Illinois basketball vs. Morehead State score, highlights: Illini wins NCAA Tournament opener

The Big Ten Conference tournament champion Illinois Fighting Illini pulled away to defeat the Morehead State Eagles 85-69 on Thursday in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.

Illinois now will take on No. 11 seed Duquesne, a 71-67 winner over No. 6 BYU, in the second round of the East Region bracket on Saturday.

Here's everything you need to know about the March Madness game, including the big plays, other highlights and more from Omaha:

Illinois vs. Morehead State highlights in NCAA first round

4:35 p.m. — Illinois advances

The Illini pulled away in the final 15 minutes of this game and will advance to the second round set for Saturday after a 85-69 victory.

4:29 p.m. — Marcus Domask lands triple-double for the Illini

Marcus Domask has the 10th triple-double in NCAA Tournament history — with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Illini. The list of NCAA Tournament triple-doubles includes Ja Morant, Draymond Green and Shaquille O'Neal.

MORE: Illinois' Marcus Domask records 10th NCAA Tournament triple-double in March Madness history

4:21 p.m. — Unselfish Illini

Illinois has 22 assists on their 29 baskets — a season-high total for 2023-24. The Illini are tough to beat when they share the ball this month.

4:19 p.m. — Illinois athletes showing up

The Illini are running the floor. Coleman Hawkins is on a personal five-point run, including a couple of fastbreak baskets, as Illinois is imposing itself with a 75-54 lead with 6:46 remaining.

4:12 p.m.: Illinois pulling away

Illinois has outscored Morehead State 24-6 over the last 7-plus minutes and is taking control, 68-51.

3:53 p.m.: Morehead State back on top

Riley Minix hits a 3, then a pair of free throws 66 seconds apart and Morehead State squeezes back on top, 45-44, at the under-16 break.

3:47 p.m.: What an effort play

Illini star Shannon Jr battles for a loose ball at center court, it sails down toward the Morehead State bucket, he splits to Eagles players with a dive on the floor, and sweeps the ball off one of his opponent's legs all in one motion to give Illinois possession.

Then Shannon gets a layup off the subsequent inbounds play for a 41-40 lead 79 seconds into the second half.

3:23 p.m.: Illinois 39, Morehead State 38, halftime

The Illini got 19 points from Terrence Shannon Jr on 7 of 13 shooting from the field in the first half. Former Missouri Valley Conference star Marcus Domask added four rebounds and six assists.

The Illini shot 48.4% from the field after a slow start.

Morehead State has 12 points each from Jordan Lathon and Riley Minix.

The Eagles knocked down 6 of 13 from 3-point range.

Morehead State limited its bench to an appearance by guard Eddie Ricks III, using just six players in the half.

Illinois went nine deep.

3:08 p.m.: Illini run into the lead

Illini complete their comeback from early slow start with an 11-2 run over 1:45 to leap ahead, 34-29, with 4:47 left in the first half.

Cole Hawkins opens it with a 3, Shannon with a piercing layup and then Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn nails a 3 for a 32-29 lead.

Then Shannon Jr delivers a highlight-reel worthy twisting, acrobatic drive to the rim for 34-29.

2:54 p.m.: "A little effort would be good"

Illini head coach Brad Underwood is asked during timeout what his players need to do to disrupt the timing of Morehead State. He tells the TruTV broadcast: "A little effort would be good. They walked into three straight 3s and we've been just really flat on the glass. ..."

2:52 p.m.: Illini down 3

Riley Minix jumper gives Morehead State a 19-13 lead. But Luke Goode answers with a 3 and Illini head to the under-12 break down just 19-16 after opening with a 9-0 hole.

2:47 p.m.: Shannon rallies Illini

Shannon Jr pours in nine points over a five-minute stretch to help the Illini climb back to within 17-13 with 13:06 left. He's 3 of 5 from the field.

Morehead State is shooting 58.3% from the field in the opening minutes.

2:41 p.m.: Morehead State 9-0 start

Morehead State throwing haymakers from the jump, hitting three unanswered 3-pointers from Riley Minix, Kalil Thomas and Jordan Lathon in the first 100 seconds for a 9-0 lead.

2:30 p.m.: Illinois vs Morehead starting lineups

Illini open with guard Terrence Shannon Jr and Marcus Domask, Cole Hawkins, Quincy Guerrier, Ty Rodgers.

