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Tyler Griffey’s layup helps Illini upset No. 1 Indiana

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Updated: February 8, 2013 11:00AM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — They finally got it right.

Illinois, which hadn’t guarded, hadn’t made enough shots, hadn’t delivered for the longest time, finally finished what it started on Thursday night.

The result was a startling, dazzling 74-72 upset of No. 1 Indiana.

“We played tough today,” coach John Groce said. “We played together. We trusted one another. We played the right way. It’s a big step today. Because in some games in the past when we’ve gotten down, we haven’t trusted the system defensively. Today we stuck to what we were supposed to do for the full 40 mintues and didn’t flinch.”

It’s Illinois’ third win in 23 tries over a top-ranked AP team, joining wins over Wake Forest in 2004 and Michigan State in 1979.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time for a team that had dropped to 10th in the Big Ten after rising as high as 10th in the nation in December.

Left alone under the basket, Tyler Griffey put in a buzzer-beating layup after Illinois (16-8, 3-7) inbounded the ball with. 9 of a second left.

“When I was going to bed last night, I got a text from Brandon [Paul],” Griffey said. “He said, `We’re both struggling with our shots. We just have to find other ways to help our team win. We got stops. We got rebounds. And it led to offense.”

After ecstatic Illini fans had stormed the court, the referees confirmed that Illinois, after a head-scratching stretch of messy games, had returned to its shocking ways. The Illini, who also have beaten Butler, Gonzaga and Ohio State, now have wins over four teams in the AP top-25, tied for tops in the nation with Indiana in that category.

When Indiana (20-3, 8-2) led 70-61 with 3-1/2 minutes left, it seemed well-positioned to hold off Illinois’ best all-around effort in quite a while.

But D.J. Richardson drained back-to-back three-pointers and a long jumper for eight points in three trips down the floor to tie the game 70-70 as Illinois’ often-suspect defense finally got crucial stops.

Victor Oladipo’s drive gave Indiana a 72-70 lead, but Brandon Paul answered with two free throws to set up Griffey’s game-winner.

“They’re very deserving of the win, because they never gave in,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We didn’t put them away when we had our opportunities. That’s really the bottom line.”

Richardson finished with 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including 4 of 8 three-balls. Paul had 21, and Griffey had 14 points and eight rebounds.

It was only the second double-digit game since November for Griffey, who had struggled with his shooting touch and had seen his minutes decline.

After trailing 41-29 at halftime, Illinois closed to 45-39 early in the second half. Returning to the starting lineup at the start of the second half, Griffey ended an 0-for-22 three-point during that Illini burst.

That only seemed to make IU mad. Showing why it has the stuff that hoop dreams are made off, Indiana got a trey from Jordan Hulls (11 points), a putback from Cody Zeller (14), a trey from Yogi Ferrell (7) and a dunk from Will Sheehy (13) to open a 55-41 lead.Christian Watford (12) and Oladipo (9) also did their things.

But the Illini, desperately needing to get their season headed back in the right direction, kept clawing and battling.

Those traits haven’t always been their trademarks this season. But they were on Thursday night. Just ask the Hoosiers.

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