Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illini Fall Short

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illini Fall Short

Article excerpt

AUSTIN, TEXAS Illinois was able to keep Miami guard Shane Larkin under wraps in large part Sunday night, as if determined that if the season was to end, the Hurricanes' leading scorer would not be the culprit.

But with a third-round NCAA Tournament game on the line, Larkin nailed a 3-pointer at the Erwin Center that allowed Miami to recapture the lead with 59 seconds remaining.

The Hurricanes then made all of their free throws to hang on for a 63-59 win over the Illini, who had positioned themselves for an upset behind the play of Brandon Paul. The senior guard hit two 3- pointers as Illinois overcame a seven-point deficit and then threw down a dunk that gave the Illini the lead with 3 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.

Illinois, which finished 23-13, overcame a huge size disadvantage to outrebound Miami (29-6) and committed only eight turnovers. But it wasn't enough to reach the Sweet 16, something the Illini haven't done since 2005.

"We battled. I asked them to play with courage," Illinois coach John Groce said. "I thought their poise was tremendous. They were resilient. We had several guys make plays and had our opportunities. It was a battle. It was a heavyweight boxing match."

Paul overcame shooting struggles to keep Illinois close and then put the Illini in the lead with his second prodigious dunk of the second half. But Larkin's shot was the dagger the Illini couldn't overcome.

"When the clock hit zero, it hit me faster than I thought that it was my last game," Paul said. "I'm proud of the way we fought tonight and made plays to be in position to be successful."

Rion Brown was a thorn in Illinois' side much of the night, hitting five 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 21 points. Larkin finished with 17. Paul led the Illini with 18 while Nnanna Egwu contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds.

After Larkin's shot, Illinois had the ball down two points when a disputed call went Miami's way. D.J. Richardson missed a 3-pointer, and with both teams fighting for the rebound, the ball flew out of bounds under the Illinois basket. The officials gave the ball to the Hurricanes as the Illini argued vehemently and the crowd jeered after watching a replay on the scoreboard.

"The officiating today and Friday was tremendous. These are the best of the best," Groce said before adding, "My second thought it that you saw the same video I did. ... Fifty-fifty calls are hard sometimes."

Durand Scott hit two free throws at the other end to give Miami a four-point lead with 36 seconds left, and the Hurricanes added four more perfect free throws. …

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