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Newz Forum: BASKETBALL: Illinois chalks up 26th consecutive victory

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posted on Feb, 17 2005 @ 06:02 PM
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Illinois expects to have much more important wins the rest of the season. That's not going to stop the Illini from enjoying every victory that puts them in the record book.

Roger Powell Jr. went 10-for-10 from the field and scored 21 points and Dee Brown added 19 points to lead the top-ranked Illini to their 26th consecutive victory, 83-63 over Penn State on Wednesday night.

"There's not much stress there," coach Bruce Weber said. "You might think it's a looney bin and not a stressful team."

Not with easy wins like this one.

Illinois (26-0, 12-0 Big Ten) topped the school record of 25 consecutive wins, which was set over three seasons from February 1914 to February 1916. Certainly, this year's streak is more impressive -- it's the fourth best start ever by a Big Ten team.

"Streaks aren't important," Weber said. "Winning the Big Ten, getting the high seed, advancing March into April is what's important. But at the same time, you've got to feel proud about what you've accomplished."

Brown said the record was nice, but the Illini's ultimate goal is a national title.

"It's excellent, but I like my rings," he said. "I got a ring last year (Big Ten tournament) and it was beautiful."

Penn State (7-17, 1-10) was just another easy victim, falling to 0-10 all-time against top-ranked teams.

Geary Claxton led the Nittany Lions with 19 points. No one else reached double figures.

Even with the lower bowl full, rally towels draping every seat and the promise of free chicken wings for every fan if the Nittany Lions could pull off the upset, nothing rattled the Illini.

Illinois was the first top-ranked team to play at the 9-year-old Bryce Jordan Center and the first No. 1 team to visit State College since Penn State played Indiana in Rec Hall on Feb. 9, 1993.

In that one, coach Bob Knight and the Hoosiers barely escaped with an 88-84 win in double overtime.

Twelve years later, there was no such excitement for the home crowd.

The Illini scored the first seven points, then Brown had two straight steals, turning one into a fastbreak layup and another into a nice assist for Luther Head, and the rout was on. Deron Williams and Brown hit consecutive 3-pointers for a 38-19 lead and the Illini cruised to a 52-30 halftime lead.

"I think we broke their spirit down the stretch in the first half," Weber said.

Powell made all eight of his shots in the first half and Brown had 10 of his 11 assists then.

"We could have played harder and come out with more intensity on defense," Claxton said.

Illinois shot 67 percent to only 38 percent, but an interesting number made the score just a little less ugly in the first 20 minutes -- 0.

Illinois did not shoot a free throw in the first half and didn't attempt its first of the game until Powell completed a three-point play about 5½ minutes into the second half.

Penn State came in shooting 165 more free throws than their opponents and it was the sixth time this season it held the total attempts to under 10.

Of course, the Nittany Lions defend the perimeter so poorly, teams likely don't feel the need to go inside much.

When the Illini did push it inside, Powell was there for an easy basket. He shook off a four-game slump (8-for-21 shooting) and matched his season high for points.

"It was good to make some baskets, but the guards set me up," Powell said.

Head finished with 16 points and Illinois was 12-of-28 on 3-pointers while extending its road winning streak to 13 games -- the best in the nation.

"They're so unselfish. That's how basketball should look," Penn State guard Mike Walker said.

The student section stayed into it the entire game, though. When Claxton finished off a fantastic alley-oop pass from Walker with a thunderous dunk late in the second half the crowd erupted and waved their towels.

Down by 25 at that point, they might as well have been white flags.



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