Illini ask ‘why not us?’ as safeguarding champs wait for

  • Pete Thamel, ESPNMar 29, 2024, 02:33 AM ET

BOSTON– The Illinois men’s basketball group is so experienced that a lot of its players wouldn’t get carded at a local dive bar. They are physical enough that their cutting edge looks like it could be auditioning for linebacker areas at the NFL combine.The Illini balance that age and edge with an offense that can hum like a jazz band, with flourishes of deft passes and cuts that have formed among country’s most effective and reliable units.That harmony manifested itself in a first-half burst on Thursday night and a closing kick that allowed No. 3 Illinois to last longer than No. 2 Iowa State 72-69 in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament on Saturday night.Editor’s Picks 2 Related Illinois

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country’s most effective defense Saturday, jumping out with abandon in the opening minutes to build a 13-point lead and never ever relinquishing the cause leading Iowa State, which cut the lead to 2 three times in the final 10 minutes. Illinois scored the game’s very first eight points and never flinched, enduring star Terrence Shannon Jr.’s second-half foul trouble and flummoxing Iowa State’s offense.The spot in the Elite Eight continues Illinois’inmost NCAA competition run because 2005, when the Illini lost in the national title game. And the Illini teased with adequate potential versus the Cyclones that they left fans at TD Garden wondering if they could prove a worthy foil to safeguarding national champ UConn when they fulfill Saturday night with an area in the Final Four on the line.”We didn’t come here to win one game, “Illinois coach Brad Underwood stated.”We came here to win two

.”UConn blasted No. 5 San Diego State 82-52 earlier Thursday to declare the Huskies’status as the nation’s best team and

the tournament’s No. 1 total seed. UConn, which has lost just one game given that late December, will deal with Illinois for the very first time since 1994. There were bursts in Thursday night’s game where Illinois appeared like a deserving foil. Junior forward Luke Goode said the Illini will take a “why not us

“mindset into the game as he said the veteran Illini”have actually seen it all.””I have more of a respect for them,”said Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins.” I believe it’s a greater level of regard. I think they have actually been playing excellent

all year. I think they’re well-coached, and they do what they do. “The linchpin of any Illinois upset quote on Saturday will be Shannon, the star guard who finished with 29 points in Thursday’s win. That included sitting for more than five

minutes in the 2nd half after picking up his 4th foul with 11:17 staying. He’s balancing 28.3 points per game in the NCAA tournament and has scored more than 25 in seven straight games.Shannon hit a vital 3-pointer to boost the Illinois lead to five with nearly five minutes to go.” He’s as aggressive an offending player as there is in the nation, and he is dipping into such a high level,”Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said.” You can’t let a guy like that get the opportunities that we allowed for him early where he got his confidence going.”Illinois and Iowa State got in the game as the elite groups on opposite ends: Iowa State’s defense ranked No. 1 in adjusted protective performance, and Illinois brought the country’s No. 2 offense.But it was Illinois’defense– not a specifying characteristic– that ended up sealing the game, as Shannon took a take the length of the court and dunked the ball with 24 seconds staying to offer Illinois a six-point lead.Iowa State played valiantly in the 2nd half to come back, but its efforts were undone by some self-inflicted injuries, as the Cyclones shot 13-for-28 on layups and dunks.Illinois conquered its own hints at self-destruction, flopping at the free toss line. Underwood joked the Illini missed out on”102 totally free tosses “– in

reality they were 15-of-29. All four of Illinois’leading scorers are over 22 years old, and the cumulative roster is No. 11 in the country in’s experience metric.

(Only Creighton is greater among groups left in the tournament. )”We’ve played a great deal of college basketball,”stated Illinois guard Marcus Domask, a 23-year-old college student.” I have actually played a lot of groups that are supposed to beat us, if you say they’re expected to beat us.”Otzelberger mentioned that all of Illinois’ starters are 6-foot-6 or taller, giving them an imposing group that set a physical tone in the opening minutes against the Cyclones. “They’re absolutely an older, experienced, experienced group with some larger bodies, and they were the more physical team for a big part of the game,”he said.All that size and experience leave the Illini respectful of UConn, but undaunted.”This is what you get ready for,” Goode said.”It’s incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to go play the No. 1 group in the country in the Elite 8. You can’t request anything much better, truthfully. It’s a blessing for all of us to have that opportunity.”

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