The Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team sent 2013 off with a bang by defeating the Indiana Hoosiers 83-80 in overtime on Tuesday afternoon at the State Farm Center. It was a back and forth affair throughout, and either team could have walked away from this one with a victory. Thankfully, it was Illinois who sent their fans into the streets of Champaign-Urbana ready for a night of New Year’s revelry with a 1-0 conference start in hand.
Illinois improved to 12-2 (1-0) with the win. Indiana dropped to 10-4 (0-1).
The Illini guards once again shouldered the scoring load, and there was even some solid freshman production to be found as well.
Rayvonte Rice led the team with a career best tying performance. He finished the game with 29 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and 1 block. His defense has been just as good as his offense, and I’d be willing to wager that if he keeps it up he will surely find himself on the All Big Ten Defensive First Team when it’s all said and done.
Tracy Abrams had 17 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 rebounds. It’s his fourth double digit performance in a row, and he is playing at a very high level at this point in the season.
The final double digit scorer for the Illini was Joseph Bertrand who finished the game with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 steal. He also teamed up with Rayvonte Rice to provide the biggest fireworks of the game with a long alley-oop reverse jam. It was truly a sight to behold.
Lastly, two other Illini need to be recognized for their efforts in their first taste of the rivalry with Indiana. Kendrick Nunn (7 points, 3 steals, 2 rebounds in 14 minutes) and Maverick Morgan (4 points, 1 rebound in 9 minutes) both had positive impacts on this game, and Illinois has been searching for production from their bench all season.
From the Indiana side of things, Yogi Ferrell (30 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal), Noah Vonleh (16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 2 steals), and Evan Gordon (10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) were the double digit performers. Ferrell was unconscious for the entire game, and is clearly going to be one of the better guards in the entire Big Ten this season. Vonleh is a game changer with shot blocking ability and a nose for rebounding. Between the two of them, Indiana really has something.
Unfortunately for Indiana, Ferrell and Vonleh also combined for 10 turnovers. Illinois only turned the ball over 10 times as a team. Indiana, on the other hand, finished with 23 turnovers.
With the win, Illinois finds themselves among the tall trees of the Big Ten in a tie for first place. The Illini return to action on Saturday at 1:15 CST when Penn State comes calling to the State Farm Center.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.