November 29, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) Something had to give in Friday's night Las Vegas Invitational championship game.

Illinois came in with the third best scoring average per game in the country at 95.6, while Baylor came in ranked best defensively at 49.4.

The Illini didn't have their usual high-octane but they had enough offense in the second half to rally from a four-point halftime deficit to win 62-54 at the Orleans Arena.

Rayvonte Rice and Malcolm Hill each scored 17 points to lead Illinois (6-0). Rice, who had seven rebounds and three steals, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

''We took this game like it was a Big 10 game,'' Rice said. ''We knew the score would be low. We were taking our shots in the first half, but they weren't falling. We were taking the same shots in the second half and they were falling. We're a defensive team. It all starts with defense.''

The Illini are 6-0 and have won 32 straight November games, 21 under coach John Groce.

''We know the offensive side is sexy, but our defense and our rebounding won it for us,'' Groce said. ''You have to win different ways in different styles. We took care of the ball. We moved the ball well.''

After Baylor led 25-21 at halftime, the Illini opened the second half on an 8-0 run and never relinquished the lead. Illinois built its largest advantage at 47-37 with 6:56 left. The Bears (5-1) never got closer than 52-49 down the stretch.

Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince each had 11 points to lead Baylor. Gathers also had 15 rebounds and Prince had eight.

The Bears were without senior guard Kenny Cherry, who had a right foot injury and also missed Thursday night's win against Memphis.

''There are a lot of positives to build on,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said. ''I was proud of how our guys competed against two really quality teams. We out-rebounded them 14-8, but only won second-chance points 9-8. That hurt us.''

There were four ties and six lead changes in the first half. The Bears built their largest lead of the game at 21-16 with 4:09 until halftime.

TIP-INS

Illinois: The Illini also are taking care of the ball, averaging just 9.6 turnovers per game this season.

Baylor: The Bears have now reached four regular-season tournament finals under Drew. They have had a winning record in six of the past seven regular-season tourneys. Baylor is now 51-10 in November under Drew.

PIVOTAL MOMENT

Ahmad Stark's long 3-pointer from the left arc with 7:30 left gave the Illini a 46-37 lead, their largest that point. Illinois had built two six-point leads earlier in the second half.

ELITE COMPANY

Both these teams have won a holiday tournament in Las Vegas. Illinois captured the 2001 Las Vegas Invitational and its sister tournament in 2004, Las Vegas Holiday Classic. Both those tourneys were held at nearby Valley High School. In 2004, Illinois was ranked No. 1 in the country in the Associated Press poll at the time and won a New Year's tilt with Cincinnati. Baylor won the 2011 Las Vegas Holiday Classic at the Orleans Arena.

STAT LINES

The Illini shot 32 percent from the field in the first half, but were at 46 in the second. Baylor out-rebounded Illinois 47-33, but the Bears only shot 33 percent from the field.

COURTSIDE

Even though the Illini were technically the visiting team, they had a homecourt advantage with fans, bringing about 1,300 with them. Baylor had less than 100 fans.

UP NEXT

Illinois travels to Miami on Tuesday.

Baylor hosts Texas Southern on Monday.

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