Full disclosure- I did not watch a lick of this game. Oh, I tried REALLY REALLY hard, but it didn’t happen, more on that in a minute. What really matters is that Illinois battled back from being down 16 points in the second half to grabbing a win on the road at Hawaii.
A D.J. Richardson buzzer-beating 3 gave the Illini a 1-point lead to steal the game away from the Rainbow Warriors.
So here’s what happened. The game was only on TV in Hawaii, but it was streamed for fans throughout the world. However, the streaming didn’t work. The game was on at 1130PM on Friday, and I stayed up just to watch. However, since the streaming didn’t work (word is that Illini fans are responsible since they didn’t anticipate that much traffic), we had to find a different way to enjoy the game.
I discovered that my clock radio that I haven’t used in about three years doesn’t actually get the radio anymore. Meanwhile, the score started getting ugly. When we finally found a streaming radio station, the score was 21-7 in favor of Hawaii. Eep.
Whelp, then the streaming radio pooped out, and we were left to simply stare at updated stats at midnight, with a halftime score of 41-28. We gave up and went to sleep (we also had to get up early to head to Champaign for the football game in the morning). Thanks to noisy neighbors, we were awakened at 4AM, and I immediately checked the score: Illinois pulled off the win in OT.
So what happened? Well take a gander (I’ve already watched this about 20 times):
A three-pointer by Brandon Spearman 30 seconds into the second half gave Hawaii a 16-point lead. However, unlike last year’s team, the Illini never gave up. They continued to chip away, and they finally caught up with 1:30 left in the game when a 3-pointer from Brandon Paul put them up 66-64. At the last second, Jace Tavita made a bucket, sending them into OT.
Hawaii led by as many as 5 points in OT, but Illinois still kept at it. With 7 seconds left, Tavita was fouled and given the chance to increase Hawaii’s 76-75 lead. He missed the first, and made the second, giving Hawaii a 2-point lead. Then, Abrams saw Richardson at the right time under the basket, and he made a 3 just as time ran out. In fact, the officials had to take a second look before pronouncing the Illini the winners!
Aside from Richardson, Paul and Tracy Abrams, no one else really showed up in Hawaii on Friday. Luckily, they were still able to pull of of a win. Last year, we absolutely would have lost this game. I feel a bit nervous that it was so close, but I am in love with the fact that they were down 16 points in the second and were able to come back and get that last-second shot to win the game. It gives me more faith that they can work together, and that Groce knows what’s up.
Richardson had 16 points, Abrams had 22 points and Paul had a game-high 25 points. Richardson also had a team-high 6 rebounds, while Nnanna Egwu and Abrams both had 5 points. Abrams also contributed 3 assists and a whopping 5 steals, continuing to prove that he is on track to be the team MVP this year. Despite the difficulty shooting (42% on 2′s, 35% on 3′s) the Illini managed to keep their turnovers down to just 8. On free throws, they were just 13-20.
Next, the Illini will face USC (my other team for those who don’t know) in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The game will be Monday at 11PM. Finally, the game will be on TV and can be seen on ESPN2.