ball around the perimeter and took advantage when the Razorbacks missed an assignment or overreached in a passing lane.

"The real key was not getting off to a good start and giving them a lead," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said.

The Razorbacks played tighter in the second half, but suffered from poor shooting after closing the gap to 57-53 with 7:47 left.

"If they get their big guys to be productive, they'll be a pretty good team," Weber said.

Powell converted a three-point play a half-minute later after working the ball inside against Charles Thomas. The Razorbacks managed only Brewer's dunk and Steven Hill's free throw over the next six minutes, as Illinois extended its lead to 10.

Brewer scored 21 for Arkansas.

Through the game's first 30 minutes, Illinois made only seven of 16 free throw attempts.

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