Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois' NCAA Hopes Dwindling after Latest Loss

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois' NCAA Hopes Dwindling after Latest Loss

Article excerpt

IOWA CITY, Iowa * Selection Sunday arrives in 17 days, and in that time tension will build and nerves will fray.

That's particularly true for teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble, which means everyone connected with Illinois basketball should expect some restless nights.

Illinois' tournament hopes took a hit Sunday when it lost at home to Michigan State, then took another one Wednesday night when Iowa prevailed 68-60 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"We weren't very smart tonight," Illinois coach John Groce said. "We did not execute very well."

Aaron White scored 14 straight points for the Hawkeyes (18-10, 9- 6 Big Ten play) during a critical stretch in the second half. White finished with a career-high 29 points.

The Illini, who played short-handed, once again struggled to find balance with their offense. Starting point guard Jaylon Tate did not play as he continues to battle an illness. Groce said Sunday that Tate was running a fever in excess of 100 degrees and was fighting an upset stomach.

The illness kept him on the bench Wednesday and brought Ahmad Starks to the starting lineup. Starks responded in a big way offensively, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the first half.

But he also had six turnovers and no assists.

Battling foul trouble in the first half, the Illini (17-11, 7-8) fell behind 22-15 before going on an 8-0 run that included two Starks 3-pointers and a fast-break basket by Kendrick Nunn to give Illlinois a 23-22 lead.

But Iowa would go on its own 7-0 run and Illinois trailed by one at the break, 33-32, largely because of Starks' shot-making and because Iowa committed eight turnovers that led to 14 Illinois points.

Iowa's length and superior depth began to take a toll in the second half.

White's personal 14-0 run was interrupted when Anthony Clemmons scored to give Iowa a 51-46 lead with 11:48 left in the game. …

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