CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Number one in the country was number two on the Assembly Hall floor Thursday night.
Illinois breathed sudden life into its flagging NCAA Tournament hopes when it rallied from a nine-point deficit with 3:36 left to stun Indiana 74-72 on Tyler Griffey's layup as time expired.
Griffey broke open off a teammate's screen and took Brandon Paul's pass running at the rim, releasing his shot just before the clock hit zeroes. Fans stormed the floor before lead official John Higgins could start his review, but the play survived his watchful eye.
The Fighting Illini (16-8, 3-7) had lost seven of their last eight games, allowing 76 points per game in their last three outings, all defeats. But their defense was stout down the stretch, giving up just two points on the Hoosiers' last five possessions.
D.J. Richardson, who led all scorers with 23 points, stole the ball from Victor Oladipo with five seconds left, but Oladipo blocked his shot out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining to set up Griffey's game-winner.
Paul added 21 for Illinois, including two foul shots with 37.2 seconds on the clock to even the score at 72. Griffey finished with 14 points, including a couple of 3s which broke a string of 20 straight misses from behind the arc.
Cody Zeller paced Indiana (20-3, 8-2) with 14 points and sixth man Will Sheehey hit for 13, 10 in the first half.
The teams slogged through the first 12 minutes, struggling offensively for reasons not completely related to their opponents' defense.
Indiana handled the ball as though it were coated with soap, committing six turnovers, while Illinois settled for long jumpers and made just seven of 21. However, the Hoosiers finally quit making mistakes and started filling the basket.
They scored on 11 of their final 12 possessions of the first half, with sixth man Will Sheehey supplying eight points in a 25-14 outburst over the half's final 7:42. Zeller swished two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining in the half, and Indiana took a 41-29 lead to the locker room.
NOTES: Entering the game, Indiana and Illinois had combined for seven wins this year over Top 25 teams, with the Hoosiers owning a nation-best four. The Fighting Illini were tied with Butler, Cincinnati, Duke, Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse with three ... This was just the second game against a No. 1 team in nine years for Illinois. After a 91-73 rout of then-No. 1 Wake Forest on Dec. 1, 2004, the Illini didn't play another top-ranked squad until Jan. 22, 2011, falling 73-68 to Ohio State ... Indiana entered the game having made 118 more free throws than its opponents had shot (447-329).