Illini NCAA hopes all but gone after loss at Rutgers

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Piscataway, NJ — With their 62-59 loss to Rutgers on Saturday, the Illinois men’s basketball team can only hope to win the Big Ten Tournament if they want to make the NCAA tournament.

Rutgers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead but Illinois responded and took its first lead at 20-19. Rutgers ultimately closed the first half strong and took a three point halftime lead.

Illinois grabbed the lead back and extended it to ten, 44-34, with 15 minutes left in the game. But Mike Williams hit back to back 3s for the Scarlet Knights to cut it back to four.

The teams traded punches from there on out. Corey Sanders gave Rutgers a one-point lead on a layup with under a minute to play. Malcolm Hill responded with a three to give Illinois the 57-55 lead.

Rutgers got the ball back with 35 seconds left, and Deshawn Freeman hit a 3 with eight seconds left to give Rutgers the 62-59 lead. Tracy Abrams missed a last second three that would have tied it, ending the game with the 62-59 score.

Illinois drops to 18-13 overall, they finish 8-10 in the Big Ten. They’re locked in as the #9 seed in the Big Ten tournament. They will face either Iowa or Michigan on Thursday at 11:00 CT. 

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