DES MOINES, Iowa (WCIA) — Illinois committed 17 turnovers, shot 27 percent from the field in the first half and despite a late rally to cut the lead to five late, lost 73-63 to Arkansas Thursday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The ninth-seeded Illini (20-13) trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Razorbacks (21-13) lead grew to as many as 17 in the second, in a script that’s played out more times than Illini fans would like to remember this season. Getting down early then mounting a late comeback has been a theme for Illinois in a season full of ups and downs. Arkansas used Illinois’ miscues and sloppiness to its advantage, scoring 19 points off turnovers. They outrebounded the Illini 43-34 while limiting Illinois to 38 percent shooting for the game, including 27 percent from beyond the arc.
“It was kind of expected, I mean when you don’t run anything, when you turn the ball over and we don’t know what we’re doing on offense,” Illinois junior forward Coleman Hawkins said. “We’re not sharing the ball, we can’t just come in to expect to win, so it’s not hard to swallow, it’s just kind of expected.”
Turnovers a big issue with the Illini committing 17 in the game, the Razorbacks took advantage too with 19 points off those miscues. Poor shooting didn’t help either, just 27 percent from the field in the first half, 6-for-22 from 3 in the game.
“Turnovers have been this team’s bugaboo all year,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “You can’t turn it over 17 times and then compound that with being a very poor shooting team, dead last in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting, that’s something we’ve got to get better at. So you put turnovers and shooting and you’ve got a problem.”
Terrence Shannon Jr. led for the Illini with 20 points, with Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez adding 10 points a piece. Ricky Council IV led for the Hogs with 18 points.
“I think it really just came down to we had too many turnovers per game and we weren’t a good 3-point shooting team and that’s pretty much how you have a good offense is being good at those two things,” Illinois senior forward Matthew Mayer said.
The early exit certainly leaves a sour taste for Illini Nation, another season without that coveted Sweet 16 appearance, the streak up to 18 years now, as Illinois finishes with a 20-13 record, but fans will likely remember the finish. 3-6 the final month of the season.