Miami holds off furious comeback to beat Illinois 81-79
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Chris Lykes scored 28 points and Miami held off a furious second-half comeback to beat Illinois 81-79 on Monday.
Illinois (6-2) trailed 50-31 at the half — at one point down by 27 points — and was outplayed at every level by Miami (5-3) before making adjustments and outscoring the Hurricanes 48-31 in the second half.
“In the first half, we were hitting on all cylinders,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “But we started to get into foul trouble and had to make some adjustments. They also shot very well in that second half.”
Dejan Vasiljevic scored 20 points, Kameron McGusty 13 and Sam Waardenburg 12 for Miami.
Kofi Cockburn scored 23 points to lead Illinois. Trent Frazier scored 14, Ayo Dosunmu had 12 and Andre Feliz added 11 points for the Illini.
The Hurricanes put together a series of runs in the first half and jumped out to a 25-9 lead with 12 minutes left before the break. Illinois answered late in the half with a 7-0 run that featured a 3-pointer from Alan Griffin, a layup by Dosunmu and a jumper by Da’Monte Williams.
“We started slow and they were really hitting their shots,” Feliz said. “They’re a tough team, and we just weren’t with it tonight. We have to get better.”
After clawing its way back, Illinois had a chance to win it at the buzzer. Feliz hit a layup with less than a minute to play to pull the Illini to within one point, 80-79. With two seconds left and a chance to win the game, Dosunmu drove to the basket and was called for an offensive foul. That sent Lykes to the line, where he sank one free throw to ice the game.
“To be down by as many as 27 points and to have the ball in our hands with a chance to win it, that’s really something,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “I’m very proud of the effort we made in that second half.”
But Underwood knows his team has to play better early in the game, a trend for the Illini this season.
“That’s on me,” he said. “I did a very poor job of getting our guys ready. We’ll get better.”
ONE FOR THE ROAD
Larranaga was happy to come to Champaign and leave with a victory against a tough Big Ten team on the rise.
“We got our second road win of the season,” he said. “Those are tough to come by.”
Larranaga knew coming in his team would have problems with Cockburn, Illinois’ 7-foot freshman center.
“Kofi is big and strong and he’s really hard to guard one-on-one,” Larranaga said. “So, we made some changes going in and double teamed him, what we call our 4-5 trap. It was pretty effective.”
“I thought Kofi was huge tonight,” said Illinois teammate Giorgi Bezhanishvili. “He’s just dominating out there, and I am so happy for him.”
Miami: The Hurricanes looked unbeatable in the first half and seemed fatigued as the game progressed. But overall, they got the job done and handed Larranaga his 650th career win in his 36th season.
Illinois: The Illini have been slow starters all season and this time, it hurt them badly against a very good Miami team. Illinois needs to find a way to play two consistently good halves before Big Ten Conference play starts.
Miami: Hosts Alabama A&M on Dec. 14.
Illinois: Things get tougher when Illinois travels to #5 Maryland for an early Big Ten Conference game on Saturday.
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