CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Malcolm Hill made sure Illinois didn’t blow another double-digit lead on Tuesday night in an 88-74 win over North Carolina State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The senior scored 22 points to lead an Illini team that bounced back following a 0-3 Thanksgiving week.
When Illinois showed signs of faltering like it had in the past, Hill and other role players like Tracy Abrams (17 points) helped secure the win.
“Really proud of the way the guys responded,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “We ratcheted it up to another level (in the second half).”
Illinois (5-3) shot 30 of 60 from the field for 50 percent to outlast N.C. State in what was a tightly contested game in which neither team had a double-digit lead until the Illini led 67-57 with about eight minutes left.
The Wolfpack held a 33-32 edge at the half but Illinois came out firing, shooting 68 percent in the second half and creating large leads that the Wolfpack could not overcome.
The Illini bench outscored the Wolfpack’s 39-22 and was led by Leron Black, who scored 15 points and brought in eight rebounds.
Black has only played the last three games before Tuesday (suspension) and noted the adaptation it takes to understand how each player performs.
“We just kind of come together each game. We get used to playing with each other,” Black said. “We’re just getting better as a team and getting more chemistry.”
Torin Dorn scored 17 points to lead N.C. State (5-2), which shot 53 percent from the field.
Despite the hot shooting, the Wolfpack committed 19 turnovers, which prevented the offense to consistently produce and resulted in 17 Illinois points.
“The game was experienced versus inexperienced,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “I thought we played like an inexperienced team.”
Illinois: The Illini got a much-needed win against a respectable ACC opponent after a disastrous Thanksgiving week. Illinois will need to win most if not all of the remaining nonconference games if it wants to prove it’s a NCAA Tournament team.
North Carolina State: Time will tell whether this was a respectable loss. The Wolfpack will have a relatively easy path to the start of conference play.
Malcolm Hill showed his potential in the NBA with a drive down the lane in the second half that left all the North Carolina State players standing still. When asked about the move, Hill said strength coach Adam Fletcher will probably tell him he should’ve dunked it.
HE SAID IT
“When we play like that, we can compete against any team.” Tracy Abrams.
Senior guard Jaylon Tate started the game but lost his role after a rough start. He was held scoreless and played nine minutes, including sitting out the entire second half.
Illinois travels to Miami on Saturday where it will play VCU in the Hoophall Miami Invitational.
North Carolina State returns home where it will host Boston University on Saturday.