No. 19 Illinois 78, W. Michigan 63

No. 19 Illinois played perhaps its best first half of the season

on Saturday, at least according to coach Bruce Weber.

At this point, his opinion is the only one that matters.

The first 20 minutes were a springboard for Mike Tisdale’s 18

points and seven rebounds, and the Illini beat Western Michigan

78-63. Illinois led 49-24 at halftime, its biggest advantage in the

game.

”We had it all going, offense, defense, transition,” Weber

said.

Brandon Paul added 14 points and Demetri McCamey had eight

points and 10 assists for the Illini (6-1), who have won three

straight since losing to Texas in the semifinals of the 2K Sports

Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Illinois also wasn’t looking ahead to Tuesday night’s ACC-Big

Ten Challenge contest against North Carolina.

”We were focused. We were very focused,” said forward Mike

Davis, who had 12 points and four rebounds. ”We were guarding, we

were running. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Matt Stainbrook led Western Michigan (1-3) with 16 points and

Nate Hutcheson contributed 15. Mike Douglas had nine points and

seven assists.

”Obviously, it took us the whole first half to adjust to

Illinois’ length an athleticism … and just how good they were,”

Broncos coach Steve Hawkins said.

Western Michigan got the contest’s first bucket on Flenard

Whitfield’s tap-in with 19:37 left, but Illinois scored the next

nine points on Davis’s jumper and dunk, Paul’s 3-pointer and D.J.

Richardson’s jumper. Demetrius Ward’s 3-point shot pulled the

Broncos within 11-7 with 16:16 left, but that was as close as

Western Michigan got the rest of the game.

”I thought we were great early, cutting and passing,” McCamey

said. ”We got Mike Tisdale the ball and he did a god job in the

first half.”

Tisdale led Illinois with 10 first-half points, while Davis and

Paul each contributed eight. Stainbrook led Western Michigan with

10 at the break.

”They’ve got the whole package going on there,” Whitfield

said.

Hutcheson’s 3-pointer with 16:03 left brought the Broncos within

53-36, but Tisdale’s tap-in with 7:59 left put Illinois ahead by 20

again at 70-50.

”Just a good overall effort from our guys,” Weber said. ”I

think ball pressure was the thing in the first half.”

Illinois forward Tyler Griffey went to the locker room with a

towel against the left side of his face after taking a nasty fall,

face-first onto the court, as he was fouled by Whitfield with 8:35

left. There was no word on his condition.

Weber said Griffey hit his face on the court and was still in

the process of getting stitches when the team came back to the

locker room after the game.

The Illinis coach said Griffey didn’t have a concussion and

should be ready for Tuesday night’s game against North

Carolina.