The spotlight shifted to Illinois Tuesday at the Nike Peach Jam, as the Warriors positioned themselves as the team to beat.
Illinois first gained momentum by knocking off the Southern California All Stars 74-70 in the morning session. Both teams were 2-0 entering the contest, but Southern California appeared to be the early tournament favorite.
The Warriors then raised their record to 4-0 by overcoming a 20-point, second-half deficit to defeat the Bloomington Red 69-67 later in the evening.
"If we continue to improve game by game, we certainly have a shot to win," Illinois coach Larry Butler said of his team's chances of taking the title. "Our team has been hurt all year, and we finally got everyone healthy."
Senior guard Pierre Pierce scored 24 in the win over Bloomington, adding to a 34-point explosion against Southern California. Pierce was the only Warrior to score more than 10 in the first game Tuesday.
Pierce, who recently came back from a broken foot, has verbally committed to Iowa.
"Pierre is one of the top three guards in the country," Butler said. "He will be a very competitive guard in the Big Ten. He's a player who can score at will."
Each of the other three pools were also marked by key upsets.
The Georgia Stars entered the evening session at 3-0, but lost 80-76 to the Alabama Lasers, who came in at 1-2.
Stars' 6-foot-11 center Kwame Brown scored 17 points, but was held to only two rebounds against Alabama.
"They played a zone and took me out of it," Brown said. "We just ran out of luck in the end."
Brown, who attends Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., is considered to be one of the top 10 seniors in the nation. He had 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in a 78-75 overtime win over B.A.B.C. Monday night.
In today's first game, the Stars face perhaps their toughest opponent in the Wisconsin Playground Warriors, who entered Tuesday evening's game against B.A.B.C. with a 3-0 record. The game has significant playoff implications.
"(The overtime win against B.A.B.C) taught us how to be patient, settle down and win," Brown said. "We have to leave it all out on the court and see what happens tomorrow."
The Houston Hoops won their first two games, and were beginning to emerge from the pack in Pool C, when the winless Charlotte Royals surprised them in a 66-53 upset Tuesday morning. Carlos Hunt and Marcus Watkins led Houston with 20 points apiece.
Perhaps the mildest of the day's upsets was Team Texas' 73-64 victory over the Boo Williams Summer League team. Boo Williams was 2-0 at the time and Texas, 1-1, but both team enter play today with 3-1 records. Keith Langford scored 25 for Texas.
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