Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now

Auburn vs Illinois

Abrams, Illini hold off Tigers

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

CHICAGO -- Brandon Paul looks at the rest of the Illinois roster and sees no reason why the Illini can't compete in the Big Ten.

At this point, who can argue?

Tracy Abrams scored a career-high 27 points and No. 12 Illinois tuned up for conference play with an 81-79 victory over Auburn on Saturday.

The Illini (13-1) saw an 11-point lead shrink to one in the closing minutes but they prevailed after falling to Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game a week earlier -- their first loss under coach John Groce. Their next game is the conference opener at Purdue on Wednesday, and Paul believes they are ready.

More on college basketball
Related links

He sees more confidence and more talent than in recent years.

"I just feel like we have a lot more weapons and a lot more confidence, not only in myself but the guys that I play with," Paul said. "They come in with the mindset that they're going to compete every game and play hard and what's going to dictate the end of the game is how we play."

They had to scratch and claw for this one, and things got real tense when Frankie Sullivan buried a 3 for Auburn (5-7) to make it 68-67 with 4:29 remaining. Illinois then hit 13 of 18 free throws the rest of the way for a rare win at the United Center, where they had dropped three straight and five of six after winning 18 in a row.

They can thank Abrams.

The sophomore guard came up big on a day when Paul was off target, going 6 of 11 from the field and 13 of 15 from the free throw line while eclipsing his previous high by five points.

Paul, meanwhile, finished with 13 points but hit just 3 of 12 shots. He missed all five 3-point attempts and the Illini again struggled from the outside, going 4 of 15 after hitting 8 of 32 against Missouri.

Even so, they head into conference play on a winning note.

"We going to stay level," Abrams said. "We're going to try to execute our game plan."

Sullivan led Auburn with 21 points. Rob Chubb scored 13, and Allen Payne chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds. But the Tigers committed 20 turnovers -- six by Chris Denson and five by Sullivan -- even though Illinois wasn't pressing.

"They didn't press us one time, and we had over 20 turnovers," coach Tony Barbee said.

He called that "just inexcusable," and Sullivan wasn't about to argue.

"We were just being lazy with the ball, not executing," Sullivan said. "It was more us [making mental mistakes], because they weren't really pressuring us."

Josh Wallace hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Auburn to make it a two-point game, but by then, the Illini had sealed the win.

Both teams hit 16 of 30 shots in the first half, but Illinois took a 47-42 lead with Abrams scoring 16 points. He hit two free throws with 4 minutes left in the half to break a 39-39 tie and start a 14-5 run that stretched into the second half.

The only points for Auburn during that stretch came on a three-point play by Wallace with 2:22 remaining before halftime and two free throws by Chubb with 17:15 left in the game before D.J. Richardson hit two of his own for Illinois, making it 53-44.

The Tigers went more than seven minutes without a field goal before Sullivan's layup with 15 minutes remaining. But Paul answered with a wild one of his own, flipping the ball over his shoulder and into the basket as he slipped near the baseline.

That was one of the highlight reel plays in a game that Groce said was the "grindiest 80-point game I've been involved in."

Now, the real grind is beginning.

Groce, an assistant at Ohio State before taking the head coaching job at Ohio University, knows what to expect.

"Home, road, all of them are fistfights," he said. "It's a great league. Toughness is really, really important. Execution is really important and then players making plays is important."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
Tracy Abrams helps Illinois avoid an upset to Auburn with his career-high, 27-point effort. (US Presswire)
Tracy Abrams helps Illinois avoid an upset to Auburn with his career-high, 27-point effort. (US Presswire)

 
Scoreboard
Auburn (5-7)423779
Illinois #12 (13-1) «473481
AUBURN:F. Sullivan 21 Pts
AUBURN:A. Payne 10 Reb
AUBURN:F. Sullivan 4 Ast
ILL:T. Abrams 27 Pts
ILL:T. Abrams 8 Reb
ILL:T. Abrams 5 Ast
 
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
AuburnIllinois
AUBURN
Frankie Sullivan
ILL
Tracy Abrams
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
21342785
Auburn Tigers
F. Sullivan, G308-170-034421
A. Payne, F274-82-3101410
C. Denson, G252-83-64428
R. Chubb, C235-73-450313
S. Johnson, G192-30-03355
J. Wallace, G233-61-13428
N. Johnson, G172-50-05016
A. Dixon-Tatum, C172-31-22245
B. Greene Jr., G141-30-00003
C. Holmes, G50-00-00000
D. Spencer, GDid Not Play
K. Harrell, GDid Not Play
J. Granger, FDid Not Play
J. Price, GDid Not Play
N. Pellar, G-FDid Not Play
Totals 29-6010-1635182579
 48.3%62.5% 
Illinois Fighting Illini
T. Abrams, G356-1113-1585227
B. Paul, G313-127-1033113
T. Griffey, F234-60-24128
D. Richardson, G232-73-55238
N. Egwu, F-C233-70-02136
S. McLaurin, F252-22-43146
J. Bertrand, G213-30-03007
M. Henry, G-F101-31-22003
D. Langford, G-F81-11-20103
M. LaTulip, G10-00-00000
K. Berardini, GDid Not Play
I. Djimde, F-CDid Not Play
M. Shaw, FDid Not Play
Totals 25-5227-4030141581
 48.1%67.5% 
Southeastern
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-L
Florida18-036-3
Kentucky12-629-11
Georgia12-620-14
Tennessee11-724-13
Arkansas10-822-12
Missouri9-923-12
LSU9-920-14
Ole Miss9-919-14
Texas A&M8-1018-16
Vanderbilt7-1115-16
Alabama7-1113-19
Auburn6-1214-16
S. Carolina5-1314-20
Miss. State3-1514-19

Big Ten
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-L
Michigan15-328-9
Wisconsin12-630-8
Michigan St.12-629-9
Nebraska11-719-13
Ohio St.10-825-10
Iowa9-920-13
Minnesota8-1025-13
Illinois7-1120-15
Indiana7-1117-15
Penn St.6-1216-18
Northwestern6-1214-19
Purdue5-1315-17
 
Other games
WMICH 68 Final
NCST 84
SNCLRA 77 Final
DUKE 90
UNLV 73 Final
UNC 79
UK 77 Final
LOU 80
CHIST 44 Final
OHIOST 87
AF 61 Final
FLA 78
CMICH 73 Final
MICH 88
ALCORN 36 Final
SYR 57
UMKC 44 Final
KSU 52
AMER 57 Final
KANSAS 89
BUTLER 68 Final
VANDY 49
EVAN 70 Final
CREIGH 87