Illinois has not lost in a month, but Bruce Weber would like to see a little more focus from his team in those seemingly winnable contests.
The 12th-ranked Illini have another chance to satisfy their coach Saturday while trying for an 11th consecutive win over Illinois-Chicago at the United Center in their final tune-up before facing a Top 25 rival next week.
Illinois (10-1) has won seven in a row since losing 90-84 in overtime to Texas in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic on Nov. 18 at Madison Square Garden. Though the Illini have won by an average of 12.9 points during the streak, Weber believes they can play better, especially on defense.
The Illini led by 19 at halftime and at least 10 throughout the final 20 minutes of Sunday's 86-76 win over Northern Colorado. However, Weber was not happy with what he felt was a nonchalant approach to a game where his squad allowed an opponent to shoot a season-high 48.1 percent and top 70 points for just the third time.
"The thing I'm scared about right now, our defense has definitely slipped,'' said Weber, even though opponents are shooting 40.1 percent against the Illini. "It's fine to be loose and enjoy each other as a team, but when you come to the court, you've got to be business.''
Weber expects the Illini to take a businesslike approach to their annual Chicago game, this time against a UIC squad averaging 59.8 points during a four-game skid.
Illinois, 32-9 at the United Center, would like to build up even more momentum heading into their annual Braggin' Rights game with No. 13 Missouri on Wednesday in St. Louis.
The Illini are 12-1 against UIC (4-7) and have not lost in the series since Nov. 29, 1990. Illinois won 71-66 in the schools' last meeting, also at the United Center, on Dec. 9, 2006.
Though Weber has concerns with his defense, Illinois' balanced offense should pose a tough challenge for UIC. Averaging 79.5 points, Illinois joins No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Kansas as the only schools from a major conference to score at least 70 points in each game.
Senior Demetri McCamey (15.8 points per game) leads four Illini averaging double figures in scoring. Guard D.J. Richardson (11.9 ppg) and 7-foot-1 Mike Tisdale (11.0 ppg) each had a team-leading 14 versus Northern Colorado. Senior forward Mike Davis averages a career-best 10.9 per game.
"That's what makes this team so hard to play against," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "They've got so many weapons."
McCamey, among the national leaders with 7.3 assists per game, had 20 points at the United Center in last season's 85-83 overtime loss to Gonzaga. The west suburban Chicago native is six points shy of 1,400 for his career.
UIC faces its third straight in-state opponent following losses at Illinois State and Northern Illinois.
Senior Robo Kreps, who grew up 45 miles west of the Illinois campus, averages a team-high 15.5 points for the Flames, but 11.2 on 34.4-percent shooting in his last five contests.