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Grades are in ... Illinois had no answer for Donovan Clingan

Mar. 30—Player of the game

Connecticut center Donovan Clingan

Clingan changed the game. Simple as that. The UConn big man scored 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting, facing almost exclusively single coverage from Illinois, and added 10 rebounds and five blocks. It was the shots he altered — basically all the rest at the rim — that was just as impactful. The Illini kept going at Clinghan. He kept saying no. Illinois shooting 8 of 30 on layups was not the sole reason for its Elite Eight loss, but it definitely mattered.

Backcourt

Illinois: D

UConn: A-

The Huskies did what basically no one else could this season — slow down Terrence Shannon Jr. The Illinois guard was held to single-digit scoring exactly zero times before Saturday's Elite Eight and was averaging 31.2 points in his six previous postseason games. UConn bottled him up, with Shannon scoring just eight points on 2 of 12 shooting. The Illini might have lost by even more had Marcus Domask not scored 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting.

Frontcourt

Illinois: F

UConn: A+

There was no answer for Clingan. Not from Coleman Hawkins. Not from Dain Dainja. And by the time Amani Hansberry checked in, the UConn big man had taken a well-deserved seat. Hansberry only played once the game was well out of hand, but the Illini freshman did make two three-pointers and score eight points in seven stress-free minutes. Count it as experience for next year.

Bench

Illinois: D+

UConn: A+

UConn wound up with a pair of double-digit scorers off the bench in Hassan Diarra and Samson Johnson. The former was also a problem for Illinois with his physical perimeter defense, while the latter only added to the Illini's frontcourt issues. The Huskies wound up with a 27-15 advantage on bench points, with Hansberry's eight leading the way. Justin Harmon, who had four total postseason points before Saturday night, finished with five against UConn.

Overall

Illinois: D-

UConn: A

One thing about the Illinois season was true until Saturday night. The Illini might have taken losses through the regular season, but they never got blown out. They might have fallen behind by double digits in Big Ten tournament games, but they rallied. Saturday they fell behind by double digits and got blown out. A less-than-ideal end to what stands as one of the most successful seasons in program history. Particularly recent history.