By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer
March 20, 2022
PITTSBURGH -- Now is the time Illinois wants to swap out its history in second round NCAA Tournament games as a 4-seed.
The Illini have only advanced out of the first weekend as a 4-seed one time and that was a 2002 regional at the United Center in Chicago. Illinois is trying to get to a regional semifinal in San Antonio possibly against Arizona and the only other time the Illini played a NCAA Tournament game in that city was when they beat 4-seed Kansas and then faced the Wildcats as a 1-seed in the regional final.
Here is the Illini’s 4-seed NCAA Tournament second round history:
1981 - NCAA West Regional Semifinal - No. 8 Kansas State 57, No. 4 Illinois 52 - Salt Lake City, Utah
Future NBA veteran Rolando Blackman led the Wildcats to another NCAA tournament upset just five days after they knocked off No. 1 seed Oregon State. Interestingly, this Kansas State team also started future Illinois assistant coach Tim Jankovich. Eddie Johnson led the Illini with 15 points and nine rebounds. However, this game revolved on the idea that Derek Harper was unfortunately 0 of 7 from the field and the Illini attempted just three free throws.
1986 - NCAA Southeast Regional 2nd Round - No. 5 Alabama 58, No. 4 Illinois 56 - Charlotte, N.C.
Two days after defeating Fairfield in the first round of the 1986 NCAA tournament, the No. 4-seed Illini fell behind Alabama by nine points in the first half in the Charlotte Coliseum. Tony Wysinger, a senior co-captain, led a 22-win Illinois team with 18 points off the bench but the Crimson Tide held Ken Norman to just 10 points due to foul trouble.
2000 - NCAA East Regional 2nd Round - No. 5 Florida 93, No. 4 Illinois 76 - Winston-Salem, N.C.
This was the last game of the Lon Kruger era of Illini basketball and he lost the game to the program he left to take the Illinois job. What is amazing about this game is it might be the worst defensive game Illinois played this season. Florida was 9 of 18 from 3-point range and Mike Miller, who turned into a 3-point specialist in professional basketball, never hit one. Miller led the Gators with 19 points and nine rebounds. The Illini were led by 27 points from Corey Bradford off five 3-pointers but Frank Williams was 3 of 11 from the field and Brian Cook was held to just two points. This Florida team would advance all the way to the National Championship Game and losing to Michigan State.
2002 - NCAA Midwest Regional 2nd Round - No. 4 Illinois 72, No. 12 Creighton 60 - Chicago
In front of a very partisan crowd at the United Center in Chicago, Bill Self’s Illini team had four players in double figures as they made it to the second weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. A young Kyle Korver led Creighton to a team-high 14 points but had only six field goal attempts. Illinois was 10 of 21 from 3-point range and Frank Williams had all of his game-high 20 points in the second half.
"I know the first half I didn't play that well, and Coach kind of jumped me in the locker room," Williams said after the win. "But my teammates kept telling me, 'Pick it up, you know what to do out there. You're the best player on the floor.' And the second half I came out more aggressive."
2003 - NCAA West Regional 2nd Round - No. 5 Notre Dame 68, No. 4 Illinois 60 - Indianapolis
For the first time since head coach Digger Phelps guided Notre Dame to the regional semifinals by North Carolina in 1987, Notre Dame advanced out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Dan Miller matched a career high with 23 points for the Fighting Irish.
"We were running and firing and I did not want to stop us because we were going for it,'' said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, who was celebrating his 44th birthday with the big win.
Brian Cook had 19 points and 16 rebounds but the Illini trailed by 13 at halftime and only cut it to six with 1:45 left after Deron Williams' tip in but failed to score another basket after that moment.
Notre Dame set a school tournament record with 13 3-pointers. The Irish were 13-for-24 from beyond the arc.
Illinois never led in the game as Dee Brown added 14 points for Illinois.
2006 - NCAA Washington D.C. Regional 2nd Round - No. 5 Washington 67, No. 4 Illinois 64 - San Diego, Calif.
The final collegiate game of the career of Illini legends Dee Brown and James Augustine ended in San Diego just a year after the run to the National Championship Game thanks to a superstar effort from Washington star and Pac 10 Conference Player of the Year selection Brandon Roy. Illinois couldn’t stop Roy, who finished with a game-high 21 points and would eventually become an NBA lottery pick,, from getting to the foul line (11 of 14 from the line). Augustine finished with 19 points and nine rebounds and Brown, who was forced this season back to point guard without the services of Deron Williams after he left for the NBA, had 15 points but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer ending his distinguished Illini career. The Illini grabbed some momentum from late in the first half to early in the second half to accumulate a 31-9 run, scoring 12 of the first 14 points of the second half to go up 45-37 but Roy and Justin Dentmon led the comeback.
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