[quote]CHAMPAIGN -- Wednesday was a bittersweet night for Illini Nation.
First, the 45th straight sellout crowd in Assembly Hall sadly commemorated the last dance of Chief Illiniwek at halftime.
Then, the emotional madhouse jubilantly celebrated Illinois' 20th victory of the season, a 54-42 conquest of Michigan.
Playing his last home game, popular senior forward Warren Carter gave the Illini's followers something to remember him by, scoring 18 points and snaring nine rebounds, both of which were game highs. Three of his baskets came from beyond the three-point arc for a career high in that category.
"It's surreal that it's my last home game," Carter said. "There were times in the game when I looked up and just enjoyed it."
Carter and his fellow seniors, starting guard Rich McBride and backup center Marcus Arnold, were honored in pregame ceremonies and coach Bruce Weber paid tribute to them and to Chief Illiniwek in addressing the crowd after the game.
"We're a patched-up group, but we're not going to quit," Weber said. "We're going to keep playing with the courage that the Chief has. The courage, strength, bravery and honesty that he symbolizes will stay in the hearts of the Illinois Nation forever."
By scoring 11 points and putting the defensive clamps on Dion Harris, McBride played a strong supporting role behind Carter in the triumph that kept their NCAA hopes alive with regular-season games remaining at Penn State and Iowa.
Harris scored 22 points and fellow senior Lester Abram broke loose for 25 when Michigan (18-10, 6-7) beat Illinois (20-9, 8-6) by 10 points in the Big Ten opener in Ann Arbor. In Wednesday's rematch, Harris made only 1 of 10 shots while Abram missed his only field-goal attempt.
Carter was in the forefront and Arnold came off the bench to contribute two timely baskets as the Illini rallied to secure a 23-19 halftime advantage.
McBride's only basket of the half, a floater that was launched a split-second before the shot clock expired, gave the Illini the lead permanently.
McBride began the second half by hitting a jump shot followed by a three-point shot in transition as the Wolverines' resistance crumbled.
"I thought the difference was our 20 turnovers and our inability to keep them off the backboards," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "Carter and McBride