I don't know if we can coin these Illini as "comeback kids' or anything cheesy like that.
I do think we can all agree not to quit on this team, whether it's down 13 to Michigan, whether it's 3-10 in Big Ten play or down 17 at Boston University near the end of the first half. Illinois overcame the Terriers's wunderkind shooting (I mean that one dude curling off screens wasn't even looking at the basket when he shot) and Rayvonte loaded the team on his covered wagon and said, "I'll lead us to the NIT Second Round."
Rayvonte finished with 28 points on 11-14 shooting, asserting his dominance around the rim like the Rayvonte of old. I'm sure not playing against a Big Ten defense helped, but his ability to get past his man and finish with contact is transcendent.
His steal and fast-break layup while being fouled brought Illinois within two points with two minutes left in the second half, and the subsequent foul shot trimmed the deficit to 61-60. From there, Illinois and head coach John Groce rode Rice, who made two free throws to give illinois its first lead since the game was 7-6 in the first half and then hit another layup driving straight down the lane for a three-point lead. Nnanna Egwu's free throws and a botched Tyler Griffey-style inbounds play by Boston sealed the win for Illinois.
I'd also like to give a hat tip to freshman Malcolm Hill, who paced Illinois with its only offense early in the game when Boston was raining 3-pointers (though Illinois actually finished at a higher 3-point percentage). Jon Ekey and Joe Bertrand pitched in six and nine points, respectively.
It wouldn't have been a disaster if Illinois lost this game, but I love having more opportunities to watch this team. Next stop: Clemson.