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Illinois’ rally falls just short to Miami, 81-79

The Illini came all the way back from down 27, but it wasn’t enough.

@IlliniMBB // Twitter

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — After trailing by as much as 27, this one came down to the final seconds — and it didn’t end the way Illinois hoped.

A late rally in the second half couldn’t break the Hurricanes lead on Monday night at the State Farm Center. After falling behind by double digits the Illini were unable to mount a successful second half comeback and lost, 81-79.

“This is on me,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “I did a very poor job in getting our guys ready. There’s no excuse for that.”

Miami gave Illinois all that it could handle in the first half. An early 12-2 run in the first five minutes set Miami up for the rest of the game. The Hurricanes’ junior guard Chris Lykes tore apart an Illinois defense that looked lost on the floor. Lykes finished the first half with 18 points shooting 7-for-9 from the floor. Underwood tried switching up the looks on defense but neither man or zone were clicking.

Turnovers mitigated any offensive rhythm. Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili were nowhere to be found on the floor as the Illini fell behind early. A technical call against Lykes gave Illinois an opportunity late to cut into the lead, but Andres Feliz wasn’t able to convert at the line and the Illini finished the half down 19.

“It was a slow start on both sides,” said Feliz. “Our shot wasn’t going on. Everything comes from our defense, and it started slow tonight.”

Ayo and Kofi took over in the second half. Underwood made sure to get Lykes into foul trouble and by the eleventh minute he had had four fouls. Illinois put together a 15-2 run to close Miami to a five point lead with six minutes left. From there the Miami defense stayed strong. Back and fourth play kept the Hurricanes in the lead by at least five points till the final two minutes.

Andres Feliz and Trent Frazier cut the lead to one with the ball in the final 17 seconds. It came down to Illinois’ final possession with Dosunmu. Dosunmu drove the ball but got called for charging ending the Illini’s night.

“Had we been able to finish off that last play, you’re talking about the biggest comeback in school history,” Underwood said. “But we’re not.”

Moments That Mattered

12-to-2 run in the first half: After Illinois took an early 5-to-0 lead, Miami went on the most important scoring drive in the game. Illinois went into a panic early that they could never get themselves out of. Miami never looked back and finished the half up 50-to-33.

Kofi Cockburn’s Free Throws: Kofi was 5-for-5 in the first half. Without his free throws and stellar play down low, Illinois would be down by much more. His improvement at the line is the only positive take away from this game.

Illinois’ Comeback: The Illini trimmed Miami’s lead all the way down to five in the second half, despite trailing as much as 27 in the first. That would be as close as Illinois got though as Lykes’ 27-point outing held the Illini at bay.

Tweet Of The Game

“This Won’t End Well For The Illinois”

You Gotta See This

Stat Stuffers

  • Kofi Cockburn: 23 points, 4 rebounds, 8-for-8 FG
  • Ayo Dosunmu: 12 points, 0 rebounds, 4-for-15 FG
  • Trent Frazier: 14 points, 2 rebounds, 4-for-7 FG
  • Andres Feliz: 11 Points, 6 rebounds, 4-for-8 FG
  • Giorgi Bezhanishvili: 6 points, 8 rebounds, 3-for-5 FG

Who’s Next

Illinois starts Big Ten play when it faces No. 3 Maryland (8-0) at the Xfinity Center next Saturday at 4:00 p.m. CT.