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Illinois 57, Colorado 49

The SportsXchange

AUSTIN, Texas -- The operative phrase this time of year "survive and advance" sometimes serves to take aesthetics out of the equation.

The Illinois Fighting Illini survived an 11-minute stretch without a field goal to start the second half and advanced by claiming a 57-49 victory over Colorado on Friday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center.

Illinois moves on to play Miami in the East Regional on Sunday in Austin with a berth in the Sweet 16 at stake.

The Buffaloes erased a 16-point halftime deficit by opening the second half with a 23-2 run.

Illinois went the first 11:28 of the second half without a field goal and scored just two points on Tracy Abrams' two made free throws.

Meanwhile, Colorado bounced back from a 7:14 scoreless drought at the end of the first half. Buffaloes guard Askia Booker got particularly hot, hitting three 3-pointers during the surge.

It was Abrams who finally hit a runner down the lane to break the Illinois drought and loosened up the Illini. D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul followed in short order with 3-pointers that put Illinois back ahead, 48-44, with 6:03 to play.

This time, Illinois (22-13) didn't give up the lead. Brandon Paul went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 5:18 to help the Illini hold on.

Abrams made the key play of the closing minutes when he missed a 3-pointer but got his own rebound with 1:10 left. Abrams passed to Paul, who was immediately fouled. Paul went to the line and hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to increase Illinois' lead to 52-46.

Paul finished with 17 points to lead Illinois.

Illinois finished the first half on a 13-0 run to take a 37-21 lead to the break.

The Fighting Illini filled up the basket from 3-point range while Colorado (21-13) was stone-cold. Richardson hit a pair of 3s and Abrams added another with three seconds left in the half. Illinois was 6-for-16 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Colorado failed to score in the final 7:18 of the first half. Andre Roberson made a layup on an assist from Spencer Dinwiddie to cut Illinois' lead to 24-21, but the Buffaloes missed their final 11 shots of the half.

Paul sparked Illinois with the Illini trailing 15-11 in the early going. Paul hit a jumper and a 3-pointer, then Tyler Griffey and Richardson added 3s as Illinois went in front 22-17 and wouldn't let go of the lead until midway through the second half.

Richardson finished the first half with 11 points, playing a key role in the Illini's 26-6 overall run.

NOTES: Illinois vs. Colorado was the first of two Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchups at the Austin NCAA Tournament site, the only venue that hosted games between the two conferences in the opening round. ... Illinois first-year coach John Groce led Ohio to the Sweet 16 last season with a No. 13 seed. "He's been where we want to go," Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul said. ... Colorado returned to play a game in Texas for the first time since the Buffaloes left the Big 12 following the 2011 season. Colorado fell to 2-8 in Austin.
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