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Sports | Published Dec. 21, 2013 | 0 comments

Illinois captures thrilling 65-64 win over Missouri

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Missouri’s Jonathan Williams III (left) and Jordan Clarkson (right) sky over opposing players in an attempt to block Malcom Hill of Illinois. Ben Kothe/Staff Photographer

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Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson runs past Tracy Abrams of Illinois, scanning the court for an open teammate. Ben Kothe/Staff Photographer

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Jonathan Williams III reacts to Missouri’s loss against Illinois at the Braggin' Right’s game on Dec. 21. Ben Kothe/Staff Photographer

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Missouri’s Jonathan Williams III swings off Illinois’ hoop in the second half of the Braggin' Right’s game. Ben Kothe/Staff Photographer

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Earnest Ross reacts to a foul called on Jonathan Williams III in the last moments of the Braggin' Right’s game. Ben Kothe/Staff Photographer

Mizzou basketball loses lead in the final seconds.

ST. LOUIS — The roars from both sides of the Scottrade Center finally culminated with 4.6 seconds left and Illinois leading by a point.

Missouri’s hopes clung to an in-bound pass that sailed toward Missouri guard Jordan Clarkson. The 6-foot-5, 193-pound junior had maddened Illinois the entire night with a game-high 25 points and eight assists.

Clarkson, though, let the pass slip from his fingers. As time wildly escaped, senior forward Tony Criswell scooped the errant pass and launched a shot from well beyond the arc.

He missed. Time expired.

After 15 lead changes, Illinois (10-2) eked past No. 23 Missouri (10-1) 65-64, to capture the 2013 Braggin’ Rights title.

Missouri’s loss was its first this season and put a stop to the Tigers' four-year winning streak in the annual nonconference matchup.

“It was emotionally draining,” Clarkson said.

Although the game ended in Illinois’ favor, Missouri took the initial lead in the first quarter. The Tigers tallied a 15-6 score, including an 8-0 run, to create the largest lead of the night.

The nine-point difference was erased in the ensuing minutes. Illinois roared back on a 10-0 run, and Illinois guard Tracy Abrams finally tied the Tigers at 18-all with nine minutes left in the first half.

Abrams paced the Illini in scoring with 22 points.

“Our guys remained poised,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “That was a huge juncture in the game.”

In typical Braggin’ Rights fashion, the game flew back and forth between Missouri and Illinois. The two teams tied each other six times.

Sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg’s two-handed slam with 5:37 left in the first half was quickly forgotten five minutes later. Abrams collected two points after Rosburg fouled him to extend Illinois’ largest lead of the night to six points.

Down four after halftime, Clarkson again stood up for Missouri, hanging off the rim after a dunk with 17:56 left in the game to tie Illinois at 35-apiece.

“He’s a dynamite player,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “He’s terrific.”

Mistakes kept the game close. Both teams shot below their average free throw percentages, with Missouri suffering the worst, falling 10 points below average.

Both teams also managed to cough up loose balls, but Illinois managed to out muscle Missouri in turnovers, 14-11.

Missouri’s younger players, too, made mistakes.

“We gotta secure the ball,” Haith said, rubbing his eyes. “Our young guys, Wes (Clark) and J-Three (freshman Johnathan Williams III), we need those guys to grow and get better. This environment, it’s the first time for those guys.”

Freshman guard Wes Clark was 1-for-5 from the floor, shooting well below his average.

Williams III also committed a miscue, fouling Abrams with 4.6 tics left in the game. Down by a point, Abrams nailed both free throws to snag the win for Illinois. He was 7-for-10 from the charity strip on the night.

Haith said the loss exposed many areas that Missouri needs to improve, including taking better shots — an area he said his team struggled with in the first half.

“That’s a really good ballgame,” he said. “I mean, two good teams playing hard. It came down to (two) free throws to lose the game.”

Missouri squares off against North Carolina State for its first road game of the season at 7 p.m. on Dec. 28.

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