Illini grind past Illinois State for Cancun title
Bruce Weber said the Cancun Challenge wasn't the field at Maui, but it wouldn't be easy to win there. He was right on both counts.
Illinois needed to rally back from a seven-point second half deficit, but it got the job done, beating Illinois State 63-59 late Wednesday to improve to 5-0.
While disappointed, ISU (3-2), which was led by forward Jackie Carmichael's 17 points, showed some potential that's encouraging for the rest of its season.
Redbirds guard Tyler Brown had a game-tying three-pointer wiped out with 29 seconds left because his heels were out of bounds as he took the shot. After an uncharacteristic turnover by Sam Maniscalco in the waning seconds, Brown's three-pointer bounced off the rim with Illinois leading 61-59.
Maniscalco, who led Illinois with 14 points, knocked down a three-pointer with 52 seconds left to give Illinois a 59-54 lead. Mansicalco, D.J. Richardson (13 points), Brandon Paul (12) and Meyers Leonard (10 points, eight rebounds) all played at least 33 minutes as Weber leaned on his starters again.
The basketball from Cancun will never be confused with what was going on at the same time in Maui, where former Illini coach Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks were edged by Duke in the championship game.
But 5-0 is 5-0 for Illinois, which travels to Maryland on Tuesday and plays host to Gonzaga on Dec. 3 after hosting Chicago State on Sunday. The Terrapin and Zags' games will tell more.
One thing that's already becoming apparent: If Maniscalco, a clutch and gritty fifth-year senior, hadn't dropped out of the sky from Bradley, Illinois would have a much different looking team.
TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/44102