INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tracy Abrams‘ second half Thursday was as good as any game he had during the Big Ten season.
Illinois’ junior guard scored 17 of his season-high 25 points in the second half, including a game-clinching run in the No. 9-seeded Illini’s 64-54 win over No. 8 seed Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“I am not concerned about the points,” Abrams said. “I am just glad we were able to pull it out and fight as a team and a unit.”
Abrams hadn’t scored more than 17 points in a game during the conference regular season. But he seized the moment Thursday for Illinois (19-13).
Make that moments.
After the Hoosiers (17-15) turned a 30-28 halftime deficit into a 38-33 lead, Abrams scored five straight points to tie the game. That started a 14-2 run by the Illini.
The Hoosiers answered, pulling within 47-46 on a layup by Yogi Ferrell. But Abrams again had the answer, hitting one of his two 3-pointers to make it a 50-46 game.
And when the Hoosiers again pulled within one, on an Austin Etherington layup to make it 53-52 with 3:13 to play, Abrams had the final answer, hitting his second 3-pointer.
“It was a defensive mistake,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It’s something we practice. We didn’t get into that rotation as quickly as we needed to.
“… They were really hurting us with the high-ball screen, that’s why we had to go to more of a zone there. We just didn’t get over there quick enough.”
Abrams, who fell two points shy of matching his career high, scored nine of Illinois’ final 11 points, including six at the free throw line.
The Illini (used runs of 9-0 in the first half and 11-0 in the second half to improve to 6-2 all-time against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
The win sends Illinois into a second-round matchup Friday with No. 1 seed Michigan. The Wolverines (23-7), ranked eighth in The Associated Press poll, routed the Illini 84-53 on March 4 in Champaign.
“Obviously we’ve got a great challenge tomorrow against Michigan,” Illinois coach John Groce said.
Rayvonte Rice added 13 points and Kendrick Nunn scored 10 for Illinois, which improved to 6-2 all-time against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.