CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—Freshman Richard McBride took his coach’s challenge for somebody to replace the injured Deron Williams and scored 22 points to lead No. 14 Illinois to a 74-64 win over Memphis Saturday night.
“He made shots and that was huge,” coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought once he made one he really seemed to be confident.”
McBride hit six 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half and three more during a crucial five-minute stretch of the second half as the Illini (6-2) turned a two-point deficit into a 15-point lead. He also had five rebounds, five assists and went without a turnover while playing 29 minutes.
“He probably played the best game for a freshman that I remember since I’ve been here,” said junior Nick Smith. “That was a performance.”
James Augustine scored 21 points for the Illini, who won for the 21st straight time at Assembly Hall. Williams sat on the bench, the left side of his face swollen from a broken jaw sustained in Thursday’s game against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
McBride was playing in just his fourth game after serving a four-game suspension for violating team rules. He is not being allowed to talk to the media until the university decides whether he will face additional discipline.
Memphis coach John Calipari said Williams’ injury obviously put a spark into the Illini.
“Now you know everybody’s laying there saying, ‘Somebody’s got to step up.’ Then you’re going to get hurt by somebody you have no idea you’d get hurt by, and that kid’s name was McBride,” Calipari said. “The kid did great today.”
The Tigers (4-2) had a five-game winning streak snapped. Rodney Carney scored 18 points and Antonio Burks scored 16 for Memphis.
“We were selfish today,” Calipari said. “I have no idea why we played this way.”
A McBride 3-pointer gave Illinois a 40-34 lead with 15:27 left to play, and it opened up the inside for the Illini. Three straight baskets, one by Nick Smith and two by Augustine, the last a 3-point play, put the Illini up 47-37 with 13:13 to play.
McBride hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night coming out of the ensuing timeout. Then Augustine hit a layup on a feed from Smith to put the Illini up 52-37 with 12:16 to go.
Memphis held Illinois guard Dee Brown to only five points, but he had seven assists and seven rebounds.
Weber called the victory “a gut-check win.”
“I was going to coach my butt off tonight,” Weber said. “I was hoping they would play their butts off.”
Weber doffed his sportcoat before tip-off and was shouting at his players from the sideline through the entire game.
“I was just going to coach,” he said. “I think sometimes a game like this, I’ve found that you have to will them to win.”
Poor shooting was as contagious as the flu in the first half. Illinois fell behind 19-9 with 10:18 left and were 4-of-25 at one point before finishing the half making just nine of 32 shots.
But the Tigers’ shooting eyes weren’t much better. Memphis made only 11 of 30 shots in the half as it watched that 10-point lead vanish. The Illini tied the score at 21, and Richard McBride’s 3-pointer at the buzzer put the Illini up 28-27 at the break.