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Illinois beats Butler to win the Maui title

Brandon Paul

Illinois guard Brandon Paul holds up the MVP trophy after defeating Butler in an NCAA college basketball game in the Maui Invitational tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Illinois defeated Butler 78-61 to win the Maui Invitational.(AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)


Maybe it really was Bruce Weber’s fault.

24 hours after Butler laid the wood on the No. 9 team in the country, Illinois mollywhopped the Bulldogs, 78-61, to take home the Maui Invititational title.

Brandon Paul led the way for the Illini with 20 points while Tracy Abrams went for 17 and Tyler Griffy and DJ Richardson chipped in with 14 apiece. As a team, Illinois shot 10-25 from three, which actually lowers their three-point percentage on the season to 41.1%.

So are the Illini legit?

Well, six games into the season, they are 6-0 with impressive wins over USC and Butler. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean much -- USC got taken to overtime by Texas and Butler was whooped up on by Xavier -- what’s inarguable is that this Illinois team is playing much better under John Groce than they did for Weber. They’re sharing the ball, they’re scoring a lot of point, they’re shooting the ball well and they actually look like they’re having fun playing basketball.

That’s a major step up from last season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.