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Indiana holds off upset-minded Illinois

Jan 14, 2008 - 1:51 AM BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (Ticker) -- Indiana survived a challenge from Illinois to keep alive two winning streaks.

Armon Bassett made three 3-pointers in the second half Sunday as the 11th-ranked Hoosiers held off the Fighting Illini, 62-58, in a Big Ten Conference contest.

Indiana (14-1, 3-0 Big Ten) rallied from a 45-39 deficit to post its 10th straight victory. The Hoosiers also extended their winning streak at Assembly Hall to 27 games.

"I think the sign of a pretty good basketball team is finding ways to win games when you aren't at the top of your game," Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I don't think we played as well as I think we are capable of playing."

The Fighting Illini (8-9, 0-4) suffered their fifth straight defeat to drop under .500 and remain winless in the Big Ten.

Indiana erased the six-point deficit with a 10-0 spurt, then held on when Illinois missed three chances to tie on its final possession.

"In the second half, we defended better," Sampson added. "Offensively, we just never seemed to get in a rhythm."

Bassett, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half, hit his final 3-pointer to give the Hoosiers a 60-55 lead with 1:40 remaining. The sophomore guard then converted a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining to put away the contest.

Illinois had closed within 60-58 on Trent Meacham's 3-pointer with 1:26 left, then got back the ball when Bassett missed a jumper with 35 seconds remaining.

Demetri McCamey drove the baseline, where his layup was blocked by guard A.J. Ratliff. After a scramble, Illinois got the ball into the hands of Brian Randle at the top of the key but Randle tossed up an airball from the arc with eight seconds left.

"He kind of hesitated," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said of Randle's 3-point attempt. "I don't know. All I know is it was short. I don't know if it was blocked or he got fouled. It was crazy."

Illinois had one more chance as Randle grabbed his own rebound but the ball was stolen by Ratliff when he went up for another shot. Ratliff passed to Bassett, who was fouled to prevent the clock from expiring. His two free throws accounted for the final margin.

"People were just going after the ball because the game was on the line," Indiana's D.J. White said of the final sequence. "A.J. made a great play at the end on the block."

Eric Gordon scored 17 points and White added 15 for Indiana, which limited Illinois to one field goal during a nine-minute stretch in the second half.

The Illini started quick, jumping out to a 13-4 lead in the first four minutes, and held a 34-30 edge at the intermission.

Illinois stretched its lead to 44-37 with 13:25 left on a layup by Shaun Pruitt, who scored 14 points. Jeff Jordan hit 1-of-2 from the line to make it 45-39 with 12:12 to play.

With the offense struggling, Indiana's defense seized control of the contest, holding Illinois to just five points over the next six-plus minutes.

"We have to grow up as a team," Weber said. "Hopefully, it's not too late."

White's layup gave the Hoosiers a 49-45 lead with 10:17 remaining, and Illinois did not make another field goal until Pruitt's jumper pulled the Illini within 53-50 with 5:56 to go.

Ratliff's 3-pointer pushed Indiana's advantage to 57-51 with 4:29 left.