No. 9 Mizzou holds off Illinois

ST. LOUIS — Not much bragging for Missouri after this one.

Phil Pressey had 18 points, five assists and two steals, and the ninth-ranked Tigers held off a second-half charge by No. 25 Illinois for a 78-74 win in the annual Braggin’ Rights game on Thursday.

“There’s a fine line when you have an athletic team that is good in transition,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “We don’t want to play at warp speed all the time. That allowed Illinois to get back into the game.”

Reserve Michael Dixon added 18 points and Ricardo Ratliffe had 14 in 19 minutes for Missouri (12-0), which squandered a 13-point cushion with 13 minutes left before recovering. The Tigers have won three straight in the series, and they’re 12-0 for the first time since opening the 1981-82 season 19-0.

“We just had to dig it out,” guard Kim English said. “An ugly win is better than a pretty loss any day.”

Reserve Joseph Bertrand scored a career-high 19 points on 9-for-9 shooting, and Meyers Leonard had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Illinois (11-2) in its second loss in three games.

“They’ll be one of the best teams we’ll play all year,” Illini coach Bruce Weber said. “We had to play small ball. Bertrand hadn’t made a bucket in weeks, even in practice.”

Bertrand, a sophomore, totaled two points in the previous six games and came in averaging 3.2 per game. He scored nine points in a 17-3 surge for a 62-61 Illinois lead with 7:01 to go.

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