Miami basketball survives Illinois behind 28 from Chris Lykes

The Miami basketball team led 45-17 in the first half then had to hold on to win 81-79 at Illinois behind 28 points by Chris Lykes in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge on Monday night.

The Miami basketball team came out scorching on the road at Illinois on Monday night in the tipoff game of the 2019 ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Hurricanes bolted to a 45-18 lead in the first half and had to hold on in the final few minutes to defeat Illinois 81-79 in Champaign on Monday night.

Chris Lykes tied a career-high with 28 points and Dejan Vasiljevic added 20 as the Hurricanes perimeter game shined in a win Miami had to have. The victory over the Fighting Illini broke a two-game losing streak in games the Hurricanes looked putrid at the Charleston Classic in losses to Florida and Connecticut.

Miami went into halftime with a 50-31 lead by making 20 of their 30 shots from the floor and 6-12 on three-point attempts. Lykes did anything he wanted against Illinois in the first half with 18 points on 7-9 from the floor with two assists and three steals. Sam Waardenburg had 10 in the first half and Vasiljevic and Kam McGusty nine.

Illinois shot a respectable 44 percent in the first half and made three of eight of their three-point attempts but turned the ball over 10 times. The Fighting Illini took over in the second half. Illinois nearly completed an epic comeback after Miami stretched the lead back to 20 plus at 62-40 with 16:18 left in the game.

Miami Hurricanes
Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois outscored the Hurricanes 39-19 the rest of the way. Miami shot 50 percent in the second half, but the Illini were a blazing 60.7 percent in the second half and only turned the ball over three times. The Illini used excellent balance in the second half with six players scoring at least five points after halftime.

Center Kofi Cockburn led Illinois with 23 points on the night by making all eight of his shots from the field and grabbing four rebounds. Illinois dominated the boards in the second half. After Miami outrebounded Illinois in the first half, the Illini flipped the script with a 19-9 advantage on the boards in the second half.

Miami basketball head coach Jim Larranaga was proud of the performance that his team gave in the first half and the tenacity they showed in holding on for the victory. Miami gave themselves a chance to win the game because of the 27 point lead they took in the first half. The Hurricanes never trailed in the game.

“Winning on the road is very difficult, but getting out in front and playing as well as we did in the first half really gave us a chance. I have got a lot of respect for the job Illinois did, and their players in making a great comeback, but we were able to keep our poise down the stretch and win the game.”

Miami essentially won the game with a 20-2 run over a 5:52 stretch in the first half. The run took the Hurricanes from a 5-3 deficit to a 23-7 lead. Miami had 9-0 and 11-0 run sandwiched around the only Illinois basket during that time frame. The Illini were able to get back in the game late in the second half with their own 12-0 run.

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Miami’s sizzling first half was remarkable. The Hurricanes were 18 of 21 after missing their first two shots in the game. Miami made 10 in a row at one point. Four Hurricanes finished in double figures led by Lykes and Vasiljevic. Waardenburg finished with the 10 points, added eight rebounds and was 2-4 on threes.

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