LAHAINA - Illinois coach John Groce is completely aware of what his team faces today.
The Illini advanced to a date with Chaminade in today's semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational with a dominant 94-64 win over Southern California in the final game of the opening round Monday night at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The Illini watched the end of the Silverswords' win over Texas in the game immediately prior from the floor, waiting to warm up.
Southern California’s Omar Oraby contests a shot by Illinois’ Sam McLaurin during the first half of the Illini’s 94-64 victory over the Trojans on Monday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"Our guys love challenges, they love it, and tomorrow is another great challenge," Groce said. "Obviously, we are playing (the Silverswords) on their home court. I think these guys, they have been through a lot. They have kind of seen it all and they have been in plenty of intimidating environments, I assure you. We know tomorrow will be one. I think we will take the challenge on and look forward to competing against a very good Chaminade team."
Brandon Paul, who had 26 points and six rebounds for the Illini (4-0) on Monday, said he knows the Silverswords will offer a tough test.
"They are a great team, obviously," Paul said. "We were focused in when they were playing and we saw some of the things they can do. They obviously came out with a lot of energy and they are a team not to be taken lightly."
ILLINOIS Illini 94
SOUTHERN CAL Trojans 64
D.J. Richardson added 13 points, three assists and four steals for Illinois.
"We have got to come tomorrow ready to play," Richardson said. "We respect every team we play against and we know it is going to be a good one."
On Friday, Illinois played Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff Center and won in overtime.
"We were a little disappointed as a group that we didn't get off to a little bit better start this past Friday night and I thought tonight the start to the game was critical," Groce said. "I thought we came out to a great start, had a lot of energy, really moved the ball, it was a free-flowing first half."
The Illini led 7-6 four minutes into Monday's game before going on a 42-12 run over the next 13 1/2 minutes. They were in front by at least 18 the rest of the way.
"Our whole thing has been about getting a little better every day and I thought we did that tonight," Groce said. "Tomorrow we will have an opportunity to learn from and improve even more."
Groce was thankful to be the only team in the field to have played a prior game in the 50th state.
"One of the great things about playing the Friday night game, these guys will tell you, is it was loud in there," Groce said. "I mean it was really loud in there, it was a great environment. I'm really glad we got the chance to play in that road environment. I thought our guys showed great resolve and toughness."
Illinois finished with a 42-20 rebounding advantage.
Southern Cal (2-1) will play Texas today.
"Illinois played a great game," said USC coach Kevin O'Neill. "Our first two games, we played with great force defensively and rebounded the ball. We played very well offensively. To-night, we didn't do anything. We got set back on our heels. Once they started making shots, their confidence grew and ours went down."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
SOUTHERN CAL (94)
Fontan 2-8 5-6 10, Dedmon 3-4 3-4 9, Terrell 5-14 0-0 11, Wesley 1-2 2-2 4, Wise 5-7 2-4 13, Woolridge 1-1 0-0 2, Allen 1-3 0-0 2, Stewart 0-1 0-0 0, Bryan 1-5 3-4 5, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Fuller 1-3 0-0 2, Blasczyk 2-2 0-0 4, Oraby 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-52 15-20 64.
Richardson 3-9 5-7 13, Paul 9-15 2-2 26, Abrams 5-7 0-0 11, Egwu 4-7 0-0 8, Griffey 4-7 0-0 10, McLaurin 2-4 3-3 7, Bertrand 3-5 3-3 9, LaTulip 1-1 0-0 3, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Henry 2-7 0-0 5, Langford 0-0 0-0 0, Djimde 0-0 0-0 0, Berardini 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 33-62 15-17 94.
Halftime-Illinois 57-26. 3-Point Goals-Southern Cal 3-12 (Wise 1-1, Fontan 1-2, Terrell 1-6, Allen 0-1, Bryan 0-1, Stewart 0-1), Illinois 13-29 (Paul 6-9, Griffey 2-3, Richardson 2-6, LaTulip 1-1, Abrams 1-3, Henry 1-4, Egwu 0-1, Bertrand 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Southern Cal 20 (Fuller 5), Illinois 42 (Abrams, Egwu, McLaurin, Paul 6). Assists-Southern Cal 7 (Allen, Fontan, Fuller, Stewart, Terrell, Wesley, Wise 1), Illinois 17 (Abrams 8). Total Fouls-Southern Cal 17, Illinois 19. A-2,400.