Rapid Reaction: Illinois 81, Auburn 79

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
3:38
PM CT
CHICAGO -- A quick look at No. 12 Illinois’ 81-79 win over Auburn at the United Center on Saturday.

Overview: Playing in Chicago hadn’t been kind to Illinois in recent years. The Illini had been knocked off the last three times they held their annual game in Chicago.

Although it wasn’t as easy as the Illini hoped, they did finally reverse their fortune in the Windy City on Saturday.

Illinois looked as if it might put Auburn away when it extended its lead to double digits in the second half, but the Tigers continued to hang around and pulled within a point with 4:25 left.

The Illini have often relied on the 3-pointer this season, but they moved away from that on Saturday. They hit just four 3-pointers in the win and did most of their damage getting to the rim and with mid-range jumpers. Nine players scored for the Illini.

Auburn kept itself in the game with the 3-pointer. The Tigers were 11-of-23 from 3-point range. Frankie Sullivan scored a team-high 21 points.

Turning point: Illinois allowed Auburn to get within 68-67 with just over four minutes remaining. From there, Illinois surged forward again. The Illini closed out the game on a 13-9 run, but a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Auburn made the score appear closer.

Key player: Illinois sophomore point guard Tracy Abrams didn’t score in last year’s game at the United Center. He made up for it against Auburn. He scored a career-high 27 points and added eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Key stat: Illinois was 27 of 40 from the free-throw line. Auburn was 10 of 16.

Next game: Illinois finished its non-conference schedule with a 13-1 mark. The Illini open the Big Ten season by traveling to Purdue on Wednesday. Auburn still has one more non-conference game remaining and will host Florida State on Wednesday.
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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