By DAVID MERCER
Associated Press Writer
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- When he saw Illinois guard Trent Meacham set himself to shoot an almost uncontested 3-point shot late in the first half Saturday, Indiana coach Tom Crean grimaced hard.
And with good reason. Crean had seen it all before.
Meacham and the Illini showered the Hoosiers with 3-pointers in a 76-45 win. Meacham, a hometown kid from Champaign, led Illinois with 21 points, all of from his seven-of-nine three-point shooting. The Illini were 13-of-25 on threes.
The win kept Illinois, now 14-2 and 2-1, near the top of the Big Ten, and provided a little revenge for the two games the Illini lost last year to their biggest rivals.
While the scoring was nice, Meacham said it was Illinois' defense that made his day. Indiana hit just one shot in the game's first 7 minutes and 39 seconds.
"We set the tone defensively and got stops, and then we made shots," Meacham said. "You can't rely on making threes. You've got to hang your hat on defense."
Saturday was a bitter reminder for the Hoosiers of how far they've fallen after former coach Kelvin Sampson's forced resignation.
Only a dunk at the buzzer -- one Illinois didn't bother to defend -- prevented Indiana from matching its worst loss of the season, a 33-point thrashing by Notre Dame.
"As I said in the locker room, we never guarded well enough and we were never tough enough today to earn a shot at this one," Crean told reporters just after talking to his 5-10 team (0-3 in the Big Ten).
"We weren't right from the very beginning," he said.
Illinois guard Demetri McCamey hit a three 31 seconds into the game, and, after a short jumper by Mike Davis, Meacham added the first of his three-point bombs to put Illinois up 8-0 with just 89 seconds ticked off the clock.
By the time seven minutes ran off the clock, Meacham had drained a trio of 3-pointers and Illinois led 21-2.
After that early run, there was no question whether the Illini would win, only by how much.
"When you shoot the threes so well, it makes you look good," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We just have a lot of shooters. We can spread people, move the ball pretty well."
Crean paced and prowled the sideline in front of his bench, sipping hard on a Coke he kept stashed at the end of the scorer's table and frenetically subbing players in and out, all to little effect.
The Hoosiers were 20-51 from the field -- 39.2 percent shooting -- but hit only a third of their first-half shots and scored on consecutive possessions just three times the whole game.
"Frankly, in the first half, we missed so many lay-ups," Crean said. "It just seemed like for a while everything that could go possibly wrong ... missing zero-footers, missing tips, whatever it was."
Weber said the Hoosiers -- playing nine freshmen and six walk-ons -- remind him of last year's young Illini, who went 16-19 playing with a half-dozen freshmen.
"Tom has a tough situation in front of him, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone," Weber said.
Indiana's 45 points were just three better than their season-low 42 last month in a loss to Northeastern.
The Hoosiers started the game without their top scoring threat, Devan Dumes, who entered the game averaging 13.7 points a game. Crean said Dumes opened the game on the bench because he was late for the team bus.
And Indiana had Dumes on the floor for only a couple of minutes, losing him to a sprained ankle. Crean said he didn't know how bad the injury is.
Nick Williams led the Hoosiers with 12 points.
Indiana also paid for poor ball-handling, finishing with 19 turnovers. Illinois had 11 steals.
"They have a lot of young kids and we thought we could really pressure them," Weber said.
Meacham wasn't the only Illinois player hitting from long distance. The Illini were 13-25 from three-point range and had four players in double figures.
Junior Dominique Keller had 15 points off the bench, while sophomore starters Mike Davis and McCamey had 12 each.
"We just kept moving and we were patient," Meacham said. "Regardless of what they were in, we just moved, screened the ball and found the hot hand."