Illinois drops United Center game with NMSU

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New Mexico State's Eli Chuha celebrates the Aggies' 74-69 win over Illinois with athletic director Mario Moccia and the maroon-clad contingency on hand at the United Center on Saturday in Chicago. New Mexico State's Eli Chuha celebrates the Aggies' 74-69 win over Illinois with athletic director Mario Moccia and the maroon-clad contingency on hand at the United Center on Saturday in Chicago.

CHICAGO -- Illinois once won 18 games in a row at the United Center between December 2001 and March 2007.

Since then the program has gone 6-9 between Big Ten tournament games and the annual December non-conference showcase game -- a record that took a hit on Saturday with a 74-69 loss to New Mexico State.

It's a critically important game for the team -- a Chicago homecoming of sorts for the thousands of alumni in the metro area -- and on Saturday the Illini erased a 15-point first half deficit and came within a few missed free throws and an unsuccessful inbound play away from a feel-good win.

Forward Leron Black (elbow) returned to the lineup to lead the Illini with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Te'Jon Lucas added 14 points and freshman Trent Frazier added 13, including a pair of crucial three-pointers in the second half that helped Illinois come within striking distance of a win.

The Illini return to the court on December 23rd against Missouri in the annual Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis.

 

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