The Illinois Fighting Illini picked up their fifth consecutive win Saturday night against the BYU Cougars in the United Center by a score of 75-73. Cougars guard Eric Mika led all scorers with 25 points on 9 for 12 shooting, but a deep buzzer-beating three point attempt by sophomore guard Nick Emery bounced off the back of the rim to finalize the victory for Illinois.
Senior guard Tracy Abrams was a difference-maker late in the second half for the Fighting Illini, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the latter portion of the contest. With his team clinging to a three-point lead with 23 seconds to go, Abrams made this play to force BYU to start fouling:
Tracy Abrams For The Win pic.twitter.com/NwL0TAukaM— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) December 18, 2016
Five players hit double figures for Illinois (Abrams, Malcolm Hill, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Maverick Morgan and Michael Finke). 28 of the 43 first half points were scored by the big men (Morgan, Finke, Mike Thorne and Leron Black) but the offensive post play fell off in the second half. Though the Fighting Illini outrebounded BYU by a margin of 39-36, they were alarmingly poor at converting the few trips to the foul line they earned into points, making only 5 of 11 from the charity stripe. Among the guilty parties was Malcolm Hill, whose miss on the front end of a one-and-one with 5.5 seconds left gave BYU the ball with enough time to set up a potential game-winner.
Kipper Nichols made his debut for the Fighting Illini, recording only one foul in highly limited action.
The 9-3 Fighting Illini will head to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis for their last non-conference game Wednesday night when they take on the MIssouri Tigers in the Braggin’ Rights Game on ESPNU.