Illinois returned home tonight and found themselves in quite the battle on their home court. The Illini were sloppy in the first half, turning the ball over 10 times, and IPFW made them pay while shooting 52% from the floor on their way to a 35-27 halftime advantage.
The second half of this game began much like the second half of the UNLV game, with Illinois erasing the oppositions lead in the first 5 minutes and then it was a nip and tuck affair the rest of the contest. Tracy Abrams was a man possessed in the second half as he hit big shot after big shot finally finishing with 15 points and 4 steals.
Rayvonte Rice once again led the Illini in scoring with 17 points, but his biggest play of the game was a steal with 7.5 seconds left that led to a trip to the charity stripe in which he sealed the victory by sinking both attempts.
Last game it was the curling drive to the basket to win it. This time it was the defense. One thing is certain, Rayvonte Rice has come to play this season, and it’s a good thing for Illinois because without him this team most likely wouldn’t be sitting 7-0.
Aside from Rice’s stellar play, Kendrick Nunn had a blocked shot that has to be seen to be believed. Lucky for all of us, Dan over at illinoisloyalty.com put together an animated gif of the play. Huge thanks to Dan for posting this gif to the web because Illini fans everywhere need to see the effort Nunn put forth in stopping a sure layup.
The bottom line in this one is that Illinois just keeps finding ways to win. One of these days the sizable halftime deficit is going to catch up to the Illini, but it wasn’t tonight. This team has toughness, and they keep coming at you no matter what’s in front of them.
Illinois will have the weekend off and then return to action in Atlanta, GA on Tuesday when they take on the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech at 6:15 CT on ESPN2.