Basketball

Illini Women Rally to Post WBIT Win Over Missouri State

Illini Women Rally to Post WBIT Win Over Missouri State

(From Illinois Sports Information Office) CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – [4] Illinois […]

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“We’re not here without Dain Dainja” - Morehead State Gets Caught in the Dainja Zone

“We’re not here without Dain Dainja” - Morehead State Gets Caught in the Dainja Zone

Illinois center Dain Dainja leads a resurgent bench effort in the Illini’s 85-68 win over Morehead State in first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. 

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 21, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. — As he walked into a winning locker room following a first-round victory, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood was handed a printed box score by a NCAA official.

The Illini seventh-year head coach stopped and stared at just one statistic on the paper - bench scoring. In an 85-69 win in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, Underwood knew it was the guys sitting next to him that propelled them to advance in this event. 

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Domask Leads Record-Setting Effort As Illini Rout Morehead State in NCAA Opener

Domask Leads Record-Setting Effort As Illini Rout Morehead State in NCAA Opener

By IlliniGuys Staff March 21, 2024 (Cover photo courtesy […]

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Sturdy's Morehead State Preview:  The Dance Begins

Sturdy's Morehead State Preview: The Dance Begins

By Brad Sturdy - IlliniGuys Insider/Analyst & Co-Host, IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular

March 21, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

The Illini are dancing again, this time in Omaha as they try to get the monkey off their back and make the second weekend for the first time since 2005. First team in their path is the Morehead State Eagles, winners of the OVC. The Illini, coming off of a win in the Big Ten Tournament, finished the season ranked 10th in the AP Poll and are feeling good heading into the NCAA’s this year. 

It all starts today. 

Setting the Stage

2024 NCAA Tournament // First Round // East Region 

3 Illinois (26-8, 11-9 Big Ten) vs. 14 Morehead State (26-8 Overall, 14-4 OVC) 

Thursday, March 21, 2024 // 2:10 p.m. CT // Omaha, Neb. // CHI Health Center 

TV: TruTV – Tom McCarthy, Avery Johnson & Debbie Antonelli AJ Ross 

Radio: Busey Bank Illini Sports Network – Brian Barnhart, Deon Thomas 

National Radio: Westwood One – Kevin Kugler (Play-By-Play), Stephen Bardo Satellite Radio: SiriusXM – 209 or 202 

Notable

*This is the 34th NCAA tourney appearance for Illinois, and the 4th in a row. They have made 5 Final Fours, the last coming in 2005 and are 42-34 overall all time. 

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‘It’s such a luxury”: Why Ty Rodgers Has Become A Matchup Nightmare for Illini Opponents

‘It’s such a luxury”: Why Ty Rodgers Has Become A Matchup Nightmare for Illini Opponents

Illinois 6-foot-6 sophomore Ty Rodgers may be asked to play anywhere from point guard to center in this NCAA Tournament first round matchup against Morehead State on Thursday. 

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 21, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. — Consistency has simply never been in the plans for Ty Rodgers during the 2023-24 season and that’s perfectly okay. 

The preseason talk in the summer and early fall months surrounding the 6-foot-6 athlete was about force feeding Rodgers with more point guard duties especially after Illinois failed to land an established veteran at the position out of the transfer portal. In order to handle the lead guard responsibilities, Rodgers quickly demanded from himself that he learn, through memorization and film study, the extensive duties of all five positions throughout each of the Illini’s offensive and defensive sets.

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Part III - White Jersey Theory

Part III - White Jersey Theory

Larry Smith - Executive Producer & Co-Host IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular

Cover photo Whole Hog Sports

March 23, 2023 (originally posted March 14, 2022)

The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is done, and March is again mad.

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“It's a long game” - Why Early Deficits Aren’t Necessarily A Big Problem For Illinois

“It's a long game” - Why Early Deficits Aren’t Necessarily A Big Problem For Illinois

After winning all three games in three days where they were down double-digits in all three, the Illinois players and coaches aren’t worried about an early deficit. 

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 20, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

OMAHA, Neb. — If the last three-day experience of the Big Ten Tournament didn’t prepare Illinois to not panic over early-game struggles, nothing likely will. 

In the midst of winning its league tournament, the Illini (26-8) experienced three straight games where they found themselves down double digits to Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Over the last three games in Minneapolis, Illinois managed to outscore its opponents by 28 points in the second half of each of its games.

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Get to Know Illinois’ First Round Opponent - Morehead State

Get to Know Illinois’ First Round Opponent - Morehead State

Morehead is making the program’s 9th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the Eagles upset Clemson in the first round of the 2023 National Invitational Tournament.

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 20, 2024

Riley Minix courtesy Morehead St Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — While several low-major and mid-major head coaches have struggled to consistently lose players in the transfer portal, Morehead State’s Preston Spradlin has made the process work for his program.

The Eagles (26-8), which will be Illinois’ first round opponent in the 2024 NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon (2:10 p.m. CST, truTV), have lost their share of star players (Johni Broome to Auburn and Ta'lon Cooper to South Carolina) in the last few years. However, the 37-year-old Spradlin had figured out how to use lower levels of college basketball to supplement his own program.

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 21, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. — While several low-major and mid-major head coaches have struggled to consistently lose players in the transfer portal, Morehead State’s Preston Spradlin has made the process work for his program. 

