Missouri trailed 24-23 when freshman Wes Clark got hemmed in and committed a turnover that led to senior Earnest Ross’ second foul. The next possession, junior Jabari Brown was called for a 5-second violation — part of the Tigers’ 10 first-half giveaways. Missouri committed one turnover while building a 15-6 lead in the opening 6 minutes and change, while the Tigers committed nine turnovers the rest of the way as Illinois rallied for a four-point halftime lead.
Illinois made six of 13 three-pointers in the first half (46.2 percent), despite missing the last three tries from long distance. The Fighting Illini had been shooting 33.8 percent from beyond the arc entering the game, but led Missouri 31-27 at halftime thanks in large part to its three-point prowess.
Illinois junior Rayvonte Rice, who played two seasons for Missouri assistant coach Mark Phelps at Drake, fumbled a ball in the right corner. At first, it looked like a break for the Tigers, who had gone in front 64-63 on a three-pointer by Brown with 14.9 seconds left. Instead, Illini junior Tony Abrams wound up with the loose ball and knifed into the paint against a scrambling Tigers’ defense, drawing the foul that produced the game-winning points.
The game featured 15 lead changes and six ties. Missouri led by as many as nine points in the first half and by as many as seven in the second half on a layup at the 9:04 mark by junior Jordan Clarkson, who finished with game-highs for points (25) and assists (eight). Illinois never led by more than six points, but led when it mattered most — at the final buzzer.
Ekey enjoys Braggin’ Rights experience
During his three years at Illinois State, Jon Ekey never experienced anything quite like the Braggin’ Rights game.
Ekey — an Independence native and William Chrisman graduate — transferred as a graduate student to Illinois this season for exactly this kind of experience.
“It was crazy out there,” Ekey said. “Obviously, it wSas split down the middle for everything. Growing up, I always saw Missouri stuff and never really heard too much of the Illinois side, but it was definitely intense out there — probably the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of.”
• Missouri senior Earnest Ross joined the 1,000-point club with 13 points against Illinois.
He entered play with 990 career points and hit the milestone plateau with a pair of free throws at the 2-minute, 32-second mark in the second half.
Ross later added a three-pointer that gave the Tigers a 61-59 lead in the closing minutes, giving him 1,003 career points.