Determined Tar Heels hold off Illinois

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2003

North Carolina coach Roy Williams learned a lot about his new team in its first big test.

Sean May had 23 points and 14 rebounds - both career highs - in the No. 10 Tar Heels' 88-81 victory over No. 11 Illinois on Tuesday night in Greensboro in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

''Right now is one of those high moments in coaching that you really enjoy,'' said Williams, who left Kansas to return to his alma mater. ''If we play like this, we've got a chance.''

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The victory came one year after the Fighting Illini rolled over North Carolina by 27 points - one of several disheartening blowouts under former coach Matt Doherty.

''This win shows how much we've grown in the past year,'' May said. ''It's like night and day.''

May, sidelined most of last season by a broken foot, was nearly unstoppable at times in the paint as Williams used just seven players - two who were questionable because of injuries.

''I kept pleading with our guys that they had gas left in the tank,'' Williams said. ''I told them they didn't have to give in.''

Rashad McCants added 20 points for North Carolina (4-0), and Jawad Williams, playing with a hip pointer, added 18.

''When you're excited like that, playing in a big game, fatigue doesn't really play a part,'' Jawad Williams said.

Raymond Felton shut down Illinois scoring leader Dee Brown, who missed his first six shots, finished 3-for-17 from the field and scored just eight points.

''It was just one of those nights,'' Brown said. ''Everything felt good, but they just didn't go down.''

Deron Williams led Illinois (3-1) with 22 points, and Roger Powell added 20.

''When you go on the road, you want to have a chance to win down the stretch,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. ''We had those chances, but we just couldn't get over the hump.''

No. 2 Florida 102, Florida A&M 78

At Gainesville, Fla., Matt Walsh, celebrating his 21st birthday, had 15 points for Florida (3-0).

Terrence Woods, a former Tennessee player who moved to Florida A&M (0-4) before last season, had 31 points - the most an opposing player has scored at Florida since 1989. He made nine 3-pointers.

No. 4 Missouri 70, Coppin St. 61

At Columbia, Mo., Travon Bryant had 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks in Missouri's comeback victory.

Arthur Johnson added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers (2-0). Nicholas King scored 25 points for Coppin State (2-5).

No. 12 Saint Joseph's 84, San Francisco 52

At Philadelphia, Jameer Nelson scored 18 points and Dwayne Jones added a career-high 13 points for Saint Joseph's (4-0).

James Bayless led the Dons (3-4) with 16 points.

No. 14 Oklahoma 94, Ark.-Pine Bluff 24

At Norman, Okla., Oklahoma (4-0) limited Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4) to nine field goals and 21-percent shooting in coach Kelvin Sampson's most lopsided win in 10 seasons with the Sooners.

The 24 points were the fewest by an Oklahoma opponent in 60 years. De'Angelo Alexander scored 19 points for the Sooners.

Maryland 73, No. 15 Wisconsin 67, OT

At College Park, Md., Jamar Smith had a career-high 25 points, including the go-ahead basket with 56 seconds left, and Maryland outlasted Wisconsin in overtime in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Smith also had 12 rebounds, and Chris McCray scored a career-high 15 points for the Terrapins (4-0). Devin Harris had 24 points for the Badgers (3-1).

No. 18 Wake Forest 100, Indiana 67

At Winston-Salem, N.C., Eric Williams scored 25 points and freshman Chris Paul had 20, both career highs, for Wake Forest (4-0) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Bracey Wright scored 27 points for Indiana (2-2).

No. 19 Cincinnati 68, Valparaiso 49

At Valparaiso, Ind., Jason Maxiell had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Cincinnati (4-0) in its lone road game before beginning Conference USA play next month.

Joaquim Gomes led Valparaiso (1-3) with 10 points.