Champaign, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Malcolm Hill posted 13 points as a balanced No. 24 Illinois used a first-half surge to dispatch American, 70-55, on Saturday.
Rayvonte Rice contributed 10 points for the Illini (7-1), with Jaylon Tate and Maverick Morgan totaling eight apiece. Illinois, which rebounded from a loss to Miami-Florida last Tuesday, hosts Villanova this coming Tuesday.
"It's a difficult game to play from the standpoint of their style," Illinois head coach John Groce said. "They play a style that requires you to be really disciplined and grind."
Pee Wee Gardner picked up a game-high 16 points for the Eagles (5-4). Jesse Reed had 13 points and John Schoof poured in 12. American had won its previous two contests and will rest until a Dec. 16 matchup with La Salle in Philadelphia.
A 17-2 run beginning just prior to the midway point of the first half and burning almost eight minutes off the clock turned a two-point game into a 17- point spread for the hosts.
Reed's triple to pull American within 13-11 was countered by two free throws and a layup by Rice. A short time later, Nnanna Egwu hit a triple and a deuce around an Ahmad Starks bucket, then Morgan connected twice in a row and Illinois assumed a 30-13 edge with 2:57 left in the first half.
Hill's jumper with more than a minute left provided the halftime margin for the hosts at 32-19.
Gardner scored five in a row to close American's gap from 13 points down to 42-34 with 10:42 to play, but Illinois gained greater separation with eight in a row from there, ending on two from the line by Aaron Cosby for a 50-34 contest just over two minutes later.
Tate's free throw gave the Illini their largest lead of the contest at 64-44 with 3:22 to play and the Eagles were not able to come closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
"Illinois is a very good basketball team. They are fast and athletic. Today, we did not do a good job of taking care of the basketball and you can't do that against a team like that," said American head coach Mike Brennan.
Illinois converted 19 of its 21 free-throw attempts to counter a 47.9-percent (23-of-48) performance from the field ... Egwu pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and blocked a game-high three shots ... The Eagles shot 61 percent from the floor in the second half and 50 percent (21-of-42) overall in defeat ...American's Zach Elcano committed a game-high six of his team's 19 turnovers.