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Rice, Hill Lead Illinois Past Baylor 62-54

Nnanna Egwu and Rayvonte Rice guard Rico Gathers in Friday's win.

Nnanna Egwu and Rayvonte Rice guard Rico Gathers in Illinois' 62-54 win Friday in Las Vegas (Rob McColley)

Rayvonte Rice and Malcolm Hill each scored 17 points to lead Illinois to a 62-54 win over Baylor in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday night.

The Baylor Bears were previously unbeaten.

It was a contest of defense and rebounds. Illinois shot just 1-of-11 from three-point range in the first half.

"We didn't get discouraged," said Rayvonte Rice, who, along with Malcolm Hill, led all scorers with 17 points apiece.  "I mean, we just kept taking those same shots.  I mean, they started falling in the second half.   We just kept our defense up and was able to come away with a win."

Baylor won the rebound battle, 47-to-33. But the Illini forced the Bears into 15 turnovers, and only nine assists. Illinois had 15 assists, and only five turnovers. 

They held the Bears to 33-percent shooting for the game.

"It's the most impressive (win) this season thus far," said coach John Groce.  "Not only because it was an opponent, and because it was a championship game, but because I think the way we did it.  We just showed some real grit.  I loved that about the win."

Hill joined Nnanna Egwu on the all-tournament team. Rice was named tournament MVP.

"I think this will help us a lot, further down the road," said Hill.  "Because that many teams are probably going to be as physical as (Baylor) when it comes to rebounding."

Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince each had 11 points to lead Baylor. Gathers also had 15 rebounds.
There were four ties and six lead changes in the first half. The Bears built their largest lead of the game at 21-16 with 4:09 until halftime.