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The University of Colorado men’s basketball team played Illinois on Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Austin, Tx, but fell (57-49) despite a large rally to start the second half.
The Buffs were seeded tenth for the tournament, while Illinois got a seventh seed.
Last season, the Buffs rode momentum from a Pac-12 Tournament Championship to take down UNLV in their opening game of March Madness.
Colorado is now 21-12 overall and 10-8 in the Pac-12. Illinois are 23-12 overall and 8-10 in their conference.
Freshman forward Josh Scott led the Buffs with eight points, 14 rebounds, a steal and three blocks. Abrams carried Illinois with 13 points, four rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.
The Buffs ended the first half down by 16 (37-21), the largest lead the Illini had throughout the half. Colorado started the half strong and were up. However, the half had four lead changes and the Illini finished much stronger and continued to increase their lead.
Colorado played timidly during the first half and only had three offensive rebounds going into the half. Illinois was able to get 12 points from Buffalo turnovers, giving them easy baskets. The Illini started off with the first basket of the game, but the Buffs responded quickly with a free throw by junior forward Andre Roberson to get them on the board. They outscored Illinois 14-11 for the next eight minutes, until a three-point basket by Brandon Paul put the Illini back on top.
At the beginning of the second half, Illinois shot poorly and only scored two points in the first eleven minutes of play. Colorado took advantage of this dry spell and rallied to a 44-39 lead.
Tracy Abrams stepped up for Illinois and scored a layup at the 8:36 minute mark to bring the score to 44-41. The Illini cut at the deficit even more with a free throw by Tyler Griffey and regained the lead shortly after with a three-point jumper by D.J. Richardson.
The score advanced to 46-50 with five minutes left in the game and with Illinois on top. It remained there after a series of turnovers and missed shots on both sides, until Paul made a set of free throws at the 1:06 mark.
Freshman forward Xavier Johnson made a three-point jumper with eighteen seconds left, but it was not enough to compensate for the five free throws that Illinois added to their score. The Illini won the game, 49-57.
Illinois will take on the winner of the No. 2 Miami and No. 15 Pacific in the third round on Sunday, Ma. 24, in Texas.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.