D.J. Richardson drained a 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer, capping a comeback from a 16-point second-half deficit and giving Illinois a wild 78-77 victory over Hawaii on Friday night.
Richardson’s buzzer-beater followed one by Hawaii’s Vander Joaquim, who hit a jumper at the end of regulation to force overtime. Before that, Brandon Paul’s basket with 2:08 to play had given the Illini (3-0) their first lead of the game.
The teams traded baskets in the extra session before Jace Tavita made one of two free throws to give the Warriors (3-1) a 77-75 lead with 7 seconds left and set the scene for Richardson, who finished with 16 points.
Brandon Paul scored 25 points, including five 3-pointers, for Illinois, and Tracy Abrams added 22. The Illini improved to 7-0 against Hawaii. Joaquim led the Warriors with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Brandon Spearman added 20 points and nine boards.
“Our three perimeters were terrific,” Illinois coach John Groce said about Paul, Abrams and Richardson on the Illinois Sports Radio Network after the game. “Tracy was locked in. He maybe played the most complete game on both ends of the floor.”
Groce was also impressed with the Illini’s ability to stay alive after being down to remain undefeated for the season and unbeaten against the Warriors.
“I thought the kids showed great resolve,” Groce said. “They kept swinging and swinging. At the end, we made enough plays to win it.”
Illinois dedicated to game to former Illini current radio analyst Jerry Hester, whose father passed away on Friday. Hester still worked the game.
This was the first game of almost a whole week of games in Hawaii as the Illini will take part of the Maui Invitational.
They will start play at 11 p.m. Monday against Southern California. It will be televised on ESPN2 and it can be heard on radio at WDAN-AM 1490 or WDNL-FM 102.1.