SALT LAKE CITY - It may have come as a shock to Utah, but Austin Hill was still hurting Saturday.
Hill didn't even bother telling his coach or athletic trainer that his strained Achilles' tendon was throbbing like you can't explain.
"I just was not thinking about the pain," he said. "I had to play through it and play for my team because they needed me down the stretch."
The junior guard sat out the last two Illinois State basketball games, both losses. He returned to score 12 points in 19 minutes and gave the Redbirds a spark they needed in a 73-63 victory over the Utes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
"It was hard for me not to throw out that we missed Austin in the Niagara and Ohio games," said ISU coach Tim Jankovich. "That's not to say the outcomes would have been different, but from a coaching standpoint you know what a guy brings to the table.
"He brings several ingredients that are not all that plentiful on our team. I'm so proud of him. We were worried we wouldn't have him come league (Missouri Valley Conference) time."
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Hill took the ball right at Utah's big interior. He made 4-of-5 field goal attempts and 4-of-4 free throws, finishing a point off his season high.
Hill said the players "didn't need a big group hug or a big team meeting" to right what was wrong in the last week.
"We know what we needed to do," said Hill. "We needed to buckle down defensively and get things situated on offense. We're all men. We needed to go out there and handle our business."
The bigger they are .... : Freshman Jackie Carmichael noticed something after ISU ran into Utah after its morning shootaround.
"Two of them were the same height they said they were, but two of them might not have been," said the 6-foot-9 Carmichael. "They stretched them a little bit. It definitely was not an intimidation factor."
Carmichael keeps impressing his teammates and coaches. He scored three straight ISU baskets in the second half on some difficult shots to finish with seven points and also had a game-high 10 rebounds and three blocks.
"Now he's set a standard that he can hopefully work hard to play towards in a consistent way," said Jankovich.
Bouncing back: After suffering the worst regular-season loss in his three years as coach, ISU posted the biggest nonconference road victory of Jankovich's tenure.
"We had a different look. Our guys were excited to play this game," said Jankovich. "This was a big-time venue and a great team nationally. Our guys were in a different mindset as well. Ohio, as painful as it was, turned out to help us."
Notes: Osiris Eldridge became the eighth player in ISU school history to score 1,500 points. He upped his career total to 1,505 points .... The Redbirds made 15 of their last 16 free throws in the final 2:01. Lloyd Phillips was 6-of-6 down the stretch, while Hill went 4-of-4 ... The Redbirds are 15-7 when coming off a loss under Jankovich.