Illini look forward to break after tough week

llinois guard Deron Williams (5) drives past Oregon´s Brandon Lincoln (14) during the second half on Saturday in Chicago. Williams shot 5-of-10 for 17 points and led the team in assists with 7. Illinois defeated Oregon 83-66. Online Poster

llinois guard Deron Williams (5) drives past Oregon´s Brandon Lincoln (14) during the second half on Saturday in Chicago. Williams shot 5-of-10 for 17 points and led the team in assists with 7. Illinois defeated Oregon 83-66. Online Poster

By Lisa Koulias

Before the Arkansas game on Saturday, Dec. 4, Bruce Weber said the next stretch of games would say a lot about the type of team the Illini had.

With four games in eight days, the Illini seemed unfazed with the busy schedule and ended where they started – on top.

After their 83-66 romping of Oregon at the United Center on Saturday, the No. 1 Illini finished their game-filled week 4-0.

“(We learned) that we can play through adversity,” guard Dee Brown said. “With so many things going on right now … we just wanted to come out and play hard and keep up our energy and defensive mentality as we play these tough games during a tough stretch.”

This week not only tested the team’s ability to get up to play for each game without much practice time, but in the four games played, the Illini were in a different arena for each one. They started the stretch in Arkansas, came home for a game, traveled to Georgetown and ended in Chicago.

“We played four places in eight days,” Weber said. “You traveled, you dealt with all of that. You have exams coming up. Other teams, they are winning but they aren’t even leaving their place. I think it’s a challenge to go to Georgetown and play at Arkansas. We played a lot of different people, so yeah, I feel good about our team.”

But although the team is hot right now and enjoying its winning stretch, the Illini are looking forward to some rest before their next game on Sunday against Longwood.

“I think it’s pretty good to have a break,” guard Deron Williams said. “We’ve played a tough stretch of games lately and I think all we need is rest, especially with finals coming up. We need to focus on academics and finish up this semester, and then we can focus on basketball for the next couple of months.”

Home away from home

With Saturday’s victory at the United Center, the Illini won their 11th straight game.

The players recognize the amount of Illinois fans in the Chicagoland area and enjoy the opportunity to play in front of this crowd.

“It’s an excellent atmosphere,” Brown said. “I had people calling me, no offense to any other team, but saying Illinois is basically sort of like a professional team. We are almost up there with the Bulls.

“When we play here a lot of people come and want to see us play. It’s the Chicago-based fans that can’t come to Champaign and see us play. A lot of us guys like to come here just for the tradition that the United Center has.”

Seeing double

For the second time this season, all five starters scored in double figures. Luther Head led the way with 23 points; Williams scored 17; Brown had 12; Roger Powell Jr. added 12 and James Augustine scored 10.

The last time all five reached double digits was on Nov. 21 against Florida A&M.;

Getting technical

Senior Nick Smith was charged with his first technical foul of the season on Saturday.

With 3:26 left in the second half, Smith grabbed a rebound, but was stripped of the ball and then called for a foul when Oregon went up for a shot. Frustrated, Smith chucked the basketball about 50 feet across the court.

“Aww, he’s fine,” said Weber after the game.

Laughing, he added: “There was somebody open and he was throwing it down the court for an outlet.”