Survive and advance. That's the mantra of March. Despite the incredibly poor first 13 minutes of the second half, Illinois, somehow, someway, did just that on Friday despite getting out-played for most of the second half.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
D.J. Richardson, Illinois. The heart and soul of the Illini did not want his career to end with only one NCAA tournament win. Peoria native finished with 14 points and made four three-pointers, including one with 6:30 left in the second half that brought Illinois back from the brink.
The shot selection by Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams and Richardson in the second half was head-scratching. But Spencer Dinwiddie (six points) was a non-factor while Paul, Abrams and Richardson accounted for 77 percent of the Illini offense.
Nnanna Egwu was active all game (seven points, eight rebounds in 33 minutes) and only finished with one foul, which came in the first minute. Will need more production from Sam McLaurin on Sunday.
Tyler Griffey entered the game within the first 70 seconds, and his lone three-pointer kick-started 21-4 run to end the first half for Illini. Joseph Bertrand not much of a factor.
The Illini are an enigma. One that will play Miami on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Great at times. Confounding at others. John Groce's squad made enough plays in the second half to land the unenviable task of facing a Hurricanes squad that looked like it was ready for Atlanta on Friday.