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Updated: Saturday, March 15, 2003 8:45 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(13) Illinois 73, Indiana 72
INDIANA HOOSIERS
Indiana Hoosiers
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ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois Fighting Illini
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CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Brian Cook scored 25 points, converting 11-of-12 free throws, and Luther Head added 16 as No. 13 Illinois held on for a 73-72 win over Indiana and moved into the Big Ten Conference tournament final.

The Fighting Illini (23-6) recorded their seventh victory in eight games and will face Ohio State in Sunday's championship game at the United Center.

"We played defensively and we able to hang on for the win," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "I don't think we played smart basketball down the stretch, but still our guys were able to hit some free throws late to seal the victory."

Cook, the Big Ten Player of the Year, tallied 14 points in the opening 20 minutes as Illinois grabbed a 37-21 halftime advantage.

The Hoosiers (20-12) simply ran out of time. Tom Coverdale nailed a pair of 3-pointers around Cook's two free throws as Indiana outscored Illinois, 17-7, during the final 2:47.

"I thought Coverdale did a great job in the second half," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "He really controlled and got us into our offense. We fought every game here and that is definitely an improvement from the last few weeks."

"I knew Tom Coverdale is a competitor," Self said. "He can make hard shots and he did late in the game to keep them in it."

Coverdale paced Indiana with 21 points, but the Hoosiers lost to the Fighting Illini for the second time in 18 days, having dropped their meeting on February 25, 80-54.

"I think we are a different team than we were then," Coverdale said. "We have shown a lot of heart in the last few days and, unfortunately for us, we were one point short today."

Coverdale made three of his four second-half 3-pointers down the stretch.

His first basket from the arc with 2:03 left pulled the Hoosiers within 66-60.

The Illini made 7-of-10 from the line the rest of the way, offsetting two free throws from Jeff Newton, another pair by freshman Bracey Wright and Coverdale's attempted late heroics.

Cook scored eight points in a 17-2 run to close the first half that opened up a 16-point lead. Sean Harrington and Head had 3-pointers that stemmed a run by Indiana and gave Illinois a 55-42 advantage with more than seven minutes to go.

Wright finished with 16 points and George Leach added 14 for Indiana, which must hope for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Newton had a quiet game with eight points and nine rebounds.

The physical contest featured 31 free throws for each team.


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