Illini Fall To Iowa 64-61, NCAA Hopes Finally Extinguished
At one point in the second half, the Illini enjoyed a 7 point lead over the Hawkeyes, Meyers Leonard and Tyler Griffey seemed to be doing what ever they wanted in the paint and on the boards. Iowa had no answer for the Illinois size advantage.
Fast forward ten minutes and the Illini are instead trailing by 7 points. The Illini stopped looking inside and instead started chucking threes, and unfortunately missing them. Iowa on the other hand, was able to get open shots, and capitalized on a disintegrating defense and sank their threes.
Bruce Weber was quoted earlier this week that the games will all come down to how Illinois handles their gut checks. They did not look good against this
"I don't wanna go home, I want to keep playing, I don't want to take my uniform off" Senior Hawkeye Matt Gatens said, but that did not seem to be the attitude of the Illini players. Deflation, angst and disagreement were rampant, with players arguing on the court and no clear direction on offense.
"We had a couple crucial turnovers I recall, and missed a couple defensive assignments" Meyers Leonard said in the post game press conference, "We lost focus there for a minute and we werent able to get through the wall."
The Illini looked like a team ready for their season to be over.
Illinois would make one final push at the end of the game, after two previous possessions ended in turnovers, Joe Bertrand hit a three to pull the Illini within one point. But Matt Gatens would hit both of his free throws on the other end and only a forced three was all Illinois could muster for their final shot, ending their season, unless they accept an NIT bid.
So that's it. that is the Illini experience in the Big Ten tournament, bounced on the first game on Friday. All eyes will be on Athletic Director Mike Thomas now, as an important month for the future of Illini basketball begins.
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