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Rutgers takes Illinois to triple-OT, but falls 110-101

0204_SPOR_4UI_Rutgers

 

For the first time in Big Ten Conference play this season, the Rutgers men’s basketball team forced overtime.

40 minutes was not enough to decide a winner between Illinois and the Scarlet Knights.

The game lasted three overtimes, filled with heroics and a tremendous effort from both teams. But in the end, the Knights were unable to keep up the energy necessary to win. The Fighting Illini won a thrilling game, 110-101 in triple overtime.

The game could have easily gone either way, with both teams trading baskets and making plays that seemed to put the game out of reach. But the Knights were unable to make enough game-changing plays to get its first conference win this season.

The Knights had a 74-73 lead with 27 seconds left in the second half after freshman guard Corey Sanders drove into the lane and scored a contested layup. Indiana came down the court and hit a key jump shot to re-gain the lead with 10 seconds remaining. The ball once again went to Sanders, who was able to draw a foul and get to the free throw line.

He made his first shot, but rimmed out on the second, leading to overtime between the two teams.

Sanders had a chance to put the game away in regulation, but he redeemed himself in a big way as the end of the first overtime. After a missed free throw by the Fighting Illini, Rutgers was down three with no timeouts and 11 seconds left on the clock. Naturally, Sanders raced down the court and shot a three to try and tie the game.

His shot faltered off the front rim, but the lightning quick guard was able to corral his own rebound and put up another three in a wild sequence.

With time expiring, Sanders’s shot traveled through the hoop to extend the game to a second overtime. The shot brought the Rutgers Athletic Center to its feet, and it seemed the Knights would put the game away in double overtime.

But Illinois hung around, and forced a third overtime on the Scarlet Knights.

By the time the third overtime came around, Rutgers was running out of energy. The Knights were not able to get uncontested shots, and committed costly turnovers that put the game out of reach.

For a team that was already shorthanded coming into the game, playing an extra 15 minutes was too much to overcome.

Despite the loss, two Knights shined throughout the contest. Both Sanders and freshman forward Jonathan Laurent had the best games of their young careers. Sanders finished with career-highs in points (37), rebounds (8), and assists (12). Laurent played tough in the paint, and finished with a career-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds.

The coaching staff has to be pleased with how two of its youngest players performed in both the longest and most tightly contested game of the season.

With the loss, the Scarlet Knights are now 6-17 overall, and 0-10 in conference play. But with the way Rutgers played all game long, a win is not far off for this team.

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