Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini win over UCLA

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Illinois basketball

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 18: Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins brings the ball up the court under pressure from Sencire Harris #1 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second half of their game during the Continental Tire Main Event basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on November 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Fighting Illini defeated the Bruins 79-70. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Illinois basketball team managed to mount a huge comeback to take down the UCLA Bruins on Friday night.

Coming off a big win over Monmouth, Illinois had their first true test of the season on Friday night. Things were not looking good for the Illini, though. A nine-point halftime deficit turned into a lead by UCLA of 15 points less than two minutes into the second half. Illinois needed a spark from somewhere, and we got just that.

A huge run by the Illini would give us the lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. Illinois would continue hitting shots, and UCLA didn’t have an answer. The Illini would end up taking down the Bruins, 79-70.

Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball win over UCLA.

1. Sencire Harris stole this game

If you are just looking at the box score this morning, you will see an Illinois win of 79-70. That seems like an easy victory for the Orange and Blue, but at one point in this game, we were down by 15 points in the second half.

This 15-point deficit quickly turned into a single-digit margin at the hands of freshman reserve, Sencire Harris.

Harris entered the game early in the second half and made an impact. Down 44-29, Terrence Shannon Jr. drained a three-pointer to bring Illinois to within 12 points. UCLA tried inbound the ball. Harris proceeded to steal it and made a great pass to Coleman Hawkins for a bucket. This made the deficit 10 points.

On the following inbound attempt, the Bruins would turn the ball over again. Harris was able to get his second steal within 10 seconds. He would take this steal in for a layup. Illinois was then only down eight points.

There were multiple impactful things that came out of Harris’ great defensive effort in these 10 seconds, let alone the entire game. He obviously put four points on the board for Illinois, but the momentum he built for the program continued throughout the rest of the game.

Illinois would get the deficit to just five points by the 14-minute mark and would take the lead with just over nine minutes to go in the game. The momentum Harris built, I believe, greatly helped Illinois win this game over UCLA.

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