Tigers Never Lead in Fourth Straight Defeat vs. Illini
ST. LOUIS(AP) — As a timid freshman, Illinois forward Malcolm Hill wasn’t sure he would be able to make much noise in the annual rivalry game with Missouri.
“I was 190 pounds and I thought, `there’s no way I would be able to hang with these guys,’” Hill recalled.
Fast forward four years.
The 6-foot-6 senior scored 21 points, on 6-of-12 shooting, and Maverick Morgan recorded his second successive double-double to lead Illinois to a 75-66 win over Missouri on Wednesday night. Morgan hit 7 of 8 free throws and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.
Hill, a St. Louis-area native, fashioned his second successive strong performance against Missouri on the way to finishing his career unbeaten against the Tigers.
“It’s special, it’s awesome,” Hill said. “Not too many people can say they went 4-0 against Missouri.”
He had 21 points and five rebounds in a 68-63 win over Missouri last season.
This time around, Hill helped the Illini out to an early 15-5 lead and then played a key role in holding off a pair of Missouri rallies that trimmed the deficit to four in the second half.
Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 12 for the Illini (10-3), who have won six in a row overall and the last four in the border series.
Kevin Puryear led Missouri (5-6) with 17 points. Terrence Phillips had 14 points and Jordan Geist added 12.
Illinois shot 61.5 percent in the first half on the way to a 39-29 lead.
Hill’s second 3-pointer of the night put Illinois up 58-49 with just over 12 minutes left.
Missouri charged back to within 63-59 on a pair of foul shots by Reed Nikko. But Michael Finke answered with a free throw and a 3-pointer to push the lead to 67-59.
The Tigers trailed by at least six the rest of the way.
Illinois hit 10 of its first 15 shots to take control early as Missouri missed 10 of its first 12.
Illinois has won 24 of 36 games since the series was moved to St. Louis.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “They showed some poise. We had some quality possessions down the stretch.”
Morgan converted an old-fashioned 3-point play early in the second half to stretch the lead to 49-39.
“He’s been a beast,” Hill said.
Missouri managed to overcome a slow start with a solid second-half performance that impressed coach Kim Anderson.
“The first half they came out and punched us a little bit,” Anderson said. “But I thought we played well in the second half.”
Anderson was not pleased with his team’s shooting. The Tigers missed 24 shots in the second half and have hit 41.1 percent or less in their last six games. He indicated that there might be some changes in the starting lineup around the corner.
“We’re just not shooting the ball well,” Anderson said. “When that happens, you’ve got to mix it up a bit.”
Puryear agreed, “We got some good looks, we just have to knock them down.”
Illinois: The Illini won nine successive games against Missouri from 2000-2008, the longest streak in the 36-year history of the event. The series has featured five one-point games.
Missouri: The Tigers’ three-game losing streak is their longest of the season. The series drew at least 19,586 fans from 1994-2014, but only drew 12,409 on Saturday.