PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — For all their struggles in the Big Ten Conference this year, this was one of those games that players from Rutgers and Illinois are not going to forget. Three overtimes. Rutgers' best player missing a go-ahead free throw with 3.3 seconds left in regulation. Illinois blowing a seven-point lead in the final 29.2 seconds of the first overtime. Career highs galore. Excitement. Fun. It was everything college basketball is about.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — For all their struggles in the Big Ten Conference this year, this was one of those games that players from Rutgers and Illinois are not going to forget.
Three overtimes. Rutgers' best player missing a go-ahead free throw with 3.3 seconds left in regulation. Illinois blowing a seven-point lead in the final 29.2 seconds of the first overtime. Career highs galore. Excitement. Fun. It was everything college basketball is about.
Malcolm Hill scored 10 of his 32 points from the free throw line in the third overtime and Illinois outlasted Rutgers 110-101 on Wednesday night, extending the Scarlet Knights' losing streak to 10 games.
"It's fun after you win, it's depressing when you lose, so I mean, the first thing I did was lay down when we got back in the locker room," said Hill, who also had a career-high 14 rebounds for the Illini (11-12, 3-7). "This is a game you'll remember for a long time, you can tell your family and friends back home about it.
Illinois also got career-highs of 26 points from Jalen Coleman-Lands and 20 from Maverick Morgan. Kendrick Nunn added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Corey Sanders had career highs of 39 points and 12 assists for Rutgers (6-17, 0-10) but he missed a free throw with 3.3 seconds to play in regulation that would have put the Scarlet Knights ahead. Jonathan Laurent had a career-best 23 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers has now lost its last 24 regular-season conference games dating to a win over Wisconsin on Jan. 11, 2015, and 25 straight league games counting the tournament.
"We didn't get the "W," Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. "A lot of good things happened and we're proud of our guys. Some individual performances were magnificent, but we need everyone, our top seven guys to play at a high level, and we didn't get that again."
This was a thrilling game until the final overtime.
Hill hit two free throws with 3:56 left in the third extra five minutes to give Illinois a 95-93 lead. The Illini proceeded to score the first nine points to take a 102-93 lead. Nunn, who had a horrible night shooting, made a big 3-pointer after making only 2 of his first 12 shots.
Rutgers had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds of regulation.
Hill hit a foul-line jumper with 9.7 seconds to play to give Illinois a 75-74 lead.
Instead of calling their last time out, Sanders took the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court and was fouled by Khalid Lewis on his drive along the right side of the lane with 3.3 seconds to play. He hit the first free throw to tie and missed the second.
Hill got the rebound and was fouled by Grier with less than a second to play. However, it was only the Scarlet Knights fifth team foul so it was not a shooting situation.
The Illini appeared to put the game away in the first overtime, opening an 86-79 lead with 29.2 seconds to play. However, they turned the ball over twice and allowed Rutgers to close to within 86-84 when Sanders hit two free throws.
Lewis had a chance to ice the game with 11 seconds to go but he missed the second of two free throws and Sanders performed some magic in the waning seconds. He missed a game-tying 3-pointer, got his own rebound, dribbled back beyond the 3-point line and hit a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 87, causing his bench to mob him in celebration.
"I'm pretty sure everybody in the gym was interested in seeing how we were going to respond," Hill said. "That killed us, but we can sulk about that and complain about that later. At that point, we were just thinking we have to win first before we could think about what the heck just happened. That was a crazy sequence but that's nothing new to this team."
Sanders missed two shots late in the second overtime that would have given Rutgers the lead and Hill missed a game-winning attempt at the buzzer.
The last overtime was all Illinois, which was 21 of 22 from the free throw line in the overtimes.
"This was a heck of a game," Illinois coach John Groce said. "Obviously two teams that were fighting scratching clawing and trying to get a win with everything we been through and they been through. I don't know, probably other than us, they've had some injuries, with all they've been through I was really impressed with how hard their kids fought. I thought they really fought. Sanders was a load today. Laurent played really well."
Illinois: Hill has scored in double figures in every game this season. His career high was 34 against South Dakota earlier this year. He has 16 career games of 20-plus including 12 this season.
Rutgers: Sanders' total was the most ever by a Rutgers' freshman, breaking the mark of 35 set by Quincy Douby in an NIT game against Ohio State in 2004. It was the most points by a Rutgers player since Douby had 40 against Syracuse in 2006.
WWE Hall of Fame wrestler "Mick" Foley, Sr. threw T-shirts into the crowd during a break in the first half.
NUMBERS: The last time Rutgers played a triple overtime game was February 27, 1988 against UMass, a 119-114 win. The last time Rutgers scored 100 points was a 116-89 victory over Stillman College on Nov. 25, 2013.
Illinois hosts No. 5 Iowa on Sunday.
Rutgers at Nebraska on Saturday.
Follow Tom Canavan on Twitter @APTCan