No. 9 Missouri holds off No. 25 Illinois
Pressley notches 18 points, five assists to lead charge for Tigers
ST. LOUIS -- Not much bragging for Missouri after this one.
Phil Pressey had 18 points, five assists and two steals, and the ninth-ranked Tigers held off a second-half charge by No. 25 Illinois for a 78-74 victory in the annual Braggin’ Rights game on Thursday night.
“There’s a fine line when you have an athletic team that is good in transition,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “We don’t want to play at warp speed all the time. That allowed Illinois to get back into the game.”
Reserve Michael Dixon added 18 points and Ricardo Ratliffe had 14 in 19 minutes for Missouri (12-0), which squandered a 13-point cushion with 13 minutes left before recovering late. The Tigers have won three consecutive games in the series and improve to 12-0 for the first time since opening the 1981-82 season 19-0.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 1 Syracuse 80, Tulane 61|
|No. 2 Ohio State 69, Miami (Ohio) 40|
|No. 3 Kentucky 87, Loyola (Md.) 63|
|No. 6 Baylor 72, St. Mary's (Calif.) 59|
|No. 8 Connecticut 79, Fairfield 71|
|No. 9 Missouri 78, No. 25 Illinois 74|
|No. 10 Marquette 64, Milwaukee 50|
|No. 11 Florida 82, Florida State 64|
|No. 12 Kansas 63, Southern Cal 47|
|Long Beach State 68, No. 14 Xavier 58|
|No. 16 Georgetown 70, Memphis 59|
|No. 17 Indiana 89, UMBC 47|
|No. 18 Miss. St. 82, Northwestern St. 67|
|No. 19 Michigan State 90, Lehigh 81|
|No. 20 Michigan 77, Bradley 66|
|No. 23 Creighton 87, Northwestern 79|
“We just had to dig it out,” guard Kim English said. “An ugly win is better than a pretty loss any day.”
Reserve Joseph Bertrand had a career-high 19 points on 9-for-9 shooting, and Meyers Leonard had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Illinois (11-2) in its second loss in three games.
“Coach was just telling us to be aggressive,” Bertrand said. “It was a big game for everybody and he wanted us to be aggressive and leave everything on the court. I kind of took that and ran with it.”
Brandon Paul added 19 points and nine rebounds for Illinois.
“They’ll be one of the best teams we’ll play all year” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “We had to play small ball. Bertrand hadn’t made a bucket in weeks, even in practice.”
Illinois led 70-68 after three free throws by D.J. Richardson with 2:01 to go, but Missouri answered with seven consecutive points as Ratliffe scored twice inside, recovering an errant pass on one and putting back his own miss, and also forced a turnover. Illinois got no closer than three points the rest of the way, with Paul committing two turnovers.
Phil Pressey’s layup was the clincher with 12 seconds to go for a five-point lead after Missouri worked the clock.
“When they’re kicking our butt, you’re hoping to survive and stay in it,” Weber said. “We had a chance to win it and now it hurts.”
Bertrand, a sophomore, totaled two points in the previous six games and came in averaging 3.2 per game. He scored nine points in a 17-3 surge for a 62-61 lead with 7:01 to go. The Fighting Illini were 14 for 23 to start the second half.
Missouri helped with undisciplined play, throwing up several ill-advised 3-point attempts, but regained the lead on a driving shot by Phil Pressey with 6:45 to go.
The Tigers made their first 14 free throws, eight of them by Dixon in the first half, and finished 19 for 23, while Illinois was 8 for 10. Dixon, one of the nation’s best from the line at 95 percent entering the game, had the first miss early in the second half and was 10 for 12 at the line.
Both schools were ranked for the second consecutive year and eighth time in 31 all-time meetings. Illinois leads the series 20-11.
Missouri seized control with a 17-2 run for a 19-9 lead with just over 13 minutes left in the half, then closed it out with six points in a row capped by Matt Pressey’s follow dunk on younger brother Phil’s missed layup with 2.5 seconds to go.
Richardson had 10 of his 13 points at the half for Illinois, missed on the bonus with 29.2 seconds left and fouled Dixon on a drive with 1:24 to go.
Hall of Fame baseball manager Whitey Herzog and Missouri governor Jay Nixon were among a sellout crowd of 22,087. Missouri’s first-year coach was impressed.
“I can’t imagine there being anything else like this, the energy in the building,” Haith said. “There was cheering on every basket. It has to be one of the great basketball events in the country.”