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Mayer scores 21 to lead No. 18 Illini past Alabama A&M 68-47

Illinois' Skyy Clark (55) looks to pass the ball as Alabama A&M's EJ Williams (34) and Lorenzo Downey, center, defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Champaign, Ill.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Matthew Mayer scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help No. 18 Illinois overcome Alabama A&M’s comeback push for a 68-47 win Saturday.

Mayer went 7 of 8 and scored 15 points in the second half to help Illinois close out the game late.

The Illini led by 17 points at halftime, before the Bulldogs went on a 16-0 run in the second half to close within a point at 38-37 with 10:54 left.

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood says he needs his team to be tougher, even under difficult circumstances.

“It’s a tough week. It’s a hard week with finals, and yet, we’ve got to continue to find areas to grow in, and I thought defensively we did that,” Underwood said. “Now, we’ve got to clean some things up offensively.”

Garrett Hicks scored 13 points and Messiah Thompson added 12 for the Bulldogs.

Illinois improved to 8-3 this season with the win. Next is the annual Braggin’ Rights game against the Missouri Tigers in St. Louis Thursday evening.

Illinois Student Newsroom’s Colin Hislope contributed reporting to this story.

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