The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the (10) Colorado Buffaloes, 57-49, in the “Second” Round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Although they won, it was a tale of two halves for the Fighting Illini. The first half featured an Illini team that couldn’t miss a shot while the second half featured an Illin team that couldn’t make a basket.
Illinois seemed like they came ready to play in the first half. Both teams seemed to be feeling each other out early (like two boxers in the fight). However, the Fighting Illini seemed to hit a spark after Brandon Paul nailed a three-pointer which gave them a one point lead.
Illinois was really able to build a lead in the last 7:30 of the first half. This was due to the fact that Colorado ended the first half scoreless in the last eight minutes. Illinois lead 37-21 at the half.
In the second half, Illinois came out completely flat footed. They made two free throws early in the half, but did not make an actual basket until the 8:36 mark. At that time, Colorado was up by three.
The Fighting Illini were able to fight back to regain their lead after D.J. Richardson and Paul hit back-to-back three’s. With a four point cushion, Illinois was able to ride their free throw shooting to the win.
This game was a perfect example of the types of teams that could show up for the Illini. One could see an Illini team that played well against Minnesota in their conference tournament or an Illini team that cannnot make a basket like when they played Indiana in the conference tournament.
The three Illinois players to reach double figures were Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tracy Abrams. Paul led the team with 17 points and made an outstanding 9-of-10 free throws in the game.
Overall, Illinois shot well from the foul line, but not a good as they usually do.
In their two conference tournament games, Illinois was able to shoot 90% from the charity stripe, but only shot 70% on Friday against Colorado.
It was nice for Illinois to come out and get a win in their second round game of the NCAA Tournament, but it would have been nice to see a more consistent Illini team.
In the Round of 32, Illinois will face off against the (2) Miami Hurricanes. Miami defeated (15) Pacific, 78-49, on Friday.
It is for sure that Illinois will use a similar offensive gameplan against the Hurricanes. Why change what got you this far? Although, they will be playing a team that can defend better than Colorado and shoot the three ball just as well as Illinois (if not better).
On Friday, Miami went 12-of-22 from beyond the arc and Durand Scott made five out of his eight three-point attempts.
Sunday will be an interesting day for the Fighting Illini.
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