Illinois Rallies Past Boston University, 66-62
by The Associated Press, with additional reporting from Rob McColley
Rayvonte Rice scored seven straight points late in the game and finished with 28, rallying Illinois past Boston University 66-62 on Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.
The second-seeded Illini fought back from a 30-13 first-half deficit.
Rice made the key play with 2:07 left when his steal and three-point play trimmed it to 61-60. He added two free throws and a driving layup to give Illinois a 64-61 lead.
Dom Morris missed a contested layup on an inbounds play with 11 seconds left that would have tied it for BU, the regular-season champion in the Patriot League.
Coach John Groce said his team has come a long way since its eight game losing streak.
"We're a lot further along now in terms of mental toughness with our team," he said. "We've got to make plays, and we've got to grow up. I think we have grown up a litte bit, I think today certainly was another sign."
Nnanna Egwu added two free throws to ice it for Illinois (20-14), which advanced to play No. 3 seed Clemson in the second round at 10 a.m. Central time Sunday. Malcolm Hill had 10 points for the Illini.
It was the first meeting between Illinois and BU (24-11), which was seeking its first win in the NIT after five losses.
D.J. Irving had 17 points for the seventh-seeded Terriers and point guard Maurice Watkins had seven points and 12 assists. Morris scored 10.