Illinois routs Arizona State in first round of Maui Invitational

By Jason Grodsky

MAUI, Hawaii – Maybe Illinois should make sure its new celebrity fan and dad should be in attendance every game.

With Michael Jordan sitting sideline at the Lahaina Civic Center the Illini beat Arizona State 77-54 in the first round of the 2007 EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Coming off a last second 79-77 victory over the University of Hawaii on Friday night, the Illinois basketball team got off to a blistering start, jumping out to a 20-0 lead behind a stingy defense that didn’t allow Arizona State to sore until almost six minutes into the first half.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said he was proud of the way his team came out strong and didn’t feel the presence of Jeff Jordan’s father affected the team.

“It got everyone in the stands excited and it is a great presence for our program,” Weber said. “They were like giggly, little girls when (Michael Jordan) came in the night before.”

Senior forward Brian Randle and junior college transfer Rodeny Alexander led the Illini charge in front of a very vocal Illini crowd that made the trip to the island paradise.

Alexander and Randle both finished with career high 17 points and Randle added eight rebounds in the Illini’s third victory of the season. Illinois out rebounded the Sun Devils 31-22.

“Being here and getting adjusted has really helped us,” Randle said. “We saw the way Duke jumped out in their game and really wanted to come out and follow their lead and we did that.”

Arizona State trimmed the Illini’s lead to 38-24 at the half with the benefit of Illini foul trouble, but the Sun Devils couldn’t muster enough in the second half to overcome the Illini.

“Foul trouble has plagued us,” Weber said. “But our young kids really stepped up and helped us maintain our lead in the first half and then we played solid defense and kept them off the foul line in the second half.”

It was the Sun Devils first game of the season, becoming the last team in NCAA Division-I basketball to start their season and the Illini took full advantage of their opponent’s late start.

Illinois will go from one group of Devils to another in the second round of the tournament – the Blue Devils of Duke. The Illini will face Duke at 8:30 Tuesday to see who will move on to the championship game between the winner of Marquette and Oklahoma State.

The No. 11-ranked Blue Devils have never been beaten in the Maui Invitational, capturing three tournament titles and compiling a 10-0 record, including a 83-61 win over Princeton in the first round of this year’s tournament.

“We need some rest and just have to come out and play our game,” junior guard Chester Frazier said. “This will give us a chance to get back on the map on the national stage against Duke.”

For updates on the Illini throughout the EA Sports Maui Invitational, check back with DailyIllini.com.