Tough as nails and a stone cold heart, nobody should be calling for Abrams to be benched now. The junior played beautifully down the stretch. Well, he played a crazy intense brand of basketball, which to me, is a thing of beauty. Abrams scored a team-high 22 points and added six rebounds and an assist. His two clutch free throws gave the Illini the win, a no-doubt high mark moment for his career.
"Tracy was a warrior for us," Rayvonte Rice said.
Three stars next in line:
It wasn't efficient, but Rice did the necessary work to keep the Illini in the game at various points in the evening. He scored 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting and had four rebounds.
When a big shot was an absolute must, Ekey stepped up and knocked it down. His 3-pointer gave the Illini an edge with 50 seconds remaining. It wasn't the deciding shot, but it was a huge moment in a game full of huge moments. The Missouri native finished with eight points and five rebounds.
Nunn may have made a mistake when he collapsed on the driver and allowed Jabari Brown to make a go-ahead 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. Still, there's a reason Groce trusted the freshman enough to have him out there. Nunn played well defensively for most of the night and scored three points, had three steals and two rebounds.
"He keeps getting better," Groce said. "... He was huge for us. He guards the ball well. I thought he executed the game plan well defensively."