CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - With a distinct size advantage up front, Illinois turned to the long-range game to knock off IUPUI on Wednesday night in Champaign, 87-59. The Illini hit 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) from three-point range in the victory.
IUPUI (3-5) senior point guard David Barlow hit 4-of-6 from long range and finished with a team-high 19 points and five rebounds. The loss denied IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter the program's all-time wins lead for the second straight outing and snapped Illinois' two-game losing streak.
"They're really good - really good," Hunter said. "Once (Illinois) get healthy, they're going to challenge for the Big Ten title."
Hunter's team wanted the hosts to shoot a lot from long ranged, based on the scouting report.
"To be honest, we wanted them to shoot 25 or 30 threes tonight," Hunter said. "We were just hoping they'd only hit five or six."
Instead, Rich McBride hit 6-of-9 while Jamar Smith came off the bench and hit all five of his tries. Trent Meacham added a 3-of-4 effort off the bench as well.
On the other side, senior Matt Burks (Dubuque, Iowa/Wahlert) hit 5-of-10 and finished with 17 points, while Jon Avery (Mansfield, Ohio/Harmony Prep) finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in his second straight start.
Illinois (8-2) reeled off a 10-2 run to open the game before the Jags could get comfortable. McBride hit two treys in the burst, before IUPUI answered.
Barlow made it 10-5 when he swished a three off a feed from Craig Swoop from the seat of his pants. Junior Austin Montgomery followed with a conventional three-point play moments later, making it 14-8.
IUPUI continued to threaten, cutting the Illinois edge to 14-10 with 10:54 left when freshman Jon Avery slashed past his defender for a layup.
After a 30-second timeout, Trent Meacham swished an open three from the top of the key - the first of three Illinois threes in succession. The third came from Jamar Smith, deep in the corner, and pushed the Fighting Illini's lead to 23-12 with 9:35 left in the first half.
The Jags got within eight at 28-20 after Barlow hit three free throws after drawing a foul on a transition three, but the hosts outscored IUPUI 14-5 over the final seven minutes to take a 42-25 lead to the locker room.
Illinois held IUPUI scoreless for over seven minutes, spanning the final four minutes of the first half and opening two minutes of the second. The Illini' lead grew from 10 to 17 during that stretch.
Warren Carter led five Illinois players with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds, while McBride closed with 18. Chester Frazier handed out 11, while being held scoreless.
After the game, Hunter praised the hosts, but wondered what star player George Hill would have done on the big stage.
"It's hard to replace 20 (points) and six (rebounds) on the mid-major level," Hunter said. "He's our best player - our go-to guy. We're going to be really good when he gets back, but we've found some things out about our team since he's been out."
- From IUPUI Sports Info -