Illinois beats Boise State, advances to NIT quarterfinals
Seniors Tracy Abrams, Malcolm Hill and Maverick Morgan led a second-half rally that gave Illinois a 71-56 victory over Boise State in NIT second-round play on Monday night at State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
With new head coach Brad Underwood observing from a suite, second-seeded Illinois (20-14) limited sixth-seeded Boise State (20-12) to six points in the final 10:12.
Abrams, a sixth-year guard, scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to lead Illinois, which advanced to face fourth-seeded Central Florida (23-11) in quarterfinal action on Wednesday night.
Though Illinois is the higher seed for Wednesday’s NIT quarterfinal matchup, interim head coach Jamall Walker and his team must go to Orlando, Fla., as the State Farm Center is booked with the musical “42nd Street.”
Hill added 13 points in his final game at State Farm Center while Morgan contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Leron Black posted 12 points and 10 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double.
Boise State (20-12) got 17 points from Chandler Hutchison and 12 from Nate Duncan, who drilled 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions late in the first half to give the Broncos a 34-33 halftime advantage.
The teams swapped leads several times in the second half, and Alex Hobbs’ two free throws gave Boise State a 50-49 lead with 10:12 to play. But Illinois reeled off nine points in a row to take control.
Illinois’ run started with freshman point guard Te‘Jon Lucas’ no-look pass to Black for a dunk, and Abrams followed with a fast-break layup for a three-point play.
When Hill drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with 7:44 to play, he lifted Illinois to a 57-50 lead and passed 2005 All-American guard Dee Brown (1,812 points) for third on the school’s all-time scoring list.
Boise State, which shot 6 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half, couldn’t narrow the gap as it missed all 14 of its 3-point attempts in the second half.
Boise State played without fifth-year senior guard James Reid -- the team’s No. 3 scorer at 10.0 points per game -- due to a concussion. Illinois played without sophomore forward Michael Finke due to a foot injury.