For the last five minutes of a dogfight against No. 7 Seton Hall, Illinois' star shooter was on the bench trying to figure out where and when he'd lost his shot. It didn't take him long to find it.
No. 9 Illinois battled Seton Hall to a tie without Bradford, who then scored eight points in overtime as the Illini won 87-79 on Saturday.
Bradford, who shot 2-for-12 and failed to make a 3-pointer in regulation, made two in overtime to tie former Virginia Tech player Wally Lancaster's NCAA record of 73 straight games with at least one 3-pointer.
"That was a perfect time to get it out of the way," Bradford said. "The only thing going through my mind on the bench was getting the win."
Illinois (7-2) rallied from a 21-point deficit late in the first half to force the overtime on the way to its second win this season over a higher-ranked opponent. Marcus Griffin led Illinois with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Darius Lane led Seton Hall (5-1) with 31, and Eddie Griffin added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
"Illinois was too tough for us to handle at this stage in our season," Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker said. "They were much more aggressive."
Bradford's 3-pointer with 2:30 left in overtime gave Illinois a 78-74 lead. Andre Barrett's layup pulled Seton Hall to 80-79 with 1:29 left, but the Illini hit 7-of-7 free throws to seal the victory.
Greg Morton made two free throws with 22 seconds reaining in regulation to tie it at 68. Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin each missed potential game-winners for Illinois in the closing seconds.
Illinois had trailed by 21 late in the first half, thwarted by Seton Hall's defense and 18 first-half points by Lane. The Illini missed all 10 of their 3-point shots in the first half and trailed 42-25.
Self's halftime speech was neither fiery, nor eventful, but he did tell players he was disappointed for them because they were getting beat up in front of a sellout crowd and on national television.
"I almost took a sabbatical at halftime," Self said.
The Illini started the second half pushing the ball inside, taking just one 3-point shot in the first seven minutes of the period while they chipped away at Seton Hall's lead.
Williams made Illinois' first 3-pointer of the game with 12:22 left to bring the Illini to 50-45. Williams' shot came during a 30-13 Illinois run that ended with the Pirates ahead 57-55.
"We just came out with a different mentality," said Williams, who finished with 21 points, five assists and seven rebounds.
Lucas Johnson grabbed a rebound and dunked it to tie the game at 57 with 7:22 to go. Seton Hall turned it over and Bradford's long jumper put Illinois ahead 59-57 with 6:47 left in regulation.
The teams traded leads several times before Williams drove the lane, switched hands and banked one off the backboard to give Illinois a 68-66 lead with 40 seconds left.
Morton made two free throws and Illinois tried to run time off the clock to get the last shot, but McClain missed a 3-pointer from the left wing. The ball bounced off a Seton Hall player out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left.
The inbound pass went to Marcus Griffin, who missed a jumper in the paint as the buzzer sounded ending regulation.
"I was hoping we could steal it in overtime," Amaker said.
It was Bradford who stole the overtime.
"Cory played like there was a hundred pound sack on his back today," Self said. "I didn't think he was much of a factor when I took him out late. But just when you least expect it, Cory hits the big shots."
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