Illinois beats Indiana in Big Ten tournament opener - Fox 2 News Headlines

Illinois beats Indiana in Big Ten tournament opener

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By ANDY PROFFET
Associated Press


   INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tracy Abrams' second half Thursday was as good as any game he had during the Big Ten season.
 
   Illinois' junior guard scored 17 of his season-high 25 points in the second half, including a game-clinching run in the No. 9-seeded Illini's 64-54 win over No. 8 seed Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
 
   "I am not concerned about the points," Abrams said. "I am just glad we were able to pull it out and fight as a team and a unit."
 
   Abrams hadn't scored more than 17 points in a game during the conference regular season. But he seized the moment Thursday for Illinois (19-13).
 
   Make that moments.
 
   After the Hoosiers (17-15) turned a 30-28 halftime deficit into a 38-33 lead, Abrams scored five straight points to tie the game. That started a 14-2 run by the Illini.
 
   The Hoosiers answered, pulling within 47-46 on a layup by Yogi Ferrell. But Abrams again had the answer, hitting one of his two 3-pointers to make it a 50-46 game.
 
   And when the Hoosiers again pulled within one, on an Austin Etherington layup to make it 53-52 with 3:13 to play, Abrams had the final answer, hitting his second 3-pointer.
 
   "It was a defensive mistake," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "It's something we practice. We didn't get into that rotation as quickly as we needed to.
 
   "... They were really hurting us with the high-ball screen, that's why we had to go to more of a zone there. We just didn't get over there quick enough."
 
   Abrams, who fell two points shy of matching his career high, scored nine of Illinois' final 11 points, including six at the free throw line.
 
   The Illini (used runs of 9-0 in the first half and 11-0 in the second half to improve to 6-2 all-time against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
 
   The win sends Illinois into a second-round matchup Friday with No. 1 seed Michigan. The Wolverines (23-7), ranked eighth in The Associated Press poll, routed the Illini 84-53 on March 4 in Champaign.
 
   "Obviously we've got a great challenge tomorrow against Michigan," Illinois coach John Groce said.
 
   Rayvonte Rice added 13 points and Kendrick Nunn scored 10 for Illinois, which improved to 6-2 all-time against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
 
   Yogi Ferrell led the Hoosiers with 14 points. Will Sheehey added 13 points -- 11 of them in the first half -- and Troy Williams scored 11 for Indiana.
 
   Illinois opened the game with a 9-0 run, taking advantage of Indiana's cold shooting and carelessness with the ball. The Hoosiers missed their first nine shots and had nine turnovers in the first half.
 
   But Indiana answered with a 14-2 run, capped by a Ferrell 3-pointer, to take its first lead.
 
   It didn't last long, with Noah Vonleh being called for goaltending on a basket by Rice which put the Illini back in front 15-14.
 
   Illinois led 30-28 at halftime. Indiana was 6-of-10 on 3-pointers in the first half but just 2-of-13 inside the arc. The Hoosiers were 0-for-10 on 3-pointers in the second half.
 
   "I think we had some sets where we had pretty good movement against the zone (in the second half), but it wasn't on a consistent basis," Sheehey said.
 
   Indiana had just two points in the paint in the first half but scored 18 there in the second half.
 
   Troy Williams tied the game at 30 early in the second half on a dunk, then the Hoosiers took a 32-30 lead on two free throws by Stanford Robinson. Robinson, who was 0-for-2 from the line in the first half, was 4-of-4 in the second half.
 
   Indiana's bench was just 2-of-12 from the field for four points.
 
   The loss eliminates the Hoosiers from the NCAA Tournament, but Crean was hopeful it wasn't the end of Indiana's season, with the possibility of an NIT berth.
 
   "I wouldn't (define this season yet), because I hope it keeps going," he said. "Fifteen, 20 minutes after the game has ended, I hope we continue to play. It would be an honor to keep playing."
 
   Illinois improved to 5-1 in first-round games in the Big Ten Tournament and won as the No. 9 seed for the first time. The Hoosiers fell to 10-17 in the conference tournament and fell to 1-2 as the No. 8 seed.

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