Advertisement

Bob's buzzer beaters | This one stings

Mar. 30—This one is going to hurt, Illinois. For a long, long time.

A brilliant Illini basketball season, one of the best in a generation, ended with a thud.

Defending national champion UConn scored the first 25 points of the second half and rolled to a 77-52 victory in the East Regional final Saturday night at Boston's TD Garden.

The Huskies are heading to Glendale, Ariz., for the Final Four. Brad Underwood's team is on the way home after losing for the first time since March 5.

The Illini accomplished so much, winning 29 games and the Big Ten tournament title. They stopped a 19-year Sweet 16 drought.

But the first double-digit loss all season won't soon be forgotten. Never mind that it came against a team many consider a near lock to become the first repoeat champion since Florida in 2006-07. No argument from the Illini.

Southern Illinois transfer Marcus Domask did everything he could. The first-team All-Big Ten honoree led his team with 17 points. He will have the entire Illinois fan base in his corner as he pursues a shot at the NBA after one of the best one-year stays at Illinois in recent memory.

Not the way Big Ten tournament MVP Terrence Shannon Jr., wanted to close his Illinois career. He had only two points in the first half and finished with just eight points. He was 2 of 12 from the field. Remember, he scored 85 points in Illinois' first three NCAA games. "He was not as effective as Illinois needed him to be," TBS anouncer Dan Bonner said.

The "Round Mound of Rebound," TBS studio analyst Charles Barkley, didn't mince words at halftime when talking about Brad Underwood's Illini: "They should be ahead." Cohort Kenny Smith seconded the notion, adding context about Illinois' missed layups. UConn led 28-23.

With a few exceptions, neither team could hit the broad side of the USS Constitution before the break. Illinois made just 4 of 26 (15 percent) when anyone other than Domask shot. UConn was just as off. The starters other than Donovan Clingan were 1 of 17 (6 percent). All-American Tristen Newton was 0 of 6. Hard to watch.

TBS announcer Stan Van Gundy didn't seem impressed with the officiating in the first half, pointing out a string of missed fouls. Mostly fouls he felt should have gone against UConn.

While Shannon stayed quiet in the first half of the first half — scoring just two points — Domask kept his team close with nine quick points.

Hope you tuned in an hour early to watch the pregame show on TBS. Excellent fearture on Illinois big man Coleman Hawkins, which included his older sisters. They also played in college and gave him a proper amount of sisterly teasing.

Apparently, UConn coach Dan Hurley isn't superstitious about talking about his superstitions. TBS told his story, including an interview of his wife Andrea, where she explained his unusual underwear ritual. It is as weird as it sounds.

I checked StubHub for tickets a half hour before the opening tip. The cheapest available was in the $700 range. Brokers love it when a popular team is playing close to home like UConn. They made a fortune this week in Boston.

Being 90 miles from the campus in Storrs, no surprise the noise advantage in TD Garden belonged to the Huskies. But the Illini got their shares of roars too, especially as they rallied from an early deficit. A loud "defense"" chant could be heard when UConn was on offense.