PORTLAND, Ore. – Western Kentucky is at it again.

The 12th-seeded Hilltoppers, who made an unexpected run in the NCAA tournament last year, pulled off a first-round upset of fifth-seeded Illinois, 76-72 on Thursday night in the South Regional.

Steffphon Pettigrew had 17 points to lead Western Kentucky (25-8) which led by as many as 17 points but had to hold off a late charge by the Illini (24-10). It was the 19th time in the last 21 years that a 12 seed has beaten a No. 5.

Illinois made a late run to close to make it a one-possession game in the final minute.

Meacham had a season-high 24 points for the Illini, who were without senior defensive specialist Chester Frazier, who had surgery on his right hand last week.

Western Kentucky will face Gonzaga (27-5) in the second round.


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