John Curtis Daily Union Sports Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union
---- — The University of Illini Fighting Illini defended the 3 in the 2nd half, erased a 5-point deficit with an 11-0 run, then made their free throws to ice Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, 64-54.
The Illini opened with a 9-0 run, like they had against Michigan State during their late season 4-of-5 win streak. Nnanna Egwu opened the scoring, Rayvonte Rice followed, then Kendrick Nunn scored. Malcolm hit a 3 for the 9-0 lead in the first 4:00.
Indiana climbed back in the game from the arc. A deuce and back-to-back 3s made it 9-8. Down 11-8, Indiana had back-to-back 3s again and was up 14-11. Rice scored twice and Hill made his second trey for an 18-14 Illini lead.
Tracy Abrams finally got on the board and Nunn scored again to keep the Illini up, 22-16. However, another pair of 3s by Indians made it a 2-point game, 24-22.Abrams used free throws to put the Illini up 30-25 with time winding down in the 1st half. Indiana made free throws and trailed by just two at the break, 30-28.
Indiana grabbed momentum to start the 3rd period and went on a 10-3 run. Illini only had a Jon Ekey 3-pointer and trailed, 38-33.
At the 12:33 mark, Abrams, who was held to just six points (four free throws) in the 1st half, converted a 3-point play, and scored again, tying the game at 38-38. Rice scored back-to-back and capped the 11-point run over less than 4:00, again, for a 6-point lead, 44-38.
With 2:06 left in 1-point game, 53-52, Abrams drained another triple, 56-52. INdiana had to foul and the Illini were in the bonus. Abrams and Nunn made free throws. Abrams made more free throws. Abrams was fouled again in the final seconds and capped his game-high 25 points at the line.
The Illini had four 3s in the 2nd half and shut down the arc for Indiana.
Big Ten Tourney
Illini 64, Indiana 54
Illini stats: Abrams 25 pts, 6 rebounds, 2 assists; Rice 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists; Nunn 10 pts, 4 rebounds, 2 assists; Hill 8 pts, 4 rebounds; Ekey 6 pts, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Bertrand 1 assist.