Comeback bid falls just short for BYU against Illinois

BYU vs. Illinois, Chicago, Ill., Dec. 17, 2016 | AP Photo

CHICAGO  — BYU fell 75-73 to Illinois despite a valiant comeback effort in the State Farm Chicago Legends at the United Center in Chicago Saturday.

“We played hard enough,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We had a good plan, got behind early, kind of adjusted to everything and found a way to get back into the game. Then it was time to win the game. We had quite a few chances to take the lead late and that’s what’s kind of disappointing. I feel bad for our guys because they did fight. They fought really hard, but the execution didn’t happen late.”

byulogoBYU overcame a 16-point deficit in the first half and to trail by just two points in the closing seconds before Nick Emery’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer hit the back of the rim and fell out.

The Cougars got within one on Colby Leifson’s 3 with under two minutes left. Maverick Morgan made a jumper and Tracy Abrams got a steal and a layup before BYU’s L.J. Rose hit a 3 to pull BYU within two with 16.7 seconds left. Hill made two free throws before Rose hit a jumper to get the Cougars back within two.

Illinois (9-3) outshot BYU (7-4) 47 to 43 percent as the Cougars recorded 22 assists on 26 makes. Three BYU players scored in double digits, led by Eric Mika’s 25. Emery added 16 points while TJ Haws had 10. Colby Leifson had a career-high six points off the bench, including two 3-pointers late in the second half. L.J. Rose tied his season-high with nine assists while Yoeli Childs had career highs of three blocks and two steals to go with eight points of nine rebounds.

The Fighting Illini got on the board first and commanded the lead most of the game. A 3-pointer from Nick Emery brought the Cougars within two, 15-13, six minutes into the game before Illinois built a 16-point lead, 37-21, with 5:41 left in the half.

The Cougars closed out the half on a 12-2 run, propelled by five points in less than 15 seconds from Haws. He picked up a steal before driving to the basket and picking up a foul with 2:09 on the clock. Haws was successful from the charity stripe and then added a layup, reducing Illinois’ lead to five, 41-36 with 1:57 left. Emery added a free throw after an Illinois bucket as BYU went into halftime down by six, 43-37.

Emery opened the second half on a 3-pointer for the Cougars, making it a one-possession game, 43-40. BYU stayed within nine points the rest of the half and trailed by as few as one point. Emery made a steal and then missed a layup before Mika dished the ball to Leifson beyond the arc. Leifson’s second 3-pointer closed the gap, 69-68, with 2:42 left in the game.

BYU was never able to tie or take the lead the rest of the way and fell to the Fighting Illini 75-73.

The Cougars return to the Marriott Center for a three-game home stand, beginning with Idaho State on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. MST.

Stats: byu-illinois-box

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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