ATLANTA (UI Release) – Illinois hung with Georgia Tech for a while in Wednesday’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at McCamish Pavilion, but the Yellow Jackets’ size and defensive pressure proved to be too much for the Illini as Georgia Tech took a 93-69 victory. Jacqui Grant and Ivory Crawford led Illinois with 14 points each, but the Ramblin’ Wreck out-rebounded the Illini 56-44 and held a 64-32 advantage in the paint.
“The offensive rebounding was the difference in the game,” Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. “We did some decent things in the first half, but you can’t give up 18 offensive rebounds. And we gave up way too many points in the paint. Our defense and our rebounding are not at all where we need to be and we need to find a way to change.”
Illinois tied a season high by committing 22 turnovers and Tech converted them into 27 points. The Jackets out-scored the Illini 27-12 on second-change points and corralled 26 offensive rebounds, more than doubling up Illinois on points in the paint, 64-30. Tech also 45 percent (38-of-85), compared to 36 percent (24-of-67) for the Illini.
The teams played back-and-forth basketball early on, with Illinois edging ahead 16-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. But the Illini committed three straight turnovers, which led to a 10-0 run by Georgia Tech and a 24-16 lead by the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech extended the run to 19-4 and its lead to 33-20 before Jacqui Grant nailed a trey with 3:28 left. But the Jackets maintained control throughout the rest of the half, taking a 42-30 lead to the locker room. Grant led the Illini with nine points at the half, but Georgia Tech out-rebounded UI 29-15 in the first stanza.
Tech started the second half with a 10-1 run to go up 52-31. Illinois whittled the lead to 15 with 14:00 remaining on a layup by Crawford, but the Jackets answered with a layup by Roddreka Rogers. Georgia Tech then added a 11-3 spurt near the midpoint of the half to extend the lead to 74-50, and cruised from there.
The Illini remain on the road for their next game, traveling to No. 11 Colorado on Saturday for a 6 p.m. CT game. Illinois fell to the Buffaloes 69-62 in Champaign last year.
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