Thursday was a must-win situation with two regular-season games left on the University of Illinois Springfield men’s basketball schedule.
The Prairie Stars won 86-81 against Southern Indiana at The Recreation and Athletic Center and improved their chances of qualifying for the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.
“This feels good,” UIS junior Paxton Harmon said. “There’s nothing better to than start the last three games off with a win.”
UIS faces No. 11 Bellarmine Saturday at 3 p.m. at TRAC and plays at McKendree Thursday.
The Stars (11-15, 5-11) and the Screaming Eagles (16-10, 8-8) were locked in a battle from the start. The teams were within single digits the entire way.
With four minutes 21 seconds remaining, UIS regained the lead on Zach Steinberg’s layup. The Stars led 72-69 and never trailed again. But it was close down the stretch.
Fouled on a 3-point attempt, Southern Indiana’s Alex Stein converted three consecutive free throws and the Eagles pulled within 78-76 at the 1:49 mark.
UIS got some breathing room from senior Jamall Millison. He made six free throws in the final 1 ½ minutes. JJ Cravatta also made two foul shots.
“We had control most of the game, but there were times when they tried to chip at our lead, but we came together and held them off to get a big win,” Harmon said. “Other than the fact we couldn’t rebound, we managed to do enough to get a win. We played good defense. We just couldn’t rebound.”
Millson poured in 24 points for UIS. He had 18 in the second half. Millison was one of four UIS players who scored in double digits. Cravatta had 18 points. Steinberg contributed 15. Davi Austin rang up 14.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a team that has given up 20 offensive rebounds and won,” UIS coach Bill Walker said. “Our first-shot defense was really good and especially late we kept the ball in the hands of the guys who were able to make free throws. We just made plays when we had to.”
The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 19, 2016.
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