Illinois Fighting Illini

Illini Fall in OT, 92-91, Despite Late Comeback

Illini basketball looked certain to fall to 0-3 on the week and 0-2 in Big Ten play Sunday night, as Maryland hit what seemed like their 100th wide-open layup to take a 45-24 lead late in the first half.  Brad Underwood then turned to his bench in frustration, saying: “I don’t know what we did last night, boys.”

Maryland held a 19-point half lead at the half on 19-26 shooting, while Illinois shot just 13-37, including a lackluster 2-14 from three-point range.  Terrapin point guard Anthony Cowan had 16 points at the break, and laughed down the floor numerous times as he took Illini defenders to the hoop with ease.

Whatever Brad Underwood said (shouted) in the locker room at halftime must have struck a chord with the Orange and Blue. After a poor first couple minutes of the second half, the Illini clawed their way back in the game.  A Michael Finke dunk and timely threes from Aaron Jordan and Mark Alstork gave Illinois their first lead of the game at 74-73 with just 1:43 to play.

The Fighting Illini had several opportunities to seal the game in regulation, but coughed the ball up on three consecutive possessions with under a minute left in the game – one of which was an ill-advised lob attempt from Te’Jon Lucas to Mark Alstork.  To cap off the failed attempt to put Maryland away, Lucas again was unable to convert at the free throw line in a clutch situation, making just 1-2 from the charity stripe with 17 seconds to play.

Still, Illinois led 75-73, with the ball out-of-bounds under Maryland’s basket with 4.6 seconds to play.  A full-court pass attempt from Da’Monte Williams to Kipper Nichols crossed the opposite end line untouched, giving Maryland possession of the ball under their own basket with the same time on the clock.  A Kevin Huerter three-point attempt missed long, but Maryland’s beast of a freshman, Bruno Fernando, was able to tip in the offensive rebound to send the game to overtime with no time on the clock.

After scoring just 2 points in the second half, Anthony Cowan stole the show in overtime. He scored on a drive, a long three, and iced the game at 92-91 by hitting 1-2 free throws with just .6 seconds left in the extra frame.

Five Illini scored in double-digits during the losing effort (Black 18, Alstork 17, Jordan 15, Frazier 11, Nichols 11). This loss moves Illinois’ overall record to 6-3, with an 0-2 mark in Big Ten play.  They’re back in action Wednesday night at home against Austin Peay.

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