Updated rapid recap: Illinois beats Central Michigan 92-73

By Matt Gertsmeier, Illini hoops columnist

It was an extra special day for Tracy Abrams.

The six-year guard dropped a career-high 31 points and eclipsed 1,000 career points in Illinois’ 92-73 win over Central Michigan.

The Illini (8-3) extended their win streak to four after a convincing victory over the Chippewas (8-3).

Abrams eclipsed 1,000 points as an Illini early in the game with 15 minutes remaining in the first half. Points No. 1,000 and 1,001 came off of a step-back elbow jump shot.

Head coach John Groce said he expected Abrams to shoot well this season.

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    “I knew he was going to shoot the ball the best of his career,” Groce said. “First thing he was able to do when he came back from both injuries, that he was allowed to do, was shoot.”

    Abrams had half of Illinois’ first half point total as he dropped 23 on 7-8 shooting. He finished the game shooting 10-12 from the field and went 7-8 on three-pointers.

    His hot shooting was contagious. As a team, Illinois finished the day shooting 53 percent from the field, including 9-21 from deep. Leron Black finished the game with 21 points, and Malcolm Hill had 10 points. Maverick Morgan put up 11 and secured seven rebounds.

    Illinois dominated Central Michigan inside, outscoring the Chippewas 34-14 in the paint. The Illini also out-rebounded Central Michigan 49-25.

    This dominance carried over to the defensive end for Illinois.

    Illinois’ defense proved to be a challenge for Central Michigan. Illinois recorded four steals and four blocks. But the real impact came from Illinois’ pressure on Central Michigan shooters.

    The Chippewas shot 37 percent from the field off of 68 shot attempts. They finished 19 points off of their game average of 92. Part of Illinois’ game plan was to create the high volume and pressure Central Michigan to taking difficult shots.

    “That was our main goal,” Abrams said. “Make those guys high volume. There was high volume tonight. And we knew if we made those guys high volume we would be in a great situation to win the game. We did a great job of making those guys work for baskets.”

    The one bright spot for Central Michigan and challenge for Illinois was Marcus Keene, the leading scorer in the NCAA. Keene finished the game with 25 points. He shot 39 percent on 23 attempts.

    Groce credits his team’s defensive pressure.

    “I thought we did a good job of trying to force them into challenging contested shots,” Groce said. “(We) tried to defend the three-point line with some grit. I thought Hill was terrific defensively on the ball.”

    Full court pressure proved to be a bit of an issue for Illinois, who has struggled breaking presses this year.

    Late in the game, Central Michigan ramped up the pressure in the midst of an 8-2 run. The Chippewas applied a full court press with about four minutes left in the game resulting in a 10-second violation by Illinois. Central Michigan cut the lead to 14-points.

    “I thought we were playing the clock too much,” Groce said. “Our possessions weren’t of the quality of the first 32-34 minutes. We stalled a little bit there from the under eight to three minutes.

    The late pushed was extinguished as the Illini sealed the deal with a shot-clock buzzer beater from Abrams who drilled a step-back three-pointer and a Black breakaway dunk on the next possession.

    Abrams checked out of the game with 30 seconds left to loud applause from the fans.

    The last time Illinois started a season off 8-3 was two years ago when the Illini finished 19-14.

    The Illini have a week off from game action, with the team’s next game Saturday against BYU at the United Center in Chicago.

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