Shaun Pruitt finishes off a dunk in the first half. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nov. 25, 2006
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) - Jamar Smith hit a go-ahead 3-pointer and the Illini stormed back from a nine-point second-half deficit to defeat Bradley 75-71 Saturday night, winning a matchup of early-season unbeatens in the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
Bradley (5-1) was led by 17 points from Will Franklin and 16 from Daniel Ruffin.
Leading by six at the half, Bradley went up nine as Ruffin twice sailed through the lane for floating baskets.
Frazier's two 3-pointers and strong inside play by the 6-foot-10 Pruitt helped rally the Illini, who climbed to within 54-53 with just under eight minutes left.
Danny Adams hit a 3-pointer for Bradley and Carter scored for the Illini, making it a two-point game with seven minutes remaining.
Illinois missed two shots to tie before Smith - who hadn't played since the season opener after hurting his ankle - hit a 3-pointer to give the Illini a 58-57 lead with 5:36 left. Pruitt then made two free throws and the Illini were up 60-57 with just under five minutes remaining. Moments later Carter converted a three-point play and it was 63-57 with 4:03 to go.
Bradley got within three but Frazier made two free throws and Carter's layup on a great pass from Smith put the Illini back up six with 47 seconds remaining. Carter hit two free throws with 19 seconds left to seal it.
The Braves, who beat Kansas and Pitt in the NCAA tournament last spring but lost stars Marcellus Sommerville and Patrick O'Bryan, started four guards and had to battle against an Illini size advantage. But early on they made it up with speed and quickness - and some strong 3-point shooting.
Jeremy Crouch hit his third 3-pointer of the half and the lightning-quick Ruffin made a steal and then followed up a miss to give the Braves a 26-16 lead with 7:22 left in the half. Franklin's 3-pointer moments later pushed the lead to 11.
Illinois cut it to four behind 3-pointers from Rich McBride and Smith and trailed by six at the half. Crouch, who'd made 22-of-34 entering the game, was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in the first half, but didn't make one in the second, missing all three attempts.
The game was played in the new 11,000-seat Sears Centre, located 35 miles northwest of Chicago.