Illinois senior Demetri McCamey has improved each season. The Fighting Illini seem to be following his lead in 2010-11.
The No. 19 Illini are back home Tuesday night as they try to fend off an upset bid from Yale, which is looking to knock off its second straight major-conference opponent.
McCamey had 20 points in a 80-76 victory over Maryland in the third-place game of the 2k Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden on Friday. The 6-foot-3 guard has pushed his scoring average up each season, from 8.2 as a freshman to 17.2 in 2010-11.
Illinois (4-1) bounced back from Thursday's 90-84 loss to Texas, which helped the Longhorns move into the poll this week at No. 20. The win over Maryland helped the Illini erase memories of dropping back-to-back games in Las Vegas early last season, which may have hurt them in March.
"Last year we lost to Utah and Bradley and it came to haunt us down the stretch, so we just wanted to split (after losing to Texas) and at the same time get better as a team," McCamey said. "Our main focus coming into the tournament was to determine what kind of team we are."
McCamey, who led the Big Ten in assists last season with 7.1 per game, had seven against the Terrapins and is averaging 7.4 in 2010-11. He has also increased his assists per game in each season.
"A year ago we were in this situation, losing a disappointing game in Vegas, and (we didn't) respond well the next night," coach Bruce Weber said. "We had a very, very short turnaround (from Wednesday to Thursday). "It was a mental toughness thing. They responded."
Brandon Paul finished with 12 points and was the only other Illini in double figures, helping Illinois' bench outscore Maryland's 33-23. The Illini came in shooting 34.5 percent from 3-point range, but made 10 of 19 versus Maryland.
Illinois will try to continue its hot shooting against Yale (1-2), which hit 12 3s in a 75-67 victory over Boston College on Thursday.
Austin Morgan made six shots from beyond the arc and had 25 points, and senior Porter Braswell scored all 16 of his points in the second half. The Bulldogs' only deficit in the game was 2-1.
"This is the biggest win of my career at Yale," Braswell told the school's official website. "As a kid growing up, you watch Boston College and the ACC teams and to beat them is an incredible feeling."
Coach James Jones, in his 12th season at Yale, is no stranger to upsets of larger programs. Jones has led the Bulldogs - picked to finish fifth in the Ivy League - to victories over Clemson, Penn State, Rutgers and Oregon State during his tenure.
"This was one of our best wins in a long time," Jones said.
This will be the first meeting between Illinois and Yale since the 1949 NCAA tournament, won 71-67 by the Illini at MSG.