CHAMPAIGN—Illinois opened its season with eight straight Big Ten losses. It tied the worst conference start in school history, and included seven losses by 10 points or less.Early on Wednesday night, it looked as if it would be more of the same for the Illini.The Hoosiers made six of their first nine shots, leading to a quick 14-6 lead.But freshman Trent Frazier kept the Illini afloat in the first half. With just over six minutes left in the period, he reeled off 13 straight points. He finished with 19 points and a team-high three assists to help Illinois squeeze out a 73-71 victory over Indiana.
”We just celebrated in the locker room,” Frazier said. ”It feels good, man. . We’re finally building that (winning) culture.”
The two-point victory was the team’s first Big 10 Conference win of the season and the first of coach Brad Underwood’s career. It also snapped the Illini’s six-game losing streak.
”What do you want to call it?” Underwood asked. ”We finally got the gorilla, the monkey, the piano gets lifted off (our) back. . You get a better feeling when you leave the building.”
Leron Black also had a big night for the Illini. He scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half and reached double figures for the 18th time this season.At halftime, Illinois (11-11, 1-8) trailed by six and had only two free throw attempts. But in the final period, Illinois made 22-of-30 free throws and forced 11 turnovers to outscore the Hoosiers 41-33. The biggest shot of the game came from Kipper Nichols with just over two minutes to play.Leading by three, Illinois swung the ball to Nichols for a wide open look. He buried the long jumper and the fans at State Farm Center erupted as he put the Illini ahead by two possessions.That six-point lead proved to be big, as Indiana cut the lead to two with just 8.3 seconds left. Frazier had the chance to seal the deal, but missed two free throws, leaving Indiana (12-9, 5-4) an opportunity to tie or win the game.