The 2015-16 regular season didn't exactly end the way John Groce wanted it to. The Illinois Fighting Illini (13-18, 5-13) took the Penn State Nittany Lions (16-15, 7-11) to double overtime, where they ultimately fell by a final score of 86-79. Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor combined to score 43 points for Penn State.
Malcolm Hill was incredible yet again on Sunday. The junior exploded for a career-high 39 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 12-21 from the field (14-16 FT). In my opinion, Hill is absolutely one of the five best players in the conference, but he'll likely have to 'settle' for a Second Team All-Big Ten selection.
Sadly, Hill didn't receive much help in this contest. Kendrick Nunn and Maverick Morgan went a combined 6-29 from the field; the Illini simply can't afford that from two of their main contributors. Luckily, senior point guard Khalid Lewis had his best game as a member of the Illini. He ended up with 10 points while making several keys plays down the stretch to help send the game to overtime.
With Sunday afternoon's loss, the Fighting Illini clinched the No. 12 seed in the Big Ten Tournament; that means they'll face No. 13 seed Minnesota in the opening round at 3:30pm CT on Wednesday. Illinois won both their meetings against the Golden Gophers this season.
Barring a shocking run in the conference tournament, Illinois will not be named to any postseason tournament this year. They'll need to win five games in five days to receive an automatic NCAA Tournament bid -- so there's still technically a chance!
Illinois Fighting Illini stats
Penn State Nittany Lion stats