MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Memphis coach John Calipari finally has his whole basketball team back.
Chris Massie scored 13 points and collected 10 rebounds in his season debut as the Tigers posted a 77-74 upset of seventh-ranked Illinois, which suffered its first loss.
Memphis (6-2) welcomed Massie and freshman Jeremy Hunt back to the lineup. Massie was ineligible in the first semester and Hunt was out since the season opener with a stress fracture in his foot. Hunt finished with 11 points.
"You finally got a chance to see our full team," Calipari said. "A team I told you that I liked. Everybody wanted to paint the picture that Memphis was going in the tank because Dajuan Wagner didn't come back and you shouldn't do that, you shouldn't take a kid for one year.
"They wanted to paint it that we were going to go down. I like my team and we've got three better wins this year than we did all of last year already - Mississippi, Syracuse and Illinois."
Massie's driving layup snapped a 71-71 tie with 1:14 left to play. Illinois freshman Deron Williams missed a 3-pointer and the rebound came to Nick Smith, who missed a jumper.
Memphis' John Grice made three foul shots to offset Illinois freshman Dee Brown's fifth 3-pointer of the game. The Tigers' Billy Richmond made 1-of-2 at the line for a 77-74 lead with nine seconds left.
The Fighting Illini (8-1) had one last chance to tie, but Brown misfired from beyond the arc.
"I thought we did some good things, but we are going to be behind some more this year and our guys made some plays to keep us in the game the second half," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "We were not going to run the table and we are going to go through things to mature."
Massie declared for the NBA draft a year ago, but withdrew when it became clear to him that he wasn't ready. But he stopped attending classes last spring and needed to pass 21 hours this fall to regain his eligibility.
"Chris Massie just gives you what you need," Calipari said. "I think it comes down to rebounding and we went and got balls because Chris was in the game. We outrebounded a big team, a strong rebounding team by five rebounds."
The Tigers held a 42-37 edge on the glass.
Grice and Anthony Rice each scored 16 points to lead Memphis, which has won five straight at home. All five starters reached double figures for the Tigers.
"What I would say about a game like this, is if you can win it, then it is a huge game," Calipari said. "That is when it becomes huge."
Illinois led at halftime for the ninth straight game with a 37-31 lead. Memphis opened the second half with a 13-3 spurt to grab a 44-40 edge.
"We lost the game the first five minutes of the second half," Self said. "We were not as intense as we should be."
The Tigers got a pair of foul shots from Earl Barron with just under 11 minutes to go for a 58-50 lead, their largest of the game. The margin was still eight after Grice's 3-pointer made it 65-57 with 7:33 to go.
The Fighting Illini responded with seven straight points to get within a point. Brian Cook scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer with 1:35 to go that forged a 71-71 tie.
Cook scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Illinois, which was playing away from home for just the fourth time and the first time on an opponent's home floor. Brown finished with 19 points and made 5-of-11 from beyond the arc as Illinois made 11 3-pointers.
Backup Illini center Nick Smith made just 2-of-7 shots fod six points, but came up with four of the team's eight blocks.
Rice drilled four 3-pointers as Memphis was 10-of-23 from beyond the arc. The Tigers overcame poor foul shooting as they made only 61 percent (10-of-23). Hunt misfired on 5-of-8 attempts.
It was Memphis' first ever victory over Illinois, which won the previous two matchups.