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Bob's buzzer beaters | 'It took everybody'

Mar. 15—Sign up for our daily basketball newsletter here

Never a dull moment for Brad Underwood's basketball team.

Illinois won its Big Ten opener for the first time since 2021, rallying to beat Ohio State 77-74 Friday night at Target Center.

The team advances to Saturday's afternoon semifinal against the winner of Indiana-Nebraska.

"Finding a way. I don't know how we did that," Brad Underwood said on postgame radio. "We hung in there and just kind of kept fighting."

Dain Dainja saved the day and several Illini chipped in.

"Dain Dainja was huge," Underwood said. "Today, he was the difference.

"The bench was huge. It took everybody."

HOT OFF THE PRESS#Illini survive scare pic.twitter.com/FwtNEEidLQ

— The News-Gazette (@news_gazette) March 16, 2024

1

Terrence Shannon Jr., who led Illinois with 14 points in the first half, had a monster second half. The All-Big Ten first-teamer finished with 28 points despite foul trouble.

2

Hats off to Dainja. Playing 11 miles from his hometown in Brooklyn Park, Minn., the backup big man finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. His playing time had increased in recent weeks and his performance against the Buckeyes should mean more in the NCAA tournament.

3

That makes two slow starts in a row for Marcus Domask, who struggled to score Sunday at Iowa early in the game before finishing with 11 points.

On Friday, the All-Big Ten first-teamer was held to seven points on 3-for-16 shooting. His first conversion, a three-pointer, came with 16:32 left in the game.

My goodness, TSJ. #B1GMBBT x @IlliniMBB pic.twitter.com/2wrJYayd6t

— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 15, 2024

4

No matter what happened in Friday's quarterfinal, Illinois was looking at no worse than a No. 4 seed in next week's NCAA tournament. But the Big Ten slugfest gives the team a chance to climb at least one notch. Or more. Better to be a No. 3 than a No. 4.

5

The closest NCAA first-round site is Indianapolis, but those two protected spots will certainly go to Purdue and Marquette.

Honestly, Illinois could be sent to any of the other seven locations. But many bracketologists have the team heading to Spokane, Wash. That's only 1,815 miles by car. Might want to leave Monday.

Name a better sports performance duo in college basketball. I'll wait ... #Illini pic.twitter.com/rY1TOH9ga0

— Scott Richey (@srrichey) March 15, 2024

6

Ohio State has a decision to make with with its basketball program: elevate interim head coach Jake Diebler or go find someone else. Reportedly, the leader of the "somebody else" block is Florida Atlantic's Dusty May.

Of course, I have an opinion. I'd stick with the known and give the job to Diebler. He took over under extremely difficult circumstances following the firing of Chris Holtman. He didn't just survive, he thrived, winning 6 of 7 going into Friday night's game against Illinois. One of those wins came against then-No. 2 Purdue. To me, that is the clincher because only two other teams beat Matt Painter's national title contenders so far this season.

This is a no-brainer. Give him the job and let him get to work on next season.

7

Is the Target Center a lovely building? Absolutely. Are the people of Minneapolis great hosts? Of course.

But should the Big Ten tournament ever return to the Twin Cities again? Not if I've got a vote.

The Big Ten has two wonderful, convenient options in Indianapolis and Chicago. I get why it wanted to try New York and Washington, D.C. Please, don't do it again.

The Big Ten tournament will always be the second-fiddle postseason tournament in New York behind the Big East. It's nothing personal, just geography. More of the teams the folks in the Big Apple care about are in the Big East. Simple.

My hunch is the conference will want to have the postseason event in Los Angeles one of these years Or even Las Vegas.

Here's hoping league officials look at a map and realize how much they will inconvenience the fans and media if they go out west.

The BTN crew for tonight's game ...

Brandon Gaudin, who said nice things about me Sunday during the Illinois-Iowa game, and Robbie Hummel, who had seemingly called half of Illinois' games this season. #Illini #B1GMBBT pic.twitter.com/5d24e1pELD

— Scott Richey (@srrichey) March 15, 2024

8

Robbie Hummel and Brandon Gaudin were on the call for BTN, meaning an announcing team with oodles of knowledge about both the Illini and Buckeyes.

Every time Mrs. Bob's Buzzer-beaters hears Hummel calling the game, she asks "Is that Jay Bilas? Close your eyes and listen, they sound alike.

9

Great move by the Big Ten to have Illinois alum Gene Honda handling the public-address duties. The Chicago native will again have the same role at the Final Four.

10

Always great to see former Illinois coach Bruce Weber working the pregame and halftime shows for BTN. He obviously has great awareness of the Illinois program but his extensive time in C-U and at Purdue gives him unique insight.

Weber seems comfortable with a microphone. He might go back to coaching if the right offer comes along, but I'm not sure if it is out there.