Updated rapid recap: Illinois takes down NC State 88-74 in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (21) rises up for a jump shot during the game against North Carolina State at State Farm Center on Tuesday, November 29. The Illini won 88-74.

By Lucas Wright, Staff writer

Breaking out of the team’s recent trend, the Illinois basketball team grinded out an 88-74 victory over NC State on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

It was a tale of two halves for the Illini, who shot 34.4 percent from the field in the first and tallied nine turnovers. Neither Illinois nor NC State could control the tempo or let alone the ball in the early going.

While scoring was at a premium for the Illini, there were a few bright spots on offense. Guard Tracy Abrams carried the team through the first half with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, and he ended up with 17 points.

Freshman guard Te’Jon Lucas impressed in his limited minutes off the bench with four points and two steals, but he tallied a technical foul later in the second half.

Trailing 33-32, Illinois flipped the script in the second half, hitting its first four shots to gain an early lead.

Senior Malcolm Hill found his stride in the second half after being in a slump from the field over the past two games. Hill poured in 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Illini in both categories.

Illinois controlled the tempo late, and Hill brought the crowd to its feet after splitting a double team and finishing in traffic.

“I was over on the sideline, and we like to have fun over there. So when he made it we just had fun like we always do,” forward Leron Black said.

“I’m pretty sure our strength coach is going to get on me,” Hill said. “He’s probably going to tell me I should have dunked it.”

Rounding out the balanced Illinois scoring attack was Leron Black with 15 points, Jalen Coleman-Lands with 11 and Maverick Morgan with nine.

There was a key omission from the second-half lineup for head coach John Groce’s squad. Jaylon Tate sat for entirety of the half, after starting the game and tallying two assists and a turnover in nine minutes.

Groce had been under fire recently for his lineup decisions, but tonight’s changes brought out the team’s first win in the last week and a half.

“Will guys minutes potentially change night-in and night-out? That’s the tricky part, but we’ve got to embrace that we’ve got a deep team,” Groce said. “It was just an instinct thing. Obviously that group played very well and we got contributions from the guys that came off the bench as well.”

The win was Illinois’ first over a non-mid major team.

“It was kind of in the back of people’s heads that we’d just lost three in a row,” Hill said. “All we were thinking about was how to beat NC State, we weren’t thinking ‘oh woe is us.’ It’s still early in the season and tomorrow we start focusing on VCU.”

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