LAHAINA, Hawaii — Illinois’ week-long trip to Hawaii is getting better by the day.
The Illini got a season-high 14 points from Joseph Bertrand (six rebounds) and 13 from Brandon Paul (four assists, three rebounds) in Tuesday’s 84-61 win against Chaminade at Lahaina Civic Center.
The team’s third win since arriving on the islands sets up a championship game against Butler (9 p.m., ESPN), which surprised No. 9 North Carolina 82-71.
"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."
Separated by 120 miles, Illinois and Butler haven’t met since 1971. They’ll pick up with two coaches linked to the Illinois opening last spring: one who took it (John Groce) and one who was rumored to show interest (Brad Stevens).
"It’s a great opportunity," Groce said. "Obviously, Butler’s really well-coached and really tough. They exhibit great toughness. They’re older, our guys are older, we’re looking forward to competing tomorrow and looking forward to the challenge."
Stevens and Groce worked together on Thad Matta’s staff at Butler in 2001.
"He and I are really good friends. I have a great deal of respect for Brad, not only as a coach but as a person. We usually talk even more about Xs and Os but we kind of decided this season until we got through this, if we didn’t play one another we’d talk a little bit more. Brad’s really bright and is a part of our coaching tree so I’m awful proud of what he’s been able to accomplish."
The Illini shot 45 percent (14 for 31) from the floor in the first half despite missing seven straight shots from the field during one stretch. Illinois made 40 percent (6 for 15) of its first-half three-point shots in building a 16-point halftime lead.
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.
D.J. Richardson (11 points) and Tyler Griffey (10) also scored in double figures for Illinois, which led by as many as 25 points in the second half in pulling away from the Division II program from Honolulu.
Chaminade’s De’Andre Haskins, who scored a career-high 32 points in Monday’s win against Texas, scored 19 points against the Illini. Bennie Murray added 10 points.
A game after committing eight turnovers, Illinois sophomore guard Tracy Abrams (eight points) was whistled for one turnover against the Silverswords.
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.
Illinois, which shot 49 percent (29 for 59), hit 11 of 28 (39 percent) three-point attempts. Groce’s squad has made at least 11 three-pointers in all five games this season.
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.
Illinois advances to the title game for the first time since 2000, when it was also led by a first-year coach (Bill Self).
A win would do wonders for the Illini’s national standing when the next polls come out Monday.
Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham each scored 17 points to lead the unranked Bulldogs. Like Illinois, Butler has been on a roll in the Aloha State since losing 62-47 at Xavier one week ago,
Fast starts have helped, Stevens said.
"You know that you have got to play attacking the rest of the game," he said.
ILLINOIS 84, CHAMINADE 61
Richardson 4-10 0-0 11, Paul 4-9 3-3 13, Abrams 4-12 0-0 8, Egwu 2-5 0-0 4, Griffey 3-6 3-5 10, McLaurin 3-3 0-0 6, Bertrand 5-7 2-2 14, LaTulip 1-2 2-2 5, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Henry 2-4 2-2 7, Langford 1-1 0-0 3, Djimde 0-0 0-0 0, Berardini 0-0 3-4 3. Totals 29-59 15-18 84.
Cooks 3-7 0-0 6, Bailey 3-6 0-0 9, Murray 4-11 0-2 10, Murphy 0-3 1-2 1, Haskins 7-16 3-3 19, Harrison 0-0 0-0 0, Peterson 0-0 0-0 0, Vukasovic 1-1 0-0 2, Green 1-5 0-0 3, Hu 3-7 2-5 8, Coulibaly 1-6 0-0 3. Totals 23-62 6-12 61.
Halftime—Illinois 37-21. 3-Point Goals—Illinois 11-28 (Richardson 3-9, Bertrand 2-4, Paul 2-5, Henry 1-1, Langford 1-1, Griffey 1-2, LaTulip 1-2, Abrams 0-4), Chaminade 9-28 (Bailey 3-4, Murray 2-5, Haskins 2-6, Green 1-3, Coulibaly 1-5, Hu 0-2, Murphy 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Illinois 41 (Henry 7), Chaminade 32 (Hu 6). Assists—Illinois 13 (Paul 4), Chaminade 12 (Bailey, Cooks 4). Total Fouls—Illinois 18, Chaminade 17. A—2,400.