Illinois Basketball: 5 observations from the Illini loss to Arkansas

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Illinois basketball

Illinois’ Matthew Mayer shoots the ball during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament first round match-up between Illinois and Arkansas, on Thursday, March 16, 2023, at Wells Fargo Arena, in Des Moines, Iowa.
0316 Illinos Arkansas 003 Arw

And just like that, the Illinois basketball season is over after playing one round of the NCAA tournament.

It doesn’t even feel like the game has started yet. The Illini took a quick 2-0 lead, but then Arkansas started punching. Within minutes, Illinois had already dug into a hole and couldn’t manage to climb out.

The Razorbacks never let Illinois get back into the game. We were as close as five points midway through the second half, but Arkansas went on a little run to increase their lead back up to double-digits.

Illinois looked discombobulated for much of the game and no one could get going. Turnovers would eventually end all hope, as the Illini would fall to Arkansas, 73-63.

Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball loss to Arkansas.

1. Matthew Mayer’s run ended in a “fart noise”

Illinois had, on paper, a special offseason that included landing a talented recruiting class and bringing in some of the most coveted transfers in the portal.

Well, the transfer experiment in 2022 didn’t work out. Terrence Shannon Jr. was fine, at best, toward the end, but he didn’t exactly blow me away as far as play goes. But the one player who really frustrated me down the stretch was Matthew Mayer.

At times this season, I typed out that Mayer was a sensational player who could create is own shot. He was someone who Illinois could lean on when we needed a big basket. That version of Mayer went missing a few weeks ago, though. There have been missing posters published, but no one has been able to find his game.

Coming into the Arkansas game, Mayer had been playing some of his worst basketball of the season. He was 8-of-25 from the field and 1-of-15 from three-point range in his last two contests. But the NCAA tournament is a different animal. Maybe, just maybe, Mayer would show up for the postseason.

That wasn’t the case, though. Mayer, once again, laid an egg. He would finish the game against the Razorbacks playing 22 minutes and scoring two points on 0-of-6 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point range.

In an interview earlier this year, when asked a question, Brad Underwood, with his mouth, made a fart noise as an answer. Well, that interview was just a foreshadowing of things to come. Mayer’s career at Illinois ended with a fart noise.

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