Our Clients:

Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Mar 31, 2024 1:06 am

Defending champ UConn dominates Illinois, back in Final Four

donovan clingan

BOSTON — Top-seeded UConn wasn’t going to let Terrence Shannon Jr. spoil its chances of becoming the first team in 17 years to win back-to-back national championships.

Shannon had scored at least 25 points in each of his previous seven games, but the Huskies (35-3) held him to just eight on Saturday while also opening the second half on a 25-0 run to coast to a 77-52 victory over third-seeded Illinois (29-9) in the Elite Eight.

Winners of the East Region, UConn will face West Region winner Alabama (25-11) next Saturday at the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz.

Shannon struggled all night against UConn, making just 2 of 12 shots from the floor in 36 minutes of action. While slowing down Shannon was a team effort, Huskies coach Dan Hurley gave a lot of credit to Stephon Castle, a freshman tasked with guarding a fifth-year senior.

“Steph just made it really, really tough on (Shannon). He chased him off the line. We did a great job in transition,” Hurley said. “Whenever he did get the edge, we had rim protection there. You had Donovan (Clingan) there, you had Samson (Johnson) there.

“But Steph, there’s a reason why, in the basketball world, people are as high on Steph as they are. He’s a winning player.”

UConn’s defensive prowess was on full display after the Fighting Illini’s Marcus Domask tied things at 23-all with 1:49 left in the first half.

The Huskies scored the final five points of the half to take a 28-23 lead into the break, then essentially punched their ticket to the Final Four in the first seven minutes of the second half.

Clingan opened the outburst with a short jumper, and he later put together a sequence in which he blocked Quincy Guerrier, snagged the rebound and threw home a dunk on the other end.

That led to an Illinois timeout, but it ended up having no effect on the Huskies, who went on to expand their lead to 30 at 53-23 when Hassan Diarra punctuated the back-breaking run with a layup at the 13:16 mark of the half.

Justin Harmon scored down low with 12:41 to go for the Fighting Illini’s first points following intermission.

“Our defense is elite, our offense is elite, we rebound the ball. These guys play every possession like it’s the end of the world,” Hurley said of his group. “We’ve got NBA-level players that are just willing to share.”

Clingan finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals for UConn, which is headed to its seventh Final Four in program history. Cam Spencer also recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards, and Diarra supplied 11 points.

The Huskies are now two wins away from becoming the first team to win back-to-back national championships since Florida did so in 2006-07.

In winning the East Region, UConn outshot Illinois 51.7 percent to 25.4 percent overall.

Domask paced the Fighting Illini (29-9) with 17 points. He was Illinois’ only scorer in double figures. Like Shannon, Coleman Hawkins also struggled, notching just five points on 2-of-10 shooting. Hawkins supplied 12 points against Iowa State on Thursday in the Sweet 16.

“We’ve had a great year, filled with great people,” Hawkins said. “It was just a fun group to be around.”

Clingan got UConn off to a fast start, scoring the first seven points of the game. The Fighting Illini didn’t get on the board until Domask split a pair of free throws with 16 minutes left in the first half to make it 9-1.

Illinois got within 15-13 on a Domask 3-pointer with 11:27 remaining, but points were few and far between for the remainder of the half.

The Huskies never fell behind, but they did give up the lead when Domask scored inside to draw the Fighting Illini even at 23-23.

However, Diarra canned a 3-pointer and Tristen Newton sank a pair of free throws to provide UConn with its halftime advantage.

“Great, great season,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “Tough ending. But, man, I’m just so blessed. I mean, I’m truly blessed that I got to coach this group.”

–Nick Galle, Field Level Media

You may also like

nuggets, lakers
Apr 23, 2024 1:58 am

NBA roundup: Nuggets rally, shock Lakers at buzzer

Jamal Murray hit a step-back jumper as time expired and the host Denver Nuggets rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 on Monday night in…

nuggets, lakers
Apr 23, 2024 1:02 am

Jamal Murray, Nuggets sink Lakers at buzzer

Jamal Murray hit a step-back jumper as time expired, and the host Denver Nuggets rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 in Game 2 of…

76ers, Knicks
Apr 22, 2024 10:44 pm

Knicks rally late, grab 2-0 series lead over 76ers

Donte DiVincenzo hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left Monday night for the host New York Knicks, who scored the final eight points to stun the Philadelphia 76ers 104-101…

More Basketball News

nuggets, lakers
Apr 23, 2024 1:58 am

NBA roundup: Nuggets rally, shock Lakers at buzzer

Jamal Murray hit a step-back jumper as time expired and the host Denver Nuggets rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 on Monday night in…

nuggets, lakers
Apr 23, 2024 1:02 am

Jamal Murray, Nuggets sink Lakers at buzzer

76ers, Knicks
Apr 22, 2024 10:44 pm

Knicks rally late, grab 2-0 series lead over 76ers

cavaliers
Apr 22, 2024 10:04 pm

Cavs down Magic, open up 2-0 lead in series

Karter Knox
Apr 22, 2024 9:29 pm

Ex-Kentucky recruit Karter Knox commits to Arkansas

Read all
fb-post
advertisment
title-icon

Upcoming events

See all odds
Array