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Illinois edges Cornell

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Associated Press
December 20, 2011
— Fresh off its first loss of the season against UNLV and with No. 9 Missouri looming on Thursday, Illinois could have used an easy win against Cornell.

Monday night’s 64-60 victory was anything but easy for No. 25 Illinois.


Meyers Leonard had 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, overcoming a back injury to lead the Illini.


After trailing for the most of the game, Illinois (11-1) was sparked by D.J. Richardson’s nine points in the second half and narrowly avoided its second consecutive loss.


“We were gritty down the stretch and found a way to win,” Illini coach Bruce Weber said. “The last stretch of the game I thought we played harder. Finally, we picked up the intensity and did a better job defending.”


Josh Figini scored all 14 of his points in the first half to lead Cornell (4-4). The forward sat out the last 7 minutes of the half after picking up two fouls and was limited the rest of the game.


Illinois opened the second half 1 for 13 from the field and fell behind 42-36, then put together a 14-6 run to regain the lead. The teams exchanged leads until the final minute, when Richardson hit a pull-up jumper with 17 seconds left to put Illinois ahead 62-58.


Cornell hit six 3-pointers, including three by Figini, to jump out to a 24-14 lead. Led by several baskets from Leonard, Illinois tied the score 32-all by halftime.


Leonard’s big first half—15 points and nine rebounds—allowed Illinois to stay in the game as it struggled with its outside shooting against Cornell’s zone defense.


“I thought our kids really played hard,” Cornell coach Bill Courtney said.


It looked as if the Illini might have been without their starting center when Leonard went to the locker room 5 minutes into the second half after getting hit in the back. But he returned a few minutes later, still grimacing as he checked back into the game.


Leonard, who was held to four points and three shot attempts in the second half, said the injury was a strained back and that the pain was manageable.


In other games Monday night involving ranked Big Ten teams:


-- (17) Indiana 107, Howard 50—At Bloomington, Ind., Jordan Hulls scored 16 points, and five of his teammates also reached double figures as Indiana celebrated its 500th appearance in The Associated Press’ Top 25 with a rout of Howard University.


The Hoosiers (11-0) shot 67.3 percent from the field, hit 11 three-pointers and forced 19 turnovers. Indiana fell eight points short of the school record for largest victory margin.


The Hoosiers are 11-0 for the first time since the 1975-76 squad went 32-0.


Howard (3-9) played without leading scorer Calvin Thompson.


-- (19) Michigan State 89, UMKC 54—At East Lansing, Mich., Branden Dawson got off to a great start in the first few minutes and scored a career-high 16 points to lead Michigan State past UMKC.


Dawson had eight quick points for the Spartans (10-2), who have won 10 straight.


Brandon Wood also had 16 points, including 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range, as Michigan State grabbed a 16-2 lead and never led by fewer than 10 points again. Draymond Green added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Spartans, his sixth double-double this season.


Trinity Hall scored 16 points for the Kangaroos (7-6), who had won six of seven after a 46-point loss at Wisconsin.



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