ST. LOUIS — Every victory is significant for an athlete, but some of them have a little more meaning.
That was the case Saturday afternoon for Illinois junior guard Tracy Abrams in the 33rd Annual Bud Light Braggin’ Rights contest against the Missouri Tigers.
Abrams buried a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Fighting Illini to an 65-64 upset victory over the No. 23-rated Tigers at the Scotttrade Center.
But, the junior from Chicago wasn’t just thinking about himself and his teammates when the final buzzer sounded. He also remembered the seniors from last year’s team (Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Kevin Berardini) that were a part of four straight losses for the Illini in the annual series between the schools.
“I was definitely thinking about those guys. They were great teammates. To get one is great and it’s a way to represent the Illinois shirt for those guys,’’ said Abrams, who had a season-high 22 points.
And while its the biggest win of the season for Illinois (10-2 overall), Abrams was a little reserve in his celebration while junior teammate Rayvonte Rice removed his shirt to show off his Illinois tattoo.
“We are excited about the win and we’re going to celebrate it,’’ Abrams said. “I was thinking about our former guys how they never got one and the opportunity to get one was a privilege for me. I can’t explain the feeling that was going on.’’
Abrams, who has been scrutinized recently for his play in losses to Georgia Tech and Oregon, showed the type of leadership that everyone has expected from him this season. He scored nine of his team’s final 14 points and his three-point play with 6 minutes, 47 seconds tied the game at 53-53, setting up an incredible finish.