ROBERT K. O'DANIELL / AP Enlarge
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Ohio State was stopping 7-foot-1 center Mike Tisdale early in the game, Illinois coach Bruce Weber pulled him.
That was a point where last season's 16-19 edition of the Illini might have fallen apart. Stop one weapon and they didn't have an answer.
Not so far this season, and certainly not last night against the Buckeyes.
Weber plugged in forward Dominique Keller and watched him score 12 points in a 67-49 victory over Ohio State. And he saw Tisdale, who found his touch in the second half, score 15 points. Then there were the 13 points from Demetri McCamey, and the 10 for Chester Frazier.
"This year's team is much more together," Tisdale said. "No one cares who scores and everybody just wants to win."
The 25th-ranked Illini (16-3, 4-2 Big Ten) moved into The Associated Press' rankings this week for the first time since the final poll of 2005-06.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta credited Illinois for its tough defense that led to 19 turnovers and held the Buckeyes to 41 percent shooting.
But he also said his team wasn't ready to play.
"They did a tremendous job of taking us out of a lot of what we wanted to do," he said. "We didn't have the energy or whatever to be in this game tonight. In college basketball you can't be high or too low and have to be ready to play."
Illinois took the lead for good in the opening 5 minutes and then sealed the win with a 22-9 run in the second half.
The Buckeyes missed five straight shots from the field and committed six turnovers in a 6-minute span in the first half as Illinois turned a 13-9 lead into a 21-12 advantage. Keller scored six points in the run.
Weber put Keller into the game for Tisdale, who, at 235 pounds, struggled with 6-8, 255-pound Ohio State forward Dallas Lauderdale.
Keller, more solidly built at 6-8 and 230 pounds than the lanky Tisdale, proved a physical match for Lauderdale, who finished with five points and five boards.
"I had watched film with Coach yesterday and saw where some of the cracks in their zone were," Keller said. "I tried to stay weak side and then flash to the middle and try to get a quick shot off. When I got in it was exactly how I saw it on film and I was able to get open and was able to get three quick baskets."
And when Keller, who had six rebounds, cooled off offensively, Tisdale found his touch.
The sophomore scored all but four of his points in the second half.
The Buckeyes opened the half with a 6-0 run that temporarily quieted the Assembly Hall crowd.
That's when Tisdale came to life.
He hit a soft hook shot over Lauderdale with 16:23 left that put Illinois up 43-30, then added another four points over the next 2 minutes.
B.J. Mullens had 14 points for the Buckeyes, who had won three straight, and freshman William Buford had 13.
Weber said the Illini, who are tied for second in the Big Ten with Minnesota behind Michigan State, are still a big road win from being a serious conference contender.
"We have to get another road win and take care of business at home," he said. "Right now we have to worry about (Wisconsin). It's going to be really tough."
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Jamelle Cornley had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Talor Battle scored 15 as Penn State defeated cold-shooting Michigan.
Cornley paced the Nittany Lions (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten) early, burning the Wolverines on an assortment of short jumpers and layups.
Penn State led by 23 by midway through the second half, when Battle and backcourt mate Stanley Pringle combined for five 3-pointers to help the Nittany Lions pull away.
Michigan couldn't recover from a cold spell in the first half, when they shot just 30 percent from the field (9 of 30), including 2-of-16 from 3-point range.
Battle got the best of Michigan's Manny Harris (four points) in a matchup between the Big Ten's top two scorers.
DeShawn Sims scored 21 points to lead the Wolverines (13-6, 3-4), who lost their third straight.
ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan is nearing approval for a $23.2 million basketball practice facility, the university announced yesterday.
According to a news release, the project will be voted on by UM's board of regents Thursday.
The facility is to be built adjacent to Crisler Arena and will provide 50,000 square feet of space for two practice courts, team locker rooms, a video theater, a weight room and training room, and offices for coaches and staff.
Funds for the project will come from athletic department resources and gifts.
"This is a major step forward in improving our basketball facilities," UM athletic director Bill Martin said in a statement. "The facility will allow our student-athletes to practice later in the day, giving them more flexibility in scheduling their academic classes."
Martin also said renovating Crisler Arena, which opened in 1969, remains a priority.
Jickling Lyman Powell Associates of Troy, Mich., is expected to be the design architect for the new hoops facility.
DUKE 73, Nc STATE 56
DURHAM, N.C. - Gerald Henderson scored 21 points and No. 2 Duke pulled away late to beat North Carolina State.
Nolan Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers 30 seconds apart to start the decisive run for the Blue Devils (17-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). They closed the game on a 27-5 run and shot 76 percent in the second half.
Kyle Singler had 14 of his 17 points in the second half and Smith finished with 13 to help Duke overcome a horrible start.
Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley both scored 15 points for the Wolfpack (10-6, 1-3), who led for much of the way but hit just one field goal over the final 7:45 minutes.
That cold spell helped Duke claim its 12th straight victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium over N.C. State, which hasn't won inside the Blue Devils' famously hostile arena since 1995.
That streak was in serious jeopardy for a while, though - until Smith and the rest of the Blue Devils heated up.
The second of Smith's two big 3s made it 52-49 with 9 1/2 minutes left, put Duke up to stay and started the game-ending burst in which the Blue Devils came away with points on eight straight possessions.
Tracy Smith temporarily kept things tight when he hit the second of two layups with just under 8 minutes remaining - but the Wolfpack managed just one field goal the rest of the way in losing for the fourth time in five games.
Jon Scheyer's 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:15 remaining gave Duke its first double-figure lead of the game, 67-56. That turned what had been a close game into another blowout. Nine of the Blue Devils' 11 wins at home this season have come by double figures.
Duke shot nearly 51 percent overall and became the seventh team to make at least 40 percent of its shots against N.C. State - which fell to 2-5 in those games.
Duke's hot second half was a stark contrast to the opening 20 minutes - for both teams.
The Wolfpack withstood one of their worst starts of the season - roughly 7 minutes elapsed before their first field goal - and took their first lead on McCauley's left-handed layup over 7-footer Brian Zoubek with 3 1/2 minutes left.
N.C. State led 26-22 at halftime after holding the Blue Devils to less than 30 percent shooting. The Blue Devils trailed at the half for the third time this season - and for the teams' third straight meeting - but rallied to send the Wolfpack to their 12th loss in 13 games against ACC teams dating to last season.35.21423 -79.89109