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).
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.