Illinois downs North Carolina
University of Illinois beat University of North Carolina 79-67 on Tuesday to claim its seventh win in eight games.
Mike Davis fired 20 points while Demetri McCamey added 17 to lead the 20th-ranked Illini to a comfortable win in Champaign. Mike Tisdale added 14 points while Jereme Richmond and DJ Richardson chipped in 12 and 11, respectively.
John Henson led North Carolina with 16 points while foul-troubled centre Tyler Zeller managed only 10.
Illinois and North Carolina exchanged baskets early on but the latter slowly pulled away after Zeller picked up his third foul with 9:02 to play in the first half. The junior big man did not return until the second half. Richardson nailed a trey at the buzzer
to give the Illini a 37-30 half-time cushion.
Just like the way they ended the first half, the Illini started the second aggressively. Led by Davis and Richmond, the hosts extended their lead to 43-32 early in the second half.
Illinois maintained its fine execution and led by as many as 16 points. A three-pointer from Justin Watts and a basket from Henson trimmed the Illini’s lead to 55-66 with 7:21 remaining. But McCamey and Davis responded with back-to-back baskets to increase
Illinois’ lead to 70-55. The Tar Heels hardly threatened the Illini again as the hosts chalked up another win.
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was happy to see Davis back in top form.
“(Davis) came back tonight and played probably as good as he’s played all year,” he told AP.
McCamey, on the other hand, was praised by UNC mentor Roy Williams. “Demetri was something else. He never looked like he felt pressure or anything,” the multi-titled coach said.
Williams blamed himself for the sub-par performance of Zeller. “It’s my fault. I’ve always taken a guy out (with two fouls) and let them sit for a minute,” he said.
Williams said he asked his star centre if he could manage to stay in the game after picking up his second foul. Zeller said he could and Williams allowed him to stay on the floor. The seven-footer Zeller was averaging 14.4 points prior to Tuesday’s game.
Williams also defended Harrison Barnes after the prized freshman scored only eight points in 27 minutes. “If you’re going to anoint the guy and then three weeks later crucify him, that’s ridiculous,” Williams said
Illinois will next face Gonzaga University on 4 December. North Carolina, which dropped to 4-3 after losing to Illinois, will square off against 10th-ranked Kentucky also on Saturday.