Abrams’ Career Day Leads Illini Over Chippewas

December 10, 2016
Illinois basketball player Tracy Abrams

Illinois' guard Tracy Abrams (13) looks to get around Central Michigan's guard Marcus Keene (3) during their NCAA college basketball game in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday, Dec.10, 2016.

Robin Scholz/AP Photo

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Tracy Abrams proved that he was back to top shape — or even better — when he scored a career-high 31 points and led Illinois in a 92-73 drubbing of Central Michigan on Saturday afternoon.

Abrams scored 23 points in the first half and finished 7 of 8 from 3-point range on a day when he scored his 1,000th career point with Illinois (8-3).

It's been a long road for the guard from Chicago who missed the last two seasons with knee injuries. Despite the difficult journey, Abrams had a priority for whom to credit for his on-court success.

"My teammates for giving me the ball and just the hard work, being in the gym a lot." Abrams said. "It just shows that hard work pays off."

Illinois shot at or above 50 percent from the field in the first 10 minutes, but a six-minute Central Michigan scoring drought allowed Illinois to go on a 23-3 run and lead by as many as 19 points in the first half.

Illinois' forward Leron Black (12) shoots over Central Michigan's forward Cecil Williams (21) during their NCAA college basketball game in Champaign, IL on Saturday, Dec.10, 2016.

Photo Credit: Robin Scholz/Associated Press

Leron Black played another compete game from the bench, scoring a career-high 21 points.

Illinois played its last nonconference game at home of the season, a game in which coach John Groce thought his team continued to grow and find its identity.

"It was our most complete performance of the season," Groce said. "I think it's something that we can build upon."

Marcus Keene led Central Michigan (8-3) with 25 points and Braylon Rayson added 18.

Illinois won the rebound battle 49-25 and outscored the Chippewas in the paint 34-14.

"We had great attitude, great effort and just got beat by an ever-improving Illinois team," Central Michigan coach Keno Davis said. "They were able to expose the weakness of being not as physical, big and strong as they are."

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Fighting Illini continue to win during a critical stretch of the season. Two more nonconference wins against BYU and Missouri will help the Illini's tournament resume before the start of Big Ten play.

Central Michigan: The Chippewas lost arguably their hardest game of the season. Central Michigan will have a nice break before playing the last two nonconference games of the season.

STAR WATCH

Malcolm Hill was held scoreless in the first half but finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Illinois held Central Michigan to its lowest first-half points total of the season at 36.

ROLE PLAYER

D.J. Williams continued to gain more playing time after sitting out two of the previous four games. The sophomore finished with two points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.

UP NEXT

Illinois will have the week of before the team travels to Chicago to play BYU in the State Farm Chicago Legends game.

Central Michigan has an extended break before returning back to action at Montana State on Dec. 21.

Story source: WILL