No. 17 Illinois men’s basketball completes comeback win against No. 2 Texas at the Jimmy V Classic

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Sydney Laput

Senior forward Matthew Mayer blocks Syracuse freshman guard Judah Mintz on Nov. 29.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

No. 17 Illinois completed a 10-point comeback with just six minutes remaining on Tuesday night, and took down No. 2 Texas at Madison Square Garden for the first game of the Jimmy V Classic. An incredible night by fifth year senior transfer Matthew Mayer saw him end the night with a game-high 21 points, while senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. ended overtime with 10 points.

Despite some shaky recent performances from his starters, Brad Underwood lined up the same as every other game this season, fielding freshman guard Skyy Clark, Shannon, sophomore guard RJ Melendez, Mayer and junior forward Coleman Hawkins for first tip against the Longhorns.

This top-25 affair began with a pair of threes, with Mayer hitting a triple in the first thirty seconds before Texas equalized quickly after. Mayer continued the scoring, but so did Texas, as each team shot 100% for the first two minutes. The Longhorns grabbed an early 8-7 lead as a result.

The hot start stopped immediately after the two-minute mark, as Illinois then went on a two-minute scoring drought. Both teams garnered a pair of turnovers during this time, and redshirt sophomore Dain Dainja soon finished the scoring drought around the 15 minute mark, bringing it to 9-10 in favor of Texas before another Longhorn three.

Texas began to falter as well, but due to poor shooting from Illinois, remained in front by two with 10 to go. Melendez picked up his second foul of the night and didn’t reenter for the rest of the half.

Mayer put Illinois up for just the second time on Tuesday with a pair of contested stepback threes over Longhorn guard Brock Cunningham. The Illini went into a media timeout with eight minutes left up 23-22 in the tightly contested first half. With just above six minutes to play, Illinois led Texas in rebounds, 10-5, and in three point percentage, 50%-33%.

With each team getting into foul trouble early and some work on the offensive glass, Illinois entered the final minute up 35-32. Each team traded blows one last time in half one, as Dainja put home an authoritative dunk and Texas hit a midrange jumper. Illini led 37-34 at the half.

While Shannon had 0 points at halftime, he got on the board immediately, scoring a midrange just seconds into the second half. After all was said and done, Shannon ended Tuesday’s regular time with four points on 10 attempts, his worst performance of the season.

The real star of the night for Illinois was Mayer, who was 7/7 from the floor with 18 remaining in the game. Although he cooled off, Mayer ended the night with 21 points on 10 attempts despite playing many minutes on four fouls.

In a 12-0 run after Shannon’s two, Texas surged into the largest lead of the night, up 50-44, and carried this momentum throughout most of the half. During this drought, Dainja missed two free throws and earned his fourth personal foul of the night. He did not reappear for most of the half.

A goaltending call ended Illinois’ drought, and Shannon held the majority of Illinois’ second half points after eight minutes. At the midway point of the second half, the Illini had turned the ball over 16 times to the Longhorns’ eight. After early season issues with turnovers, Tuesday night became just another example of ball insecurity for Underwood’s side.

With this, Texas extended its lead to 10 points, up 56-46 with eight minutes remaining in the match. The Illini began slowly chipping away at the lead however, and tides began to turn.

Freshman guard Sencire Harris cut the Texas lead down to five, before a Melendez three cut the lead down to just two. A Texas three negated Melendez’s effort, but the Illini were back in the match with just under four to go.

A clutch three pointer with 50 seconds to play and two free throws by freshman guard Jayden Epps put the Illini level with eight seconds to play. Longhorn guard Marcus Carr missed the ensuing final shot, and sent the two teams into their first overtime bouts of the season, tied at 68-68.

Illinois was the first team to take the lead in OT at the Garden, with a two from Shannon, and then a quick three from Shannon as well. With that, he put the Illini up 73-70 halfway through overtime, and outscored his four points from the regular time.

Illinois returners saw out the match, as Melendez sunk two free throws, and Hawkins blocked Cunningham’s layup attempt with 38 seconds to go. Shannon reached 12 points in overtime with 20 seconds to go and completed the Illini’s win.

With the 17 point overtime performance by the Illini, the No. 2 Longhorns fell, giving Illinois its second top-10 win of the season.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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