After whipping Toledo 84-45 on Wednesday night at Assembly Hall in the 2K Sports Classic, No. 13 Illinois improved to 2-0 before hosting Southern Illinois on Saturday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network) to face the same challenge.

CHAMPAIGN — Las Vegas comes to Assembly Hall on Saturday, according to Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber.

A year ago, the Illini stormed into the Las Vegas Invitational semifinals with an undefeated record, then lost games to Utah and Bradley that played a big role in the Illini missing the NCAA tournament.

After whipping Toledo 84-45 on Wednesday night at Assembly Hall in the 2K Sports Classic, No. 13 Illinois improved to 2-0 before hosting Southern Illinois on Saturday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network) to face the same challenge.

The Classic continues next Thursday at Madison Square Garden, when Illinois meets Texas.  But there’s work to be done before reaching Manhattan. Illinois can’t afford another result like Vegas.

“We did talk after the game about last year,’’ Weber said. “This is Bradley last year. This is Utah. We can’t look forward to New York. We have to take care of Saturday. Texas is important. Having a chance to play Pitt or Maryland is important. Carolina is important.

“So is Southern Illinois, Western Michigan and Yale. That’s the test of maturity and how good you really are.’’

Las Vegas bust

If the Illini didn’t realize how much they lost in Vegas, they learned on Selection Sunday.
“In the end, it did dearly cost us,’’ Weber said.

This also is a big game for Weber, who coached at Southern Illinois for the five seasons prior to taking over the Illini. Chris Lowery, a former Weber assistant at Southern Illinois and Illinois, is the Salukis coach.

“I don’t like playing the game,’’ Weber said in a subdued voice. “I probably blew it eight years ago when I said we’d play them and come to Carbondale. I try to be a man of my word. I will try to get down there. It’s no fun. Chris and I are very close.

“You can blame the assistants. They were talking trash with each other at the Final Four. I come back and find out we’ve got a game against them.’’

Illinois learned a lesson about finishing after failing the test in the opener. The Illini made their first 10 shots and 11 of the first 12 to race to a 25-5 lead. The Illini didn’t miss a shot until 13 minutes 23 seconds remained in the first half. From there, it was just about improving the movement on offense and keeping the intensity up — something the Illini failed to do in the opener vs. California-Irvine.

Illinois opened the second half with a 31-point lead and expanded it to 40 within 5 minutes. Illinois led by 43 later in the half.

“We have to come out and set the tone,’’ Illini guard Demetri McCamey said. “We can’t give up. We treated it like it was 0-0 and kept fighting, getting turnovers and letting the young fellas finish the game.’’

The Illini padded their stats. McCamey scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting with seven assists and no turnovers in only 18 minutes. A sore hip that was the result of a collision with Meyers Leonard on the second day of practice must have been healed, and he spent extra time on his shooting.

Determined to make a contribution somewhere other than the 3-point line, sophomore guard Brandon Paul scored eight points but also had seven rebounds, three assists and five steals. Otherwise, Mike Davis scored 12 points while Mike Tisdale and Leonard each had 10.

Freshman guard Crandall Head was the only Illini who didn’t play after failing to handle off-the-court duties. Weber said Head might play Saturday.

Toledo (0-1) is rebuilding under first-year coach Tod Kowalczyk, who took over a program that won just four games last season and only 11 in the last two years combined. Toledo brought five scholarship players and four walk-ons. The Rockets lost their 33rd consecutive road game and 49th in the last 50.

“We were deer in the headlights,’’ Kowalczyk said. “Give credit to Illinois' ball pressure and athletisicm. It took a toll on us. They have a great opportunity to have a great season. They’re long, athletic and deep. They have a lot to figure out regarding the rotation and who needs to play.’’

NOTE: Gwen Lanter of Oblong was honored as Illinois basketball passed 9 million fans in its 49th season in the Hall. She received a game ball and moved from her seats in Section C to Section A. . . Walk-on guard Kevin Berardini logged 6 minutes.

John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977.