The (7) Illinois Fighting Illini fell late to the (2) Miami Hurricanes, 59-63, in the “Third” Round of the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois came out like a team that did not want their season to end on Sunday. They gave Miami trouble the entire game and could have easily won the game in the end.
Shane Larkin hit a three-pointer that gave the Canes a 57-55 lead with one minute left in the game. After D.J. Richardson missed a three on the other end, Miami (FL) gained possession on a ball knocked out of bounds. This was the definition of 50-50 call. Miami got the possession, but it could have just as easily been Illinois’ ball.
The Fighting Illini fouled the Hurricanes and they trailed by four points after two made free throws. The Illini would never get closer than that and lost by four points.
Illinois had three players score double-digit points. These players included: Brandon Paul (18 points), Tyler Griffey (12 points), and Nnanna Egwu (12 points).
Paul led the team in scoring. He went 8-of-20 from the field and 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. The only think Paul wasn’t able to do was get to the foul line.
Overall, Illinois did not get to the foul line much as an entire team.
In their game on Friday against Colorado, Illinois was able to get to the foul line for a total of 24 free throws. On Sunday against Miami (FL), they only attempted seven free throws.
This is the one part of Illinois’ game that can be a strength or flaw. The Illini are most successful when they get to the foul line a lot.
When it came to Miami, they got an offensive boost from a “surprising” player. This player was junior guard, Rion Brown.
Brown was only averaging 6.0 points per game this season, but has had two games with 20+ points. On Sunday, he played 29 minutes off the bench for the Canes while going 7-of-14 from the field and 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. He made five out of Miami (FL)’s nine three-pointers.
The loss on Sunday means that Illinois’ season came to an end. Overall, it was a successful one for the Fighting Illini.
In John Groce’s first season as head coach, Illinois was able to start the season 13-1 before Big Ten conference play. They might have struggled against the Big Ten early on, but were able to get things going later on.
They’ve racked up big conference wins over Ohio State, Indiana, and Minnesota (twice). They were able to win five straight games after their upset victory over #1 Indiana which helped them into the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, the Illini went “one and done” in the NCAA Tournament, but still fought down to the last second of their season.
Next season, Illinois will be without Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Sam McLaurin, and Tyler Griffey. All four of Illinois’ senior proved how good the Illini can be.
Wait until coach Groce brings in his recruits. The future looks bright for the Illinois Fighting Illini.
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