The Illini, who had lost ten of their last sixteen coming into the NCAA Tournament and had some questioning whether they'd get into the field at all, had a surprisingly easy time of it against the Runnin' Rebels, putting together a 15-0 run early and leading by as many as 25 before UNLV pulled a bit closer at the end.
Mike Davis tied a season high with 22 points for the Illini in the victory, and Demetri McCamey threw in 17 and seven assists. Oscar Bellfield scored 14 to lead UNLV, while Chace Stanback and Anthony Marshall chipped in with 13 each.
The Illini will now move on to take on the Kansas Jayhawks and their former head coach, Bill Self.
Illinois' victory means that of the seven Big Ten teams that made the Big Dance, five of them won their opening game, with only Michigan State and Penn State having to pack their bags and head back home.