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Illini Dig Huge Hole, Nearly Climb Out In 81-79 Loss To Miami

Kofi Cockburn converts two of his team-high 23 points Monday against Miami.

Kofi Cockburn converts two of his team-high 23 points Monday against Miami. Rob McColley/for Illinois Public Media

The Illini men lost their ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against Miami (Florida) last night in Champaign 81-79.

Ayo Dosunmu ran into a triple-team of Hurricane defenders with 2.7 seconds remaining, and a one-point deficit. Miami's Chris Lykes risked a fifth foul by standing in Dosunmu's path, and was rewarded with a decisive charging call to seal the victory for the visitors.

Miami's Chris Lykes weaves a path through a group of taller Illini defenders Monday night in Champaign.

Photo Credit: Rob McColley/for Illinois Public Media

Lykes, the smallest player on the court, was the star of the game from the get-go. He scored 18 first-half points, carving his way through a much taller Illini defense to help build a 27-point lead for the Hurricanes. He added another ten points in the second half. DJ Vesiljevic added 20 for Miami, including 6-9 from three-point range.

It was Illini coach Brad Underwood's nightmare come true.

"Our defense was very, very poor. This is on me," Underwood said. "I did a very poor job in getting our guys ready, and that can't happen. There's no excuse for that."

Overall, the Hurricanes shot 60 percent from the floor, and 57 percent from behind the three-point arc. Illinois picked up the pace in the second half, and cut the Miami scoring output by 40 percent. The Illini managed a respectable 53 percent shooting from the floor for the game.

Kofi Cockburn led Illinois with 23 points. Giorgi Bezhanishvili grabbed a game-high 8 rebounds for the Illini. Sam Waardenburg also grabbed 8 boards for the Hurricanes to go with a dozen points.

The Illini are now 6-2 on the season. Miami improves to 5-3. Illinois returns to action Saturday afternoon for its Big Ten conference opener in College Park Maryland. That game with the Maryland Terrapins tips at 4 pm CT.