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Beat writer Scott Richey recaps what went wrong for the Illini on Monday night at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo.:

What happened

It’s not unfair to call what happened Monday night in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo., an unmitigated disaster for Illinois. At least after the first eight minutes of the game. That’s when the Illini’s 15-point lead on Cincinnati began to disappear. It was gradual at first, but became rampant in the second half as the Bearcats pulled a 20-point upset.

What it means

Illinois certainly isn’t the No. 14 team in the country. It will take a week for that to show up in the Associated Press Top 25 given the most recent poll came out about eight hours before Cincinnati delivered its crushing blow. What the Illini might be is broken offensively. The missed shots piled up in the second half to the point Illinois finished just 28 percent from the field.

What’s next

Bruce Weber. The Kansas State coach will meet his old employer for the first time since Illinois fired him in 2012 when the two teams meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the Hall of Fame Classic consolation game. He and Brad Underwood, a Kansas State grad, can commiserate about how their teams played Monday, with No. 13 Arkansas fending off K-State 72-64.

What was said

“I’m really proud of our defensive effort. That’s something that we are trying to build our program on. One of our most intrinsic values is who we are defensively and who we are on the backboards. I thought we did a nice job of that (Monday) against a really good team.”

— Cincinnati first-year coach Wes Miller after his team stayed undefeated

Grades are in: Illini fade in second half

Player of the game

Cincinnati wing Jeremiah Davenport

The Bearcats’ Mike Saunders Jr. got his teammate by a single point Monday, outscoring Davenport 20-19, but it was Davenport’s string of three-point daggers in the second half that put Illinois away. Davenport was 4 of 8 from three-point range and added seven rebounds to his 19-point scoring effort in Cincinnati’s upset win.

Backcourt

Illinois: F

Cincinnati: A

A strong start helped Andre Curbelo finish with 12 points and five assists, but five turnovers (and a lingering left foot/ankle injury) limited the Illinois point guard. Big picture, though, the Illini aren’t going to win many games when Trent Frazier misses all nine shots he takes.

Frontcourt

Illinois: D

Cincinnati: A

Kofi Cockburn made his presence knownin his season debut. The Illini center faded in the second half like the rest of his teammates, but 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go with seven rebounds was still solid production in his first game.

Bench

Illinois: C+

Cincinnati: A

Da’Monte Williams led all players with 10 rebounds. RJ Melendez had his moments. Austin Hutcherson scored five points (all on free throws) in his first game at Illinois after two-plus years. Brad Underwood went to his bench more, but they couldn’t make up the growing deficit.

Overall

Illinois: D

Cincinnati: A

Continuity matters. But the Illini have little of it through the first two weeks of the season given multiple injuries and Cockburn’s suspension. The gap between the talent on the court and what’s happening even without that continuity is clearly a short-term concern. Illinois just wasn’t competitive in the second half, and that should be alarming.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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