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Part II - White Jersey Theory

Part II - White Jersey Theory

Larry Smith - Executive Producer & Co-Host IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular

Cover photo Duke Athletics

March 23, 2023 (originally posted March 17, 2022)

OK so if you read Part I of the White Jersey Theory, I've probably whet your whistle. 

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Illini Excited About Opportunity to End Postseason Win Drought 

Illini Excited About Opportunity to End Postseason Win Drought 

Illinois hasn’t won a postseason game in over 11 years and a bid to the inaugural WBIT allows them to end that drought inside State Farm Center. 

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

After regathering her team together following a Big Ten Tournament early exit, Illinois head coach Shuana Green was encouraged her players had a desire to keep playing. 

In an era of college basketball where the transfer portal is open and men’s basketball programs are declining NIT invitations in order to begin preparations for next season, Green’s squad still has a single goal in mind that Illinois hasn’t accomplished in a dozen years. The Illini have not won a postseason game since Matt Bollant’s first season in 2013 when Illinois went to the quarterfinals of the WNIT. The creation of the Women's Basketball Invitation Tournament by the NCAA this offseason and the lack of a .500 overall record threshold for this event allows Illinois (14-15) the opportunity of this veteran-based team to get some postseason success. 

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Part I: Explaining The 'White Jersey Theory'; How The Referees Change The Game In March

Part I: Explaining The 'White Jersey Theory'; How The Referees Change The Game In March

Larry Smith - Executive Producer & Co-Host IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular

Cover photo Duke Athletics

March 22, 2023 (originally posted March 8, 2022)

It's hard to believe it's been 21 years since a random conversation forever changed the way I view college basketball. 
It was a time when the NCAA tournament made regular stops at Kansas City's Kemper Arena before the newer, sleeker T-Mobile Center was built.  And that's why I was in the building.  Not to cover a game, but to watch my alma mater Eastern Illinois play in its second (and last) NCAA tournament.  The Panthers were a huge underdog against the 2nd seeded Arizona Wildcats, but had a pair of guards - future pros Kyle Hill and Henry Domercant - who made every game interesting if not entertaining.

EIU vs. Arizona was the second game of the day, so I found a random vacant seat a few rows up from the floor to watch the 7-10 game, Wake Forest vs. Butler.  The Bulldogs had the better resume, but - as was often the case - the "big school" Demon Deacons were the 7-seed and the favorite.  But they were in the process of being knocked out in the first round by Butler and a young coach named Thad Matta.

The gentleman in the next seat recognized me and struck up a conversation.  He was also an informed spectator; a referee who was in town to work one of the evening games.  He was a seasoned official who often worked Pac-10 and Mountain West games.

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Underwood on Illini’s NCAA Sweet 16 Drought: “I came here to win a national championship”

Underwood on Illini’s NCAA Sweet 16 Drought: “I came here to win a national championship”

Days before his Illini program looks to end a 19-year drought of not reaching a NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood says that is not the postseason goal.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 18, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Joe Pickrell/IlliniGuys)

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not as if Illinois head coach Brad Underwood needs to be reminded his program hasn’t won two straight NCAA Tournament games in nearly two decades. 

No, the reminder might actually be from the seventh-year head coach himself to the public that a Sweet 16 appearance is not the goal of the Illini program - not as long as Underwood is in charge. 

“It’s not about checking a box. I came here to win a national championship,” Underwood said Sunday after winning the 2024 Big Ten Tournament and minutes learning his upcoming NCAA Tournament draw. 

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Sturdy's Rewind - Big Ten Champs

Sturdy's Rewind - Big Ten Champs

By Brad Sturdy - IlliniGuys Insider/Analyst & Co-Host, IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular

March 18, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

Illinois got 34 points from Terrence Shannon and 26 points from Marcus Domask as they held off Wisconsin 93-87 to win the Big Ten Championship. The Illini head into NCAA tournament play at 26-8, the most wins since the Dee Brown era in 2005-06. 

Wisconsin did not make it easy, however. A seesaw affair heading into halftime saw the Illini lead it 41-40 before the Badgers made their first 7 shots on the second half to take a 10 point lead at 61-51. With Wisconsin's lead growing to double digits with 14-and-a-half minutes to play, Illinois used a 10-2 run in a two-minute span to cut its deficit down to two. Guerrier made his second 3-pointer of the day during that stretch, while Dain Dainja made an and-1 layup to close out the momentum-shifting run.

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Illini Women to Host Missouri State Thursday in WBIT Opener

Illini Women to Host Missouri State Thursday in WBIT Opener

(From Illinois Sports Information Office) CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Illinois […]

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“It means more”: Coleman Hawkins Relishes Big Ten Tournament Championships in Freshman & Senior Seasons

“It means more”: Coleman Hawkins Relishes Big Ten Tournament Championships in Freshman & Senior Seasons

Illinois senior forward Coleman Hawkins able to reflect winning the Big Ten Tournament title in his first and fourth year with the Illini program.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer

March 17, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Joe Pickrell/IlliniGuys)

MINNEAPOLIS — In what is normally saved for a Southeastern Conference cliche line, Coleman Hawkins had a simple four-word description for being able to bookend the first and possibly final year of college basketball with a league tournament title.

“It just means more,” Hawkins said. “It means more when you stick around and do something for four years and you're familiar with everybody on the staff and all the changes that have happened. You've seen so many changes, it just means more. So I'm super proud of everybody.”

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