Illini advance, finals up next

Illini advance, finals up next

CHICAGO — All Illinois men's gymnastics wanted was another shot at Oklahoma.

Well, here they go.

The Illini compiled a score of 408.824, placing second during Friday night's qualifying session of the NCAA championships to advance to tonight's six-team finals at the UIC Pavilion.

Oklahoma, the three-time defending national champions, defeated Illinois in a dual last month in Champaign and posted the top score of any team on Friday with a 410.991. Those two, along with Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State and Stanford will compete at 6 p.m. today in the finals after the field was whittled down from 12 teams to six on Friday night.

"Getting to the second day is all that matters, and we left so much out there (on Friday)," Illinois coach Justin Spring said. "We perform a little better, and it'll be anyone's to win. The energy was electric, and (today) is going to be double that."

Solid performances in the final two rotations during rings and vault has Illinois eagerly waiting to see if the program can win its first NCAA title since 2012.

"All you had (on Friday) was the chance to lose something," Spring said. "That's just a different kind of anxiety to deal with and can actually be harder to handle."

Add in strong fan support, with Illinois faithful filling an entire section of the lower bowl at UIC Pavilion, and tonight could bring about a raucous atmosphere.

"I didn't get a crowd like this until I was in Beijing competing at the 2008 Olympics," Spring said. "They'll have a chance to remember this weekend for the rest of their lives."