Andres Feliz scored a career-high 19 points and came up with the game-clinching steal as Illinois hung on for a 77-74 victory over UNLV on Saturday afternoon in Champaign, Ill.
Kipper Nichols added 12 points and Ayo Dosunmu finished with 10 points for the Fighting Illini (3-7) which snapped a three-game losing streak. Samba Kane, a 7-foot freshman center from Senegal who had scored just six points in four games and 15 minutes of action all season entering the contest, finished with eight points and two blocks.
Freshman forward Joel Ntambwe scored 18 points, and Cheikh Mbacke Diong had 13 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double for UNLV (4-4), which lost its third straight game. The Rebels were playing their first road game of the season, the final team in Division I to play away from home.
UNLV, which started the second half with one field goal and seven turnovers in the first nine minutes and 40 seconds, closed to within 74-72 when Ntambwe, fouled on a 3-pointer by Nichols, sank two free throws with 28.8 remaining.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili, fouled on a rebound after Ntwambe missed the third free throw, then sank two free throws to put the Illini back up by four, but Diong answered with a rebound dunk to cut it to 76-74.
After Dosunmu hit one of two free throws with 14 seconds left, UNLV had a chance to tie it, but Amauri Hardy turned the ball over to Feliz at the top of the key, and Feliz then dribbled the clock out.
Diong almost had a double-double in the first half, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds to keep UNLV, which shot just 29.3 percent but had 14 offensive rebounds before the break, in the game.
Illinois took control early with a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer by Nichols to take a 16-9 lead and led by as many nine points twice -- the final time, 40-31, after a 3-pointer by Trent Frazier -- en route to a 40-34 halftime advantage.
--Field Level Media