Smith leads Illinois past Air Force in Oakland bracket
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) – Jamar Smith went 6-of-9 from behind the arc
en route to a 20-point night, as Illinois downed the Air Force Falcons, 78-69,
in an Oakland bracket first-round game at Cox Arena.
Brian Randle added 15 points and seven rebounds while Dee Brown scored eight
points and dished out 10 assists for the fourth-seeded Fighting Illini (26-6),
who won their ninth consecutive first-round contest in NCAA Tournament play.
James Augustine contributed 10 points for Illinois, which is trying to make a
return trip to the championship game.
Antoine Hood netted 17 points and had six assists for 13th-seeded Air Force
(24-7). Matt McCraw, Jacob Burtschi and Dan Nwaelele each donated 13 points
in the loss.
This and all of the games out of San Diego were briefly overshadowed by a bomb
scare earlier in the day.
A threat of suspicious activity caused the evacuation of the building
during the morning and delayed the start of the Marquette-Alabama game for
an hour and 10 minutes. All of the games following, as a result, were pushed
back from their original start times.
During a pre-game security check, two bomb-sniffing dogs were alarmed by a
vendor cart inside the stadium around three hours before the scheduled tip
of the first game. The building was immediately cleared before authorities
determined the arena to be completely safe.
Illinois used a 12-0 run midway through the first half to assume a 21-11 lead.
Augustine had six points in the spurt, which was capped by a Warren Carter
layup with about nine minutes remaining in the stanza.
Shaun Pruitt’s layup extended the Illini’s advantage to 13 points with 2:20
left in the half. The Falcons, though, scored the final six points of the
period to make it 35-28 at intermission.
Carter paced all scorers at the break with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He
finished with 12.
Air Force used a 7-0 burst early in the second half to trim its deficit to one
point, 39-38, after a Burtschi lay-in.
The Falcons trailed by only three minutes later, but Smith followed back-to-
back buckets by Carter and Augustine with a trey from the wing to push
Illinois’ lead to 57-47 with just over 11 minutes to play.
Brown was fouled on a three-point attempt the next trip down and hit all of
the ensuing free throws to make it a 13-point game. Randle’s layup capped the
13-0 charge with about nine minutes left to give the Illini a commanding 62-47
Illinois was not seriously threatened the rest of the way.
The Falcons were making just their fourth appearance in the Big Dance. In the
team’s three previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament, Air Force was
bounced in the opening round on all three occasions with the most recent
setback coming in 2004 to North Carolina…This was the first-ever meeting
between Air Force and Illinois on the hardwood…Illinois owned a 28-15
rebound advantage in the game.