Morehead State counters with forward Dieonte Miles and guards Kalil Thomas, Jordan Lathon, Drew Thelwell, Riley Minix.

What channel is Illinois vs. Morehead State today? How to watch, stream live

The Illini and Eagles will face off in a game broadcast on truTV. Tom McCarthy (play-by-play), Deb Antonelli (analyst) and Avery Johnson (analyst) will be on the call, with AJ Ross serving as the sideline reporter.

Streaming options for the game include the NCAA March Madness Live app, which is showing every NCAA Tournament game for free, and Sling TV, which carries all tournament games on a Warner Bros. Discovery network: TBS, TNT and truTV.

Illinois vs. Morehead State start time, TV info, location

Illinois vs. Morehead State preview

Illinois: Coach Brad Underwood’s team enters March Madness with a 26-8 record and victories in 12 of its past 15 games, helping it earn a No. 3 seed for the NCAA Tournament. That stretch was capped off last week in the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis, where the Illini won three games in three days, including a 93-87 victory in the conference championship game against Wisconsin.

Morehead State: The No. 14 seed Eagles enter the matchup with a 26-8 record after winning the Ohio Valley Conference championship. It’s Morehead State’s ninth all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2021. Its last victory in the Big Dance came in 2011, when a team led by future NBA first-round draft pick Kenneth Faried upset No. 4 seed Louisville 62-61.

Illinois vs. Morehead State odds, betting line, spread

Odds courtesy of BetMGM as of Monday, March 18, 2024

  • Spread: Illinois (-12.5)

  • Over/under: 147.5 points

  • Moneyline: Illinois -900, Morehead State +575

What is an Illini? Explaining Illinois nickname, mascot leading into 2024 NCAA Tournament

Illinois vs. Morehead State prediction, game picks

Illinois 81, Morehead State 67: Sportsbook Wire writes, "Illinois has compiled a 19-14-1 record against the spread this season. Morehead State is 20-11-1 ATS this season. The Fighting Illini average 84.4 points per game, 21.6 more points than the 62.8 the Eagles allow."

Illinois vs. Morehead State stats


  • PPG: 84.4

  • PPG allowed: 73.8

  • FG% .471

  • 3PT%: .350

  • KenPom ranking: 10


  • PPG: 75.5

  • PPG allowed: 62.8

  • FG% .470

  • 3PT%: .361

  • KenPom ranking: 111

Illinois vs. Morehead State championship odds

Odds according to BetMGM:

  • Illinois: +3,000

  • Morehead State: +100,000

REQUIRED READING: Illinois March Madness results: Selection Sunday bracket predictions for Big Ten champion

REQUIRED READING: March Madness expert picks: Our bracket predictions for 2024 NCAA men's tournament

Illinois vs. Morehead State start time, TV info, location

  • Date: Thursday, March 21

  • Time: 2:10 p.m. CT

  • Location: CHI Health Center, Omaha, Nebraska.

Illinois and Morehead State will tip off at 2:10 p.m. CDT, though that time could be pushed back depending on how long the game preceding it at the venue — Duquesne vs. BYU — runs.

Illinois basketball schedule 2023-24

Below are the results of Illinois' last five games. For its full schedule, click here.



Tuesday, March 5

Purdue 77, Illinois 71

Sunday, March 10

Illinois 73, Iowa 61

Friday, March 15

Illinois 77, Ohio State 74 (Big Ten Tournament)

Saturday, March 16

Illinois 98, Nebraska 87 (Big Ten Tournament)

Sunday, March 17

Illinois 93, Wisconsin 87 (Big Ten Tournament)

Thursday, March 21

vs. Morehead State (NCAA Tournament)

Morehead State basketball schedule 2023-24

Below are the results of Morehead State's last five games. For its full schedule, click here.



Thursday, Feb. 29

Morehead State 72, Southeast Missouri 50

Saturday, March 2

Morehead State 67, Lindenwood 49

Thursday, March 7

Morehead State 78, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (OVC Tournament)

Friday, March 8

Morehead State 84, UT Martin 78 (OVC Tournament)

Saturday, March 9

Morehead State 69, Little Rock 55 (OVC Tournament)

Thursday, March 21

vs. Illinois (NCAA Tournament)

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Craig Meyer contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Illinois vs Morehead State score, highlights: 2024 NCAA Tournament