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Illinois’ late comeback not enough at Notre Dame

Fighting Irish win the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Well, when you don’t score for six minutes at a time, you don’t win.

Illinois just did that in the second half on Tuesday night in South Bend in a 76-74 loss to Notre Dame at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Looking to pick up its first major conference win of the year, Illinois wasn’t able to squeak out a win on the road. The Illini had all the opportunities in the world to secure the victory, but they continue to shoot themselves in the foot.

A six-minute stretch where Notre Dame extended its lead to 11 was enough for the Fighting Irish to come out on top. This was the first of a tough four-game stretch for the Illini, and it was essential to get things off on the right foot. But Illinois will have to wait to pick up its first marquee win of the season.

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. That’s how the majority of the first half went for both teams. Illinois ended the first minute of regulation with multiple fouls, Ayo Dosunmu fumbled the ball over three times in the first five minutes, and Trent Frazier had to leave for a short amount of time with an ankle injury. The sophomore came back after getting the Illinois medical staff taped it — twice.

Illinois cobbled together an 11-0 run midway through the first half, led by Aaron Jordan’s 10 points, but Notre Dame was able to close the gap after Kipper Nichols picked up his first technical of the season. The two teams entered halftime with nearly identical numbers, but Illinois held a 35-34 advantage at the break.

The Illini once again put themselves in a good position at half, but the slow starts to the second period have been Illinois’ kryptonite. This time it was a six-minute scoring drought that allowed the Fighting Irish to go on a 14-0 run and take a commanding 65-52 lead with just under six and a half minutes remaining.

Notre Dame allowed Illinois to crawl back into the game late with 13 second-half points from Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Aaron Jordan poured in 23 as well, including a three with six seconds left that made the score 75-74 in favor of the Fighting Irish. But Trent Frazier’s go-ahead attempt at the buzzer rimmed in and out.