CHICAGO -- Tracy Abrams scored a career-high 29 points and No. 12 Illinois beat Auburn 81-79 on Saturday.
The Illini (13-1) saw an 11-point lead shrink to one in the closing minutes but they prevailed after falling to Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game a week earlier -- their first loss under coach John Groce.
Things got real tense when Frankie Sullivan buried a 3 for Auburn (5-7) to make it 68-67 with 4:29 remaining. Illinois then hit 13 of 18 free throws the rest of the way for a rare win at the United Center, where they had dropped three straight and five of six after winning 18 in a row.
They can thank Abrams.
The sophomore guard came up big on a day when star Brandon Paul was off target, going 6 of 11 from the field and 13 of 15 from the free throw line while eclipsing his previous high by seven points.
Paul, meanwhile, finished with 13 points but hit just 3 of 12 shots. He missed all five 3-point attempts and the Illini again struggled from the outside, going 4 of 15 after hitting 8 of 32 against Missouri.
Sullivan led Auburn with 21 points. Rob Chubb scored 13, and Allen Payne chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but the Tigers dropped their second straight.
Josh Wallace hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Auburn to make it a two-point game, but by then, the Illini had sealed this one.
Both teams hit 16 of 30 shots in the first half, but Illinois took a 47-42 lead with Abrams scoring 16 points. He hit two free throws with 4 minutes left in the half to break a 39-39 tie and start a 14-5 run that stretched into the second half.
The only points for Auburn during that stretch came on a three-point play by Wallace with 2:22 remaining before halftime and two free throws by Chubb with 17:15 left in the game before D.J. Richardson hit two of his own for Illinois, making it 53-44.
The Tigers went more than 7 minutes without a field goal before Sullivan's layup with 15 minutes remaining. But Paul answered with a wild one of his own, flipping the ball over his shoulder and into the basket as he slipped near the baseline.
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DePaul hoops received a huge boost this week as five-star recruit Tyger Campbell committed to the university.
The elite point guard recruit out of La Lumiere, will join the Class of 2018, choosing DePaul over schools like Michigan State, Illinois and Memphis.
"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy.
"Mainly what I like about the school is I want to help bring it back. I love Chicago; it's a great city. I want to bring the city a college back to cheer for."
Campbell also said the Blue Demons' new Wintrust Arena at McCormick Place Event Center, which is slated to open this fall, is a big draw for him.
The Blue Demons are a combined 18-45 the last two seasons and hasven't had a winning season since 2006-07 when they went 20-14 and made the NIT Quarterfinals.
The program last made the NCAA Tournament in 2003-04 during Leitao's first stint as the team's head coach.
Northern Illinois University added it's fourth known verbal commitment today in its growing Class of 2018.
Maine South junior running back Fotis Kokosioulis (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) added an offer from the Huskies on Tuesday after making a spring practice visit, and today he gave head coach Rod Carey his verbal commitment.
"I chose NIU because it's been a school that I've liked for awhile now," Kokosioulis said moments ago. "I like the facilities at NIU, the stadium and everything else they have to offer. I also really like all the coaches at NIU. I felt that even if I got more offers I would've still chose NIU over other schools. I know that there are bigger school and programs but I feel that I just fit in well at NIU, so I committed."
Kokosioulis, who was an All-State performer for the Class 8A state champion Maine South Hawks in 2016, is now the fourth known in-state verbal commitment for Rod Carey and the Huskies and the fifth known commitment overall. Kokosioulis joins Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Plainfield East defensive end Jack Sullivan and Danville tight end Julian Pearl in the NIU Huskies in-state Class of 2018.