How the game was won: Kansas jumped on Illinois early, building an 18-6 lead after five minutes. Illinois fought back to pull within two points, but the Jayhawks would never completely relinquish their lead. Kansas was dominant inside throughout the game, allowing Illinois few interior scoring chances and often scoring at will on the other end. It didn’t help Illinois that star guard Demetri McCamey closed out his career on a sour note, scoring six points and shooting 2 for 9 from the field.
Key stretch: With 4:57 left in the second half, Brady Morningstar avoided a trap and found Markieff Morris under the bucket. Morris threw down a monstrous dunk. Kansas went up 60-51, and the Jayhawks fans roared. One minute and seven seconds later, Tyshawn Taylor tossed up a pass for Morris, and he powered home an alley-oop dunk to go ahead 62-51. The game was over.
Stat of the game: Illinois needed to shoot well to beat Kansas, and that didn’t happen. The Illini shot 6 of 21 from 3-point range. They had shot 7 of 13 from 3 against UNLV in the round of 64.
Players of the game: Brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris owned the interior. Marcus went for 17 points and 13 rebounds. Markieff had 24 points and 11 rebounds. They accounted for 56% of Kansas’ points and 71% of its rebounds.
Illinois player of the game: D.J. Richardson had a rough seven-game stretch leading up to the NCAA tournament where he didn’t score more than five points. His confidence was completely gone, and Illinois suffered for it. Against UNLV, he began looking like his old self, scoring 10 points. On Sunday, he took an even bigger step, scoring 15 points off the bench.
ESPN SportsCenter highlight of the game: In the first half, Illinois sophomore guard Brandon Paul’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key bounced off the rim, soared in the air well above the shot clock, clipped the rim on its way down and dropped into the net. TNT commentator Steve Kerr said he’d never seen a shot like it.
What the game means: It’s the end of another disappointing season for the Illini. They did reach the NCAA tournament and defeated UNLV in the opening round, but this season was supposed to be about so much more. Illinois was returning four seniors, including future NBA point guard McCamey, two experienced sophomores in Richardson and Brandon Paul, and a touted recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Jereme Richmond. Experts were predicting possibly a Big Ten championship and at least a Sweet 16 run. Illinois was inconsistent all season and never lived up to that hype. It won’t be easy for Illini fans swallow losing to former coach Bill Self on Sunday either. The pressure will likely be on Illinois coach Bruce Weber to win bigger next season to keep his job.