Illinois shrugged off horrendous shooting during the opening 10 minutes to prevail 64-46 over Virginia Commonwealth in Hoophall Miami Invitational play on Saturday afternoon at AmericanAirlines Arena. Sophomore power forward Leron Black, making his first start of the year, posted a career-high-tying 18 points with seven rebounds to lead Illinois (6-3). Senior swingman Malcolm Hill added 16 points and five assists for the Illini, who shot 20 of 38 from the field after missing 11 of their first 12 shots. VCU (6-2), which missed a chance to earn the school's first 7-1 start since 1993, shot 31 percent from the field and 13 percent on 3-pointers as Illinois switched to its little-used 2-3 zone and stuck with it. Senior forward Mo Alie-Cox led the Rams with 10 points and three blocks. Illinois fell behind 11-3 eight minutes into the game because of its poor shooting, but VCU's own offensive issues allowed the Illini to catch up in short order. Senior forward Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed's layup with 10:50 left in the first half gave VCU a 13-6 lead, but the Rams didn't make another shot from the field until redshirt freshman guard Samir Doughty canned a 3-pointer with 3:05 to play. During VCU's 7:45 cold spell, Illinois went on a 9-0-run capped by Hill's 3-pointer to take a 22-14 lead with 4:46 left. The Illini carried a 31-21 lead into intermission as the teams combined to shoot 34 percent (19 of 56) from the field. Illinois owned a 33-21 lead after senior center Mike Thorne Jr.'s layup on the first possession of the second half, but VCU utilized an 11-0 run to pull within 35-34 with 14:56 to go. Junior forward Justin Tillman's layup forced the Illini to call a timeout and regroup. Illinois senior guard Tracy Abrams stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer from the corner. The Illini and Rams stayed within a couple possessions of each other until a crucial four-point possession for Illinois. Sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands sank a jumper with 6:28 left while VCU's Alie-Cox picked up his fourth foul away from the ball. Illinois regained possession and Hill drew a foul and sank two free throws to push the lead to 48-40 with 6:18 to go. From there, Hill and Black kept hitting critical shots near the end of the shot clock to keep VCU at bay.
Illinois survives slow start to beat VCU
The Sports Xchange | Dec 3