The No. 12 Illini topped Auburn, 81-79, at the United Center Saturday to bounce back from their first loss of the season a week ago.
Illinois guard Tracy Abrams chipped in a career-high 29 points along with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Most of that damage came from the free-throw line, too, with Abrams sinking 13 of his 15 attempts from the charity strike. Frankie Sullivan was the high man for Auburn with 21 points off the pine.
The Tigers showed Saturday why they're arguably the best sub-.500 team in the nation, giving Illinois a run for their money throughout all 40 minutes. The teams traded blows in the first half with eight lead changes before halftime.
Not helping matters was the fact that the three-point reliant Illini struggled from beyond the arc for the second consecutive game going 4-of-14. Illinois did make up for that shortcoming by getting to the free-throw line for a whopping 42 attempts, sinking 27 in the process.
Things got interesting late when Auburn cut into an 11-point deficit with a Sullivan three to make it 68-67 with a little more than four minutes remaining. But the Tigers wouldn't get any closer than that with Illinois draining 13 of its final 18 free throws from that point on.
Up next will be a visit to Purdue to on Wednesday begin Big Ten play. As for the Tigers, they'll return home to host Florida State.