ST. LOUIS (AP) Illinois left the game in Rayvonte Rice’s hands. He didn’t need much of an opening.
Rice held the ball for the last shot and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer over two defenders for the last of his 19 points, giving the Fighting Illini a 62-59 victory over Missouri in the annual Braggin’ Rights game on Saturday.
”Ray obviously in the second half was an absolute monster on both ends of the court,” coach John Groce said. ”I felt like he had that look in his eyes. We drew up a lot of things for him.”
Illinois (9-3) had a tougher time than expected against Missouri (5-6), which is rebuilding under new coach Kim Anderson. Rice also had seven rebounds and three assists, Ahmad Starks added 13 points and Malcolm Hil had 10.
”At first, I didn’t understand how big of a rivalry it was,” Rice said. ”Fans can’t wait to go all year.”
Wesley Clark’s jumper from the key tied it with 17.8 seconds remaining but Missouri never got the ball back. Rice dribbled for several seconds before stepping up the key and drilling a fade-away shot over defenders Keith Shamburger and Johnathan Williams III. He watched the shot fall before getting mobbed by teammates.
”It was crazy because it was a tough shot from my angle,” teammate Malcolm Hill said. ”I thought there was little chance for it to go in. When the buzzer sounds, I was like `That’s game!”’
Missouri has tended to fade late but this time refused to fold after falling behind 42-36 when Starks scored on a drive with 12:46 left.
”In the past it’s turned negative. We’ve seen it. A little bit of a run and all of a sudden we’re down 10 or 12,” Anderson said. ”I don’t want to be a program where we’re happy to lose, that’s not what this is.
”But I did watch some guys grow up and show what the can do.”
Williams had 15 points and eight rebounds for Missouri. Clark added 11 points, five rebounds and three assists and also tied it at 55 with 4:40 to go. He regained his starting spot because Namon Wright has been ill.
Wright had three points in 11 minutes.
Illinois was unranked for the pre-Christmas rivalry game for the second straight season after losing three of five, although two of the setbacks were to No. 15 Miami and No. 7 Villanova.
It was just the eighth time in 34 games in the series with neither team ranked.
Jakeenan Gant scored off an inbounds play with 3:34 left to give Missouri its last lead at 57-55. The Tigers didn’t score again until Clark tied it in the final seconds.
Illinois missed its first seven 3-point attempts but made two of its last three late in the half, with Starks connecting with 4.7 seconds left for a 32-30 lead.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini prevailed despite going just 4 for 18 from 3-point range. Ahmad Starks topped double figures for the first time in nine games, though he was just 1 for 7 on 3-pointers. He entered averaging 7.3 points.
Missouri: Shamburger scored all five of his points in the final 1:36 of the first half, including two free throws after a technical foul. He’s 29 for 32 at the line.
Illinois: Hosts Kennesaw State next Saturday.
Missouri: Faces Oklahoma State in Kansas City Dec. 30.
IN THE HOUSE
Usually the crowd is evenly split, half clad in orange and the other half in yellow. This year it was closer to 60-40 Illinois. There were a lot more empty seats than usual and 20,079 tickets was about 2,000 shy of capacity. … Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon were among the luminaries in the crowd.