LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Illinois got a rocky start on its trip to Hawaii. Now, it has a shot at the Maui Invitational title.
“Our guys have earned that right with the way that they played, with their effort,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “Our execution, I think, continues to get better to make us a more complete team.”
Joseph Bertrand had a season-high 14 points as Illinois beat Division II Chaminade 84-61 on Tuesday night to advance to the final of the eight-team tournament.
Illinois will play Butler on Wednesday night for the tournament title. Butler took down the field’s only ranked team earlier Tuesday, beating No. 9 North Carolina 82-71.
Brandon Paul scored 13 points, D.J. Richardson had 11 and Tyler Griffey added 10 as the Illini denied the tournament’s host school a chance at shocking the college hoops world on consecutive nights. Illinois (5-0) shot 49 percent from the field and never trailed.
Groce said his team’s 38 bench points were especially huge for a team playing three games in three days.
“What an asset that is to have as our team continues to develop and get a little bit better every day,” he said.
De’Andre Haskins had 19 points and Bennie Murray had 10 for the Silverswords.
Chaminade (3-2) will play UNC in the third-place game. The tiny Catholic school became a trending topic on Twitter after a rout of Texas on Monday night.
Unlike a night earlier, Chaminade didn’t pose much of a battle for Illinois, which came into the game having beaten USC in the tournament’s first round. That could be because Illinois didn’t view Chaminade as an inferior opponent — Groce had said Monday that Chaminade would be a tough challenge.
“It was kind of a different game for us playing against kind of a smaller team,” Bertrand added.
Chaminade missed 13 of its first 20 shots. Kevin Hu scored eight points after an electric 16-point performance against Texas.
“We just came across a very good team. They know how to play defense, too,” Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said. “We had a harder time than we ever had getting into the paint and creating.”
Already up eight points nearly 15 minutes into the game, Illinois went on a 10-0 run to take a 37-19 lead with 1:23 remaining in the first half.
The teams traded baskets the first few minutes of the second half, but Illinois pulled away. The Illini took a 20-point lead on a 3-pointer from Paul with 8:13 left, and a 25-point lead in the last minute on a layup from reserve freshman Mike LaTulip.