Jordan Hamilton got the Longhorns off on the right foot early, scoring 11 of Texas's first 13 points, including two three-pointers and a three-point play. Later in the half, Tristan Thompson took over, dunking the ball and dropping in a baby hook to give the Longhorns their biggest first-half lead at 30-22. But the Illini fought back to take a lead of their own at 42-39. Texas moved back ahead 45-42 before Mike Tisdale drilled a three just before halftime to tie the game.
Hamilton and Thompson combined to shoot 12-16 in the half. Hamilton scored 15 points in the stanza, with Thompson chipping in 12 points. The Illini's backcourt duo each shot 5-9 for from the field, with Demetri McCamey and Brandon Paul each scoring 12 first-half points.
Defense was pretty rare in the half, with Texas shooting 56 percent from the field and 38 percent from the arc, while Illinois shot 50 percent from both the field and the three-point line.
Both teams' percentages plummeted in a brutal second half that saw a number of foul stoppages and 45 free throws. That wasn't good news for the Longhorns, who made just 25 of their 44 freebies (56.8 percent in the game).
That especially bit Texas in the second half. A Dogus Balbay lay-in gave the Longhorns a nine-point lead at 56-47, but it should have been a double-digit margin — at the time, Texas was just 7-18 from the line. The Illini hung around, then roared back, actually taking a 69-68 lead on a pair of McCamey free throws with 4:46 left.
The Longhorns took a two-point lead with about 25 seconds left when freshman guard Cory Joseph dropped in a floater, but Illinois equalized with 11.2 seconds left on a shot by freshman Jereme Richardson.
That set up overtime, where Texas dominated early. The Longhorns scored the first eight points of OT, taking an 83-75 advantage when Thompson hit a juniper. But even then, the Illini didn't go quietly. A Gary Johnson free throw gave Texas an 85-78 lead before the Illini's Bill Cole hit three pointers on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to 87-84. But Texas hit three of its final six free throws to close out the game.
Hamilton led Texas with 25 points and seven rebounds, while Thompson had 20 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists. His day could have been even better, but Thompson was 4-12 from the free throw stripe. Gary Johnson added a 16-7.
Illinois was paced by 22 points, six rebounds and six assists from McCamey. D.J. Richardson scored 15.
Illinois (3-1) will play Maryland in the consolation game. Texas (3-0) will play Pittsburg in the championship.