No. 12 Illinois 68, North Carolina 64

Preview | Box Score | Recap

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Revenge? Dee Brown and his Illinois teammates found all the incentive they needed in simply getting an early season victory on the road.

The dazzling guard scored 14 points and Brian Randle grabbed a key rebound in the waning seconds, helping the 12th-ranked Illini hold off North Carolina 68-64 Tuesday night in a rematch of last season’s NCAA championship game.

James Augustine added 13 points and 13 rebounds for Illinois (6-0), which improved to 3-4 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Illini also snapped the Tar Heels’ 21-game home winning streak despite scoring only four points in the final 6 1/2 minutes.

“That’s cool, you should protect your house,” Brown said when told about ending the run. “It just feels good to get a road win.”

Tyler Hansbrough led North Carolina (3-1) with 17 points, and fellow freshman Marcus Ginyard had 14.

No one expected a true rematch of the final because only seven remaining players on the two teams even played in that game, won 75-70 by the Tar Heels. But this one had all the drama of a matchup in March, thanks to a furious rally led by a bunch of North Carolina freshmen.

The quartet of Hansbrough, Ginyard, Bobby Frasor and Danny Green scored all 29 points in the second half, including six clutch free throws from Hansbrough and 3-pointers by Frasor and Ginyard down the stretch.

“They’re North Carolina,” Augustine said. “You know they’re going to have some good recruits.”

Those points came during a 12-0 run to make it 64-62, and after the teams traded baskets, Illinois freshman Jamar Smith missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17 seconds left. But Randle beat everyone to the rebound and quickly got the ball to Brown, who made two free throws to finally seal the victory.

“That was a fun basketball game,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “If you didn’t care who won, you had to enjoy that. The problem is we care deeply whether you win or lose. But I’m really proud of my team.”

Signs everywhere pointed to North Carolina being the defending champ, and even if any of the Illinois players missed the two banners hanging from the rafters, the students behind one basket furiously waved towels proclaiming “2005 National Champs.”

It didn’t seem to faze the Illini.

“Needless to say, James and Dee didn’t seem to be too carried away or emotional,” Williams said. “They were just businesslike.”

Illinois also seemed to rally around injured coach Bruce Weber, who broke his ankle a day earlier working in his yard. He hobbled a bit on the sidelines with a protective boot, and used a crutch to travel from the locker room to the sideline.

“This morning, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d be here, because I was dying and some good medicine makes a difference,” Weber said. “I’d rather have me have a broken bone than one of our players.”

He watched his team take the lead for good on Randle’s 3-pointer to open the second half, and Illinois stayed in control until suddenly losing its shooting touch. Illinois missed five straight shots and had three turnovers in one 5-minute stretch, losing nearly all of a 14-point lead.

“We didn’t relax,” Brown said. “It’s a road game. If they didn’t come back, they’re not protecting their home court.”

But Randle finally broke the drought with a layup to make it 66-62, and after Ginyard added a jumper from the baseline, Randle got there to recover Smith’s miss, saving the Illini one final time.

The Tar Heels were forced to play with an eight-man rotation when reserve point guard Quentin Thomas (stress fracture) couldn’t play, and they didn’t get any help in the second half from their veterans. David Noel scored all 12 of his points in the first half.

“We really went out on the court together,” Noel said. “Sometimes it takes a loss to bring a team together. This team showed a lot of heart out there, a lot of character. That’s all you can ask from a bunch of freshmen and a couple of seniors.”

Related Articles

Top Performers

 Top Performers
J. Augustine J. Augustine
4-6,  13 Pts
13 Rebs, 3 Assists
 North Carolina
T. Hansbrough T. Hansbrough
4-8,  17 Pts
6 Rebs, 2 Assists

Team Stat Leaders