Williams makes a name for himself in Chicago

By Lisa Koulias

ROSEMONT, Ill. – So maybe Deron Williams hasn’t lived up to his preseason accolades of Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year.

While his stats haven’t been as high as fellow guards Dee Brown and Luther Head, Williams remains to be the stronghold for this No. 1 Illini team.

And finally on Saturday night, Williams got his own – 2005 NCAA Chicago Regional Most Outstanding Player award.

Williams finished Saturday’s game with 22 points and 10 assists for the Illini. Eighteen of his 22 points came in the second half and overtime.

Saturday’s game marked Williams’ 23rd game this season in double figures and fifth game scoring 20 or more points.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber has constantly called Williams the glue of the Illini team, as the player who works hard to make plays for his teammates.

“He’s been our foundation; he is just amazing,” Weber said. “He has a great feel for the game and makes shots down the stretch.”

Weber said that Williams always congratulates him after he receives awards, but Weber always gives Williams the same reply: “Deron, I win because of you.”

With his 10 assists, Williams broke the school record of 55 assists in NCAA postseason play. Before Saturday, Williams had 52 assists.

Luther Head, who finished Saturday’s game with 20 points despite hurting his hamstring earlier in the week, joins Williams on the Chicago Regional All-Tournament Team.

King James still reigns

Going into Saturday’s game, James Augustine was Illinois’ leading scorer in the NCAA tournament, averaging 15 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

On Saturday, things just didn’t go his way.

Augustine fouled out in the final four minutes of regulation play with only four points and six rebounds.

“I know I didn’t play very well tonight,” he said, “but the rest of the guys really picked me up and helped us win this one.”

But Augustine shouldn’t feel bad about his performances as of late. The junior forward recorded three straight double-doubles in the first three games of the NCAA tournament. He passed former Illini Brian Cook for the most career rebounds in the NCAA tournament with 78. Cook had 74 rebounds.

Faces in the crowd

Bruce Weber has said numerous times that once you go orange, you never go back.

And after a game like Saturday’s, it’s hard not to wear the Orange and Blue of the Illini.

Not only was three-fourths of the crowd of 17,000 fans at the All-State Arena in Rosemont decked out in Illinois orange, but they shouted and screamed that those in Champaign could probably hear the I-L-L cheers.

“The crowd, they just helped us so much,” Williams said. “They got into the game. I think the other guys were rattled by that, and we were able to take control of the game.”

Illinois’ new football coach Ron Zook was in attendance for both games in Chicago, as well as Illini fan Bill Murray, who was also decked out in orange and blue.

Quote of the Game

“I think this was a game that will be shown many, many times as a Classic. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. I guess the longer you are in the business, I guess something like this is going to happen. I’m just glad that it happened to us and that I wasn’t on the other end.”

– Bruce Weber on Saturday night’s game