In a game of runs and extended droughts, Illinois had the last offensive surge while Colorado once again went cold from the field. The Illini used an 18-5 run to close out a 57-49 second round win against Colorado on Friday night in a 7-10 matchup in the East region.
Illinois were dying by the three to start the second half. The Illini were off the mark on their first 11 3-point attempts. During that stretch, the Illini saw their 16-point halftime lead erased as Colorado got out of its offensive funk, outscoring Illinois 23-2. Illinois trailed 44-42, but in a span of 24 seconds D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul rattled in back-to-back 3-pointers, giving the Illini a 48-44 edge.
Colorado responded to Illinois’ run with a Spencer Dinwiddie score, but for the second time in the game the Buffaloes fell into a long drought. Dinwiddie scored with 5:40 to go; the next field goal made by the Buffaloes was a 3-pointer with :17 seconds remaining from Xavier Johnson. Illinois left the door open for Colorado, as the Illini didn’t score for four minutes.
Colorado ended the first half, being held scoreless for the final 7:05. Illinois scored 13 unanswered heading into the locker room. Askia Booker hit a trio of 3-points in the first four minutes of the second half, sparking the 23-2 run. However, Illinois keyed in on him and held Booker scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Illinois will now direct its attention to No. 2 Miami, who cruised to a victory against Pacific earlier in the day. The shooting woes are a warning sign for the Illini entering the third round matchup, but you can’t question the team’s toughness. They countered a loud run at the start of the second half and were able to regroup and advance. Illinois is familiar and has thrived in tight games, winning seven of eight games decided by five points or less.
Paul led all scorers with 17, Richardson added 13 and Tracy Abrams chipped in 13. As a team Illinois was 8-for-31 from behind the arc (26 percent).
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne
No. 25 Texas A&M made a statement on Turkey Day, as they knocked off No. 10 Gonzaga 62-61 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Danuel House led the way with 19 points for the Aggies while Tony Trocha-Morales finished with 14 points as Texas A&M picked up the win despite the fact that they did not score for the final eight minutes of the game.
Billy Kennedy’s club looked the part of an SEC contender, playing tough defense and keeping Gonzaga’s massive and talented front line in check. Perhaps most impressive was that they were able to hang on despite blowing a lead late in the second half, and that they did it with their defense. Gonzaga can score. They have big bodies inside and shooters to surround them, but Domantas Sabonis struggled with foul struggle throughout the game while Kyle Wiltjer did not score in the final 12 minutes.
Kentucky, at this point, is the clear-cut favorite in the SEC, and while Vanderbilt looked really good in Maui this week, A&M looks like they’re going to end up giving the Commodores a run for their money for second-best in the league.
On the other hand, this loss wasn’t a total disaster for the Zags. They had the final possession with a chance to be a good team on a day when Domantas Sabonis was rendered completely ineffective. And, more importantly, point guard Josh Perkins was terrific. He did have a late turnover, but he scored all 15 of his points in the second half as he helped keep the Zags within striking distance.
Texas A&M will play the winner of Syracuse and No. 18 UConn for the title.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.