By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer
Marhc 16, 2023
(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The final chapter of the story about the University of Illinois men’s basketball 2022-23 season seemed similar and almost plagiarized from previous losses.
The Illini showcased paltry shooting, numerous unforced error turnovers, defensive lapses that led to Arkansas layups and an inability to overcome a slow start in the first half with a furious second-half comeback. The all-to-familiar script of demise for No. 9 seed Illinois ultimately traveled with the orange and blue to the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa leading to a disappointing 73-63 defeat at the hands of No. 8 seed Arkansas.
The Razorbacks (21-13) will play No. 1 seed Kansas on Saturday for the right to advance to the second weekend of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Illinois ends its 2022-23 season with a 7-8 record in its last 15 games.
Illinois (20-13) began the first 20 minutes of this game making just 8 of 29 from the field with nine turnovers and missing eight of 11 from beyond the three-point arc. Arkansas, which entered this event as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the tournament field, had 19 points off 17 Illinois turnovers. For the 14th time this season, Illinois went into the halftime locker room on the losing end as Arkansas utilized points from eight different players in a deeply talented squad led by head coach Eric Musselman.
The Razorbacks were led by 16 points from Davonte Davis but it was likely a defensive play that secured the victory for Arkansas. While only up five with two minutes left to go, Davis was able to poke the basketball away from Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins on a fast break opportunity that led to a layup for Ricky Council IV. Council IV, a junior guard who transferred from Wichita State after being the 2022 American Athletic Conference Sixth Man of the Year, finished with 16 points and nine rebounds in 39 minutes of action.
Illinois was led by Terrence Shannon Jr.’s game-high 18 points but the Texas Tech transfer went scoreless for the first 15 minutes and 30 seconds of this contest. Matthew Mayer’s college basketball career ends with a 2-point performance from the Baylor transfer where he went 0 for 6 from the field, 0 for 5 from three-point range and three turnovers in 22 minutes.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Illinois has only won two total games as the higher numbered seed (2004 and 2011). Illinois is now 1-8 all-time against Southeastern Conference teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois will now have to wait another season before the program has a chance to end its 18-year drought of reaching the second week of the NCAA Tournament.
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