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SIU makes No. 2 Illini sweat
LAS VEGAS -- Illinois hung on despite another poor shooting night from star guard Frank Williams.
Williams scored 19 points, but shot just 7-of-21 as the second-ranked Illini edged Southern Illinois 75-72 to win the Las Vegas Invitational late Saturday night.
"That was their Super Bowl and they played like it," Illinois coach Bill Self said of Southern Illinois' effort. "If they had beaten us, it wouldn't have been a huge upset. We didn't play a great game and we got their 'A' game."
Sean Harrington added 14 points, Brian Cook 12 and Cory Bradford 10 for Illinois (5-0).
Harrington hit a 3-pointer with 2:15 left and the Illini converted four straight free throws down the stretch to hold off the Salukis (4-1).
"Emotions were high," Harrington said. "It was a close ballgame. It was good to have that energy out there."
Kent Williams had 23 points to lead Southern Illinois. Rolan Roberts added 12 points and Stetson Hairston 10.
"I wish people could have seen this game on TV," Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Hopefully, we can get some good publicity. ESPN said Illinois won the tournament last night. Heck, they'd only won their pool."
Bradford's 3-pointer gave Illinois a 71-68 lead, but Frank Williams missed two shots and Kent Williams made two free throws to cut the lead to 71-70 with 23.2 seconds remaining.
Frank Williams, who shot 0-for-7 in a 105-66 victory over Georgia Tech on Friday, made two free throws to give Illinois a 73-70 lead with 18.8 seconds left. But the Salukis again pulled to within one on a dunk by Roberts with 11.7 seconds left.
Bradford was immediately fouled and made both free throws for a 75-72 lead with 10.1 seconds left. Kent Williams dribbled down the floor and launched an off-balance 3-pointer to tie, but came up short.
"I felt really good," Bradford said. "I helped the ballclub out with some shots. They have good shooters. They're tough matchups."
Illinois started with a 10-3 lead, but the Salukis rallied to tie the score at 17. The Illini built a 34-29 lead with 4:34 left and then scored seven straight to go up by 12.
Frank Williams started the run with a jumper and, after Marcus Belcher missed two free throws, the Southern Illinois bench was hit with a technical foul.
"(Self) can do what he wants to do," Salukis coach Weber said. "The refs didn't take care of business. They did get him with a technical foul in the second half. It was a very physical game."
Bradford made both free throws and followed that with a 3-pointer.
But Southern Illinois' Jermaine Dearman converted a 3-point play and Stetson Hairston made a layup to bring the Salukis back within 41-34 with 2:50 remaining.
Damir Krupalija, selected tournament MVP, made two free throws to put Illinois up 43-34 with 1:40 remaining, but Southern Illinois' Sylvester Willis hit a free throw and Darren Brooks added a jumper at the buzzer to cut the lead to 43-37 at the half.