Abrams scores 15 to lead Illinois in 75-73 win over BYU
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois went to some unfamiliar offensive weapons to hang on against BYU.
Reserve center Maverick Morgan had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and forward Michael Finke added 10 points off the bench as the Illini edged the Cougars 75-73 on Saturday night.
“We’ve got some guys that can score in there, and they did a good job of getting the ball inside,” Illinois coach John Groce said.
Tracy Abrams scored 15 points, Jalen Coleman-Lands added 12 and Malcolm Hill 10 for the Illini (9-3), who have won five straight.
“They went zone a couple times, they went man,” Abrams said about BYU. “Just adjusting to the game play and understanding we’ve got to get it down there to the bigs.”
Eric Mika led BYU with 25 points in the second game of the State Farm Chicago Legends doubleheader.
BYU (7-4) shot just 43 percent from the field after averaging 85.8 points on the strength of its transition game. Nick Emery added 16 points and TJ Haws 10 for the Cougars.
“Defensively, we took a step in the right direction tonight against a very, very potent offensive team,” Groce said.
Illinois made 10 of 26 3s.
The Cougars got within one on Colby Leifson’s 3 with 1:59 left. Morgan made a jumper and Abrams got a steal and a layup before BYU’s L.J. Rose hit a 3 to pull BYU within two with 16.7 seconds left. Hill made two free throws before Rose nailed a jumper to get the Cougars back within two. Emery missed a 3 at the buzzer.
“It came down to really one, two, maybe three big-time plays we needed to make,” Mika said. “Illinois just did a good job. They made those hustle plays, the 50-50 balls, and we didn’t convert on a couple things that we could have.”
Hill shot 3 for 12 from the field after averaging a team-high 18.9 points.
Illinois’ bench outscored BYU’s reserves 28-7.
“They had some big guys,” Mika said. “They have that rotation we’re they’re all different, but they’re all strong. They can all get rebounds. It was tough getting used to. We saw how they were calling fouls. We were able to fight through it pretty well.”
Illinois led by as much as 16 before BYU went on an 11-0 run and trailed 43-37 at halftime.
“We didn’t come ready to play in the beginning,” Rose said. “We got a group out there that was ready to compete. They brought us back into the game.”
BYU fell short of a quality win against a Power 5 conference team. The Cougars will close out their nonconference schedule against Idaho State and CSU Bakersfield next week.
Illinois started its season on a four-game winning streak before losing three straight and winning its last five.
The Illini lead the series against BYU 4-2. The Cougars won the last meeting 80-75 in 1980 in Knoxville, Tenn. ... The State Farm Chicago Legends recognized the city’s basketball tradition. Former DePaul player Mark Aguirre and coach Ray Meyer, both Chicago natives, were honored during halftime. ... The Cubs’ World Series trophy made an appearance. ... Illinois is 37-14 at the United Center.
Redshirt freshman forward Kipper Nichols played one minute in his first game with Illinois. After he originally signed with Tulane, Nichols transferred last December and sat out a year per transfer requirements.
BYU will face Idaho State on Tuesday.
Illinois will play its Braggin’ Rights game against Missouri on Wednesday in St. Louis.