Illinois fends off UNLV for third win of season

CHAMPAIGN -- "You guys ever play golf?"

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood greeted reporters at the postgame press conference with an analogy from the links. He left the court at the State Farm Center with a 77-74 win over UNLV on Saturday afternoon, and with it a feeling like he had just hit his tee shot into the woods, taken a penalty stroke then holed out with two strokes. The message was clear: sloppy or not, a par is a par.

The Illini (3-7) made some key mistakes including 19 turnovers and a 14-point lead that withered away -- but they finished the job.

Andres Feliz led both teams with 19 points, Kipper Nichols added 12 and Ayo Dosunmu had 10. The biggest surprise for Illini fans was freshman center Samba Kane, who played by far his largest chunk of minutes this season. He was active from the get-go, blocking 2 shots, scoring 8 points and pulling down 2 rebounds in just under 16 minutes. He had only appeared in four games to date, with three of those outings lasting less than 2 minutes.

Illinois gets a week off of game action before welcoming East Tennessee State to Champaign at 1 p.m. this Saturday.