It’s been nearly a week and a half since Illinois basketball fired John Groce, but his team will still be playing in the NIT for at least one more game.
The No. 2 seed Fighting Illini (20-14) were back in action on Monday night to host their second round matchup against No. 6 seed Boise State (20-12). Brad Underwood was in attendance after being officially introduced earlier in the afternoon, however coaching responsibilities once again fell to Jamall Walker, who returned to the sidelines for a second game.
The Orange and Blue traded baskets with Boise State for most of night, however Illinois’ primary group of seniors — Malcolm Hill, Maverick Morgan, and Tracy Abrams — never relented in their final career game at the State Farm Center.
A 19-4 run midway through the second half quickly propelled Illinois out in front, and the Broncos really had no chance to offer up any sort of rebuttal. The Orange and Blue eventually secured a 71-56 victory to advance to the NIT Quarterfinals.
Senior Tracy Abrams led the way for Illinois with 18 points, including a 3-6 performance from beyond the arc. Leron Black notched his second consecutive double-double in the NIT with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Boise State was led by junior guard Chandler Hutchinson, who had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals during a 6-15 shooting night from the field. Senior big man Nick Duncan also added 12 points, all of which came from three-point range.
But the biggest story of the evening was Malcolm Hill, who surpassed Dee Brown as the third all-time leading scorer in Illinois program history. Hill scored 13 points, finishing his 31st game this season in double figures.
STOP THE GAME.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) March 21, 2017
Malcolm Hill has passed Dee Brown to become the No. 3 all-time scorer in #Illini Basketball history!
THERE IT IS. pic.twitter.com/Ydr5peKvd9— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) March 21, 2017
Due to a scheduling conflict with the State Farm Center, the higher-seeded Fighting Illini will travel to Orlando to face No. 6 seed UCF on Wednesday night. That contest will televised on ESPN2 at 8:00pm CST.