CHICAGO – BYU men’s basketball fell 75-73 to Illinois despite a valiant comeback effort in the State Farm Chicago Legends at the United Center in Chicago Saturday.
"We played hard enough," BYU head coach Dave Rose said. "We had a good plan, got behind early, kind of adjusted to everything and found a way to get back into the game. Then it was time to win the game. We had quite a few chances to take the lead late and that’s what’s kind of disappointing. I feel bad for our guys because they did fight. They fought really hard but the execution didn’t happen late."
Despite facing a 16-point deficit in the first half, BYU fought back and had a chance to win at the end of the game. Trailing by two points in the closing seconds, Eric Mika rebounded a missed Illinois free throw and pass to Nick Emery whose halfcourt shot at the buzzer hit the back of the rim and fell out.
Illinois (9-3) outshot BYU (7-4) 47 to 43 percent while the Cougars recorded 22 assists on 26 makes. Three BYU players scored in double digits, led by Mika’s 25. Emery added 16 points while TJ Haws had 10. Colby Leifson had a career-high six points off the bench, including two 3-pointers late in the second half. L.J. Rose tied his season-high with nine assists while Yoeli Childs had career highs of three blocks and two steals to go with eight points of nine rebounds.
The Fighting Illini got on the board first and commanded the lead most of the game. A 3-pointer from Nick Emery brought the Cougars within two, 15-13, six minutes into the game before Illinois built a 16-point lead, 37-21, with 5:41 left in the half.
The Cougars closed out the half on a 12-2 run, propelled by five points in less than 15 seconds from Haws. He picked up a steal before driving to the basket and picking up a foul with 2:09 on the clock. Haws was successful from the charity stripe and then added a layup, reducing Illinois’ lead to five, 41-36 with 1:57 left. Emery added a free throw after an Illinois bucket and BYU went into halftime down by six, 43-37.
Emery opened the second half on a 3-pointer for the Cougars, making it a one-possession game, 43-40. BYU stayed within single digits the rest of the half and cut the lead to as few as one point.
Down 67-58, Mika completed a 3-point play to ignite a 10-2 run that was capped by an Emery steal that resulted in Mika dishing the ball to Leifson beyond the arc. Leifson's second 3-pointer closed the gap, 69-68, with 2:42 left in the game.
Illinois responded to every challenge the rest of the way and BYU was never able to tie or take the lead and fell to the Fighting Illini 75-73.
The Cougars return to the Marriott Center for a three-game homestand, beginning with Idaho State on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. MST.
Coming off a pair of home wins last week, BYU basketball will head east to take on Illinois in the State Farm Chicago Legends at the United in Chicago on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CST.
Saturday's game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network and broadcast live on the Cougar IMG Sports Network, 102.7 FM/1160 AM and BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.
BYU’s game against Illinois is part of the State Farm Chicago Legends in the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls. It will be BYU’s third game this season in an NBA arena (W, 77-63 vs. Utah State at Vivint Smart Home Arena; L, 91-84 vs. USC in Staples Center).
Eric Mika was named WCC Player of the Week after averaging 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in wins over Colorado and Weber State.
Yoeli Childs set and re-set his career high in scoring with 10 points against Weber State and 11 against Colorado. He had his first career double-double against Colorado as he grabbed 12 rebounds to go with his 11 points.
BYU Cougars (7-3, 0-0 WCC)
- Head Coach: Dave Rose
- Alma Mater: Houston, 1983
- Division I Career Record: 290-102 (12th)
- Record at BYU: Same
Illinois Fighting Illini (8-3, 0-0 Big Ten)
- Head Coach: John Groce
- Alma Mater: Taylor, 1994
- Career Record: 170-120 (9th)
- Record at Illinois: 85-64 (5th)
- TV: Big Ten Network
- TV Talent: Dave Revsine (play-by-play), Jon Crispin (analyst)
- Live Video: btn2go.com
- Radio: Cougar IMG Sports Network, 102.7 FM/1160 AM, BYU Radio, Sirius XM 143
- Radio Talent: Greg Wrubell (play-by-play), Mark Durrant (analyst)
- Live Stats: BYUcougars.com
- Series Record: Illinois leads 3-2
- Last Meeting: BYU won 80-75, 12/19/80
- H/A/N: 1-1/0-2/1-0