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Illini cruise past Chaminade to reach Maui final

The SportsXchange

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Host Chaminade failed to reach the championship game of its own tournament for the 29th consecutive year.

Meanwhile, Illinois is still waiting to be tested in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

The Fighting Illini put a quick end to the Silverswords' upset chances, using a balanced offensive attack in an 84-61 victory during the second semifinal game Tuesday at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Illinois (5-0) will try for its fourth win in Hawaii in six days when it faces Butler for tournament championship on Wednesday.

"It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving ... the whole world will be watching," Illinois coach John Groce said. "We're thrilled about the opportunity to compete in such a prestigious championship game tomorrow. Our guys have earned that right with the way they have played and their effort."

The Bulldogs upset No. 9 North Carolina, 82-71, in the first semifinal, handing coach Roy Williams just his second loss in five trips to Maui.

Illinois reserve Joseph Bertrand led four players in double figures with 14 points and six rebounds, and the Illini scored their second straight tourney win by more than 20 points.

Illinois has outscored its first two tournament opponents 178-125.

Brandon Paul added 13 points and four assists for Illinois, and D.J. Richardson had 11 points and four boards.

De'Andre Haskins scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to lead the Silverswords, who shot just 37.1 percent (23-for-62) from the field.

"I think we're playing together really well," Bertrand said. "This was kind of a different game for us against a smaller team."

Division II Chaminade found itself in the same position as against Texas, which it beat 86-73 on Monday, falling behind 8-0 right out of the gate.

The Silverswords made a decent run, as Dominique Cooks hit a 3-pointer to help pull Chaminade within three at 10-7.

Chaminade stayed within shouting distance until the final seven minutes of the opening half, when the Illini turned it on defensively.

The Silverswords turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions, and Richardson closed a 10-0 run with Illinois' sixth 3-pointer of the half to give the Illini a 37-21 lead at intermission.

"(We) were amped up to play this game. ... We just came across a really good team," Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said. "We had a harder time than we've ever had getting into the paint and creating things."

Chaminade's problems extended to foul shooting, too. The Silverswords went just 6-for-12 from the free-throw line after going 34-for-39 against the Longhorns.

Both teams came out hot in the second half, and Chaminade made four of its five shots.

After a shaky first half in which he shot 1-for-6, Chaminade's Bennie Murray drilled a 3-pointer from the wing and pulled up for a jumper to cut Illinois' lead to 41-28.

Chaminade got within 11 before a 10-2 Illinois run pushed the lead back up to 19. Richardson drove the baseline for a contested layup to cap the Illini's surge.

Chaminade will have its hands full trying to win two games in the same tournament for the first time ever. The Silverswords will face an angry Tar Heels squad that cut a 29-point deficit down to six in the second half Tuesday before losing for just the third time in 17 games at the Maui Invitational.

"We're coming out not to ask for autographs or to look up to these guys," Murray said. "We're coming out to beat them. That's what's on our minds."

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