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Malcolm Hill Takes Over To Propel Illini Past IUPUI

Illinois' Malcolm Hill in a Tuesday night game against Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Malcolm Hill punctuates a fast break while IUPUI's Darell Combs can only watch. Rob McColley / Illinois Public Media

The Illini men got all they could handle from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis Tuesday night in Champaign.

Illinois won with a score of 85-77. But it was a two-possession game and the Jaguars had the ball with less than a minute to go before a Jaylon Tate steal sealed the win.

Malcolm Hill took over down the stretch, scoring 23 of his game high 32 points in the second half.

Illini Malcolm Hill (21) tries to shoot over a duo of IUPUI defenders, Tuesday in Champaign.

Photo Credit: Rob McColley/for Illinois Public Media

“I just feel, whenever it’s a tight game late, and we go consecutive possessions without scoring, I just feel like, let me try to make a play for the team,” said Hill. “And that’s not necessarily scoring all the time. The offense wasn’t the problem at all tonight, either. It happened to be the defense. And whenever we play really well on defense, like we did last game, that’s when we show how good we can really be.”

Illinoi head coach John Groce agreed with Hill about which end of the floor was the problem.

“Offensively, I thought we were pretty good, executed pretty well, other than some sloppy turnovers, you’ve got to clean that up,” said Groce. “I’ll give our guys credit, sometimes you have those games where things aren’t going your way. You don’t have guys step up like that the last eight minutes and make plays and fine a way to win.”

Groce said his team will need to address its defensive shortcomings if it hopes to fare better against Central Michigan on Saturday.

“We’re going to have a heck of a film session on Thursday after the day off,” said Groce. There was enough mistakes made today where we could probably watch the whole thing, from start to finish, see what the main things are that we need to get a handle on, especially at the defensive end. Because Saturday, we got Central (Michigan) coming in here, 8-and-2. And you know these two guards at 5-foot-9 are absolute monsters. One of them had 40 tonight, the the other one had 30 in their win over Wisconsin-Green Bay. They were an absolute load.”

Maverick Morgan and Leron Black (12) defend an inbound pass Tuesday night versus IUPUI.

Photo Credit: Rob McColley/for Illinois Public Media

Leron Black added 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds for the Illini. Black scored a dozen of those points in the first half, when the Jaguars frequently double-teamed Hill. When Black was double-teamed, Hill was more free to score.

Stretch-Forward Matt O'Leary led IUPUI with 25 points, including 4-of-9 from three-point range. Darell Combs scored 18 for the Jaguars. Evan Hall added 10, and tied O'Leary for a team-high six rebounds.

With the loss, IUPUI falls to 3-and-6 on the season. Illinois is now 7-and-3.