Stop me if you’ve heard this before: An Illinois basketball team coached by John Groce has suffered an incomprehensible defeat at the hands of an outmatched opponent.
The Wintrop Eagles (3-1) shocked the Fighting Illini (4-1) on Monday night by claiming an unlikely 84-80 victory in overtime at the State Farm Center. The Orange and Blue maintained a 70-60 lead with approximately three minutes remaining in regulation, however the heroics of senior guard Keon Johnson sparked a 10-0 run to force the extra period.
Although the Eagles had only held the lead for 29 seconds during regulation, they were essentially in complete control for the remainder of the contest. Two dunks and a layup resulted in a quick 6-2 opening run, and Winthrop never looked back. The Orange and Blue did manage to pull to within one basket on three separate occasions in the final 1:23 of game time, but the Eagles’ free throw shooting secured the upset.
Johnson, while hampered with a foot injury that caused him to miss a Friday night game against Florida State, totaled 38 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists on 15-21 shooting from the field. When asked about that matchup during his postgame press conference, Groce said the following.
#Illini Groce: Tate was our best matchup on (Keon). I thought he wore Tate out. I thought we did a pretty good job knowing where he was at— Derek Piper (@DPiperScout) November 22, 2016
Michael Finke had a team-high 18 points on 7-14 shooting for Illinois. Despite 14 points and 9 rebounds, Malcolm Hill had a forgettable night after failing to score during an obviously nightmarish second half. Leron Black made his 2016-17 debut after serving a four-game suspension; the redshirt-sophomore had 10 points and 4 rebounds.
Jaylon Tate logged 34 minutes. Conversely, freshman guard Te’Jon Lucas was a DNP (coaches decision) and D.J. Williams played just 3 minutes.
The road won’t get any easier for the Fighting Illini, as the program will now start preparations for a Thanksgiving matchup against No. 19 West Virginia in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament. The game will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY; opening tip has been set for 2:00pm CT on ESPNU