Johnson scores 38, Winthrop upsets Illinois 84-80 in OT
By MICHAL DWOJAK
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Keon Johnson's 5-foot-7 frame hasn't always impressed many, including when he first met his head coach, but the guard's effort was the difference as Winthrop upset Illinois 84-80 in overtime on Monday night.
The senior scored 38 points after missing Friday's game against Florida State due to a foot injury, and helped Winthrop win its first-ever matchup against Illinois. The Eagles held the lead for only 29 seconds before forcing overtime.
"That's just who he is: He's just a little warrior, fearless," Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder . I'm so proud of him."
Tevin Prescott had two dunks and Johnson made a layup during a 6-2 run to open the extra period and Winthrop (3-1) led the rest of the way.
The Illini pulled within two on three occasions in the final 1:23, but Johnson made a jumper and Bjorn Broman and Prescott each made two free throws to hold off Illinois.
The Eagles shot 50 percent from the field and 45 percent (10 of 22) from 3-point range.
While Johnson was the star of the show, Kelsey said it was a team win, more than just the players on the court.
"This is a program win," Kelsey said. "This isn't just our win. This is a university and program win."
Michael Finke led the Illini (4-1) with 18 points, including six in overtime.
The Winthrop bench, including Johnson, outscored the Illini reserves 54-18.
Illinois players and head coach John Groce acknowledged that the little mistakes hurt the team at the end, but Groce thought this was something that his team needed.
"It was good for us," Groce said. "We needed that challenge and we'll see how we respond on Thursday."
Illinois: The Illini fell into a trap game against Winthrop and the loss might hurt them come Selection Sunday. Illinois will now face its toughest competition of the season in the NIT Season Tip-Off where it will play No. 19 West Virginia and potentially No. 25 Florida State.
Winthrop: The Eagles pulled off the upset on the road in what will likely be their most impressive win of the season.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The game was sloppy as each team committed 22 turnovers - Illinois scored 25 points off turnovers while Winthrop scored 18.
Tracy Abrams continued his hot return to the court, scoring 17 points. He hit 2 of 4 from beyond the arc Monday night, and is 11 of 15 from 3-point range this season.
Illinois travels to Brooklyn for a Thanksgiving matchup against No. 19 West Virginia in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament.
Winthrop will have a chance to enjoy the holidays before hosting New Hampshire on Sunday.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org
Updated November 21, 2016