It could have been the Illini's first 0-2 start since the 1920s.
But despite trailing by as many as 14 after halftime, Illinois used a second-half comeback to get its first win of the season, an 80-74 victory over North Dakota State on Sunday night in Springfield.
Mike Thorne Jr. was sensational for the second straight game, scoring 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds to lead the Illini. This after he scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the season-opening upset loss to North Florida.
Malcolm Hill scored 13 points, while Jalen Coleman-Lands had 15 and Maverick Morgan had 10 off the bench.
Down 11 at halftime, the Bison got a 3-pointer to open the second half to make it a 14-point advantage. Illinois responded, cutting the lead to five over the next few minutes before another NDSU spurt again made it a double-digit lead.
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But the Illini went on a 20-5 run over the next five and a half minutes, with Thorne scoring eight points during that stretch and walk-on Alex Austin adding five points. Thorne's layup with five and a half minutes to go gave Illinois its first lead since the game's opening basket.
After going down, 54-44, with 10 and a half minutes to play in the game, the Illini outscored the Bison, 36-20. Thirteen of Thorne's 21 points and nine of Hill's 13 points came during that span.
The Illini shot 49.1 percent from the field, aided by hot shooting in the second half of the second half. Illinois outscored NDSU, 52-35, in the final 20 minutes. The Illini were just 17-for-27 from the free-throw line, an ugly 63-percent mark.
The Bison started hot shooting the ball and finished with a 44.3-percent mark from the field. For the second straight game, the Illini allowed an opponent to hit double digit 3-pointers, as the Bison splashed in 11 shots from behind the 3-point line Sunday.
Illinois sits at 1-1 after two games in three days. Next up is a road trip to play Providence on Wednesday night.