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Abrams scores 29 as No. 12 Illinois hangs on to beat Auburn 81-79

  • ff91a745a1091c24250f6a706700b379.jpg

    Auburn guard Chris Denson, center, goes up for a shot as Illinois' Brandon Paul, left, and Nnanna Egwu, right, defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press

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    Illinois guard Brandon Paul, right, shoots against Auburn guard Frankie Sullivan during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press

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    Auburn center Rob Chubb, right, battles for a rebound with Illinois forward Nnanna Egwu during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press

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    Auburn forward Allen Payne, left, shoots over Illinois forward Sam McLaurin during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press

Tracy Abrams scored a career-high 29 points and No. 12 Illinois beat Auburn 81-79 on Saturday.

The Illini (13-1) saw an 11-point lead shrink to one in the closing minutes but they prevailed after falling to Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game a week earlier — their first loss under coach John Groce.

Things got real tense when Frankie Sullivan buried a 3 for Auburn (5-7) to make it 68-67 with 4:29 remaining. Illinois then hit 13 of 18 free throws the rest of the way for a rare win at the United Center, where they had dropped three straight and five of six after winning 18 in a row.