Illini Improve to 7-0 After Edging IPFW
Rayvonte Rice scored 17 points and Tracy Abrams added 15, including 12 in the second half, as Illinois held off feisty Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne for a 57-55 win on Friday.
Joseph Bertrand added 11 points for the Illinois (7-0).
Rice stole a pass, was fouled, and hit two free throws with seven seconds remaining to give Illinois a four point cushion, before I-P-F-W made a final lay-up.
"It (the steal) was just something I saw, and took advantage of," he said. "The coach said do whatever we have to do to stop them, and got in that lane."
The Illini overcame a miserable shooting night to make up an 11-point first half deficit mostly because the Mastodons (6-3) were just 2 of 13 from the free throw line in the game.
Illinois was a little better at the line but shot only 39.2 percent from the field including just 19 percent from 3-point range. They turned the ball over 14 times and were outrebounded by IPFW, 39-33.
Illini Coach John Groce said he expected a close game.
"I saw it coming a couple of days ago, when I started watching the Vegas game (again UNLV Tuesday) that night," he said. "I thought, 'oh boy.' We were doing everything we could to try to tell our guys how good this basketball team was that we were playing. I was disappointed with our toughness to start the game. The second half, I thought we really played."
Luis Jacobo led the Mastodons with 15 points, Pierre Bland added 12 and Steve Forbes and Mo Evans had 11 points each for IPFW.