Welcome to “This Week in Illini Athletics,” a weekly review of the past week of Illini sports and a preview of the week to come.
And we were too busy celebrating the Big Ten Championship a week ago so we’ll get caught up on the last two weeks of Illini sports this time.
MEN’S BASKETBALL (22-9 Overall, 15-5 Big Ten, NCAA First Round)
Two Weeks Ago: You know what happened. Illinois won the Big Ten Championship.
Last Week: The 16th-ranked Illini dropped a 65-63 nailbiter to Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday. The game saw 7 ties and 9 lead changes, but the Hoosiers ultimately ended up on top. The Illini had a chance to take the lead with under 10 seconds remaining, but an Andre Curbelo layup rolled off the rim, sealing Indiana’s victory. Kofi Cockburn finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the losing effort.
This Week: March Madness is upon us, and for the second straight year, Illinois is dancing. The Illini earned a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they will face #13 Chattanooga on Friday at 5:50 p.m. in Pittsburgh. Should the Illini win, the winner of #5 Houston-#12 UAB will await them in the second round on Sunday.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (7-20 Overall, 1-13 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: The Illini opened up the Big Ten Tournament with a 75-66 win over Wisconsin in the first round of Wednesday. Sophomore Aaliyah Nye led Illinois with 17 points, draining five of her six three-point attempts, and sophomore Kendall Bostic posted a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds as well. Illinois then fell 92-74 to Nebraska in the second round on Thursday. This concludes the Illini women’s basketball season.
BASEBALL (5-8 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: Illinois went 1-2 on the weekend in Minneapolis, beating #25 West Virginia 6-2 between losses to #12 Notre Dame and Kansas. Sophomore Riley Gowens (1-0) threw five scoreless innings against WVU, striking out eight and allowing just one hit to pick up his first win of the season.
Last Week: The Illini dropped their home opener to Eastern Illinois on Tuesday but took two out of three at Western Kentucky over the weekend. Junior third baseman Branden Comia tallied three hits, three runs, and three RBI in a 12-7 win on Friday, finishing just a single shy of the cycle.
This Week: Illinois comes back home for a one-game set against Butler on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Then the Illini travel to Carbondale for a three-game weekend series at Southern Illinois.
SOFTBALL (11-7 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: Illinois won three out of four at the Cardinal Classic in Louisville. The Illini outscored opponents by a combined score of 25-0 in their three wins and lost by just one (8-9) to Louisville on Saturday. Senior Sydney Sickels tossed a complete game (five inning) shutout in a 9-0 win over Western Michigan, striking out 10 and allowing just two baserunners (one hit, one walk).
Last Week: The Illini went 2-2 at #14 Clemson’s Tiger Invitational over the weekend, beating Liberty twice but dropping both games to the hosting Tigers. Freshman left fielder Stevie Meade slapped a go ahead single up the middle in the top of the eighth inning to give the Illini the win over Liberty on Saturday.
This Week: It’s Braggin’ Rights week, as the Illini host #16 Missouri for a doubleheader at 2 and 4 p.m on Tuesday. Then Illinois takes a spring break trip to Georgia this weekend to play Dartmouth, #15 Georgia, and Mercer.
WRESTLING (3-7 Overall, 1-7 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: Illinois finished 11th at the Big Ten Championships, placing three wrestlers in the top eight in their respective weight classes. Sophomore Zac Braunagel (3rd, 184), Freshman Lucas Byrd (4th, 133), and sophomore Luke Luffman (6th, 285) all qualified for the NCAA Championships.
This Week: Those three Illini will compete in the NCAA Championships in Detroit from Thursday to Saturday.
WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING (5-4 Overall, 1-3 Big Ten)
Last Week: Sophomore Brooke Michael competed in the three-meter dive at the NCAA Zone C Diving Championships, and seniors Taylor Shegos and Madelyn Crosby participated in the one-meter competition. None of the three were quite able to place in the top five and qualify for the NCAA Championships, so this concludes the Illini swimming and diving season.
MEN’S GYMNASTICS (2-3 Overall, 2-2 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: #5 Illinois took a narrow defeat on the road at #3 Nebraska by a score of 408.050-405.650. Despite the loss, the Illini posted a then-season-high team score. Four Illini took home event titles as well, highlighted by senior Ian Skirkey’s 15.300 on pommel horse, the second-highest score this season in college gymnastics.
Last Week: The Illini returned home for senior day yesterday, but they could not come away with the victory against #4 Michigan despite posting a season-high score (408.400) for the second consecutive meet. Seniors Hamish Carter (14.350) and Ian Skirkey (14.300) won the floor exercise and pommel horse, respectively, while Carter also broke his own school all-around record in his final home meet with a score of 83.900.
This Week: Illinois travels to Air Force on Saturday at noon for its final regular season tuneup before the postseason begins in April.
WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS (4-3 Overall, 2-3 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: #19 Illinois took first place with a score of 197.125 at Huff Hall in a quad meet against Central Michigan, #24 Boise State, and Northern Illinois. Junior Mia Takekawa’s 9.950 on the balance beam was good enough to take the event title.
Last Week: The Illini extended their winning streak on senior night with a win over Bowling Green on Thursday, posting a season-high score of 197.350. In a quad meet with Lindenwood and Iowa State at #11 Missouri on Saturday, Illinois once again broke 197, scoring 197.275 to finish second behind the Tigers.
This Week: The postseason begins for Illinois with the Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday.
MEN’S TENNIS (4-8 Overall, 0-2 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: The Illini went 1-2 in a loaded weekend at Atkins Tennis Center. #4 Baylor and top-ranked TCU defeated Illinois 4-1 and 4-2, respectively, but Illinois sandwiched a 4-0 win over UIC between those two defeats. In the victory over the Flames, the Illini completely dominated, sweeping the doubles point and not losing a single set in any match.
This Week: Illinois takes a spring break trip to Florida to face the fourth-ranked Gators on Wednesday and UCF on Friday, each at 4 p.m.
WOMEN’S TENNIS (7-5 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Two Weeks Ago: It was a tough weekend for Illinois as it dropped two matches 4-0 at Kansas and at #3 Oklahoma. Multiple Illini were in position to win at Kansas before the match was called when the Jayhawks clinched.
This Week: Big Ten play kicks off this weekend as the Illini host Minnesota on Friday at 4 p.m. and Wisconsin on Sunday at noon.
Two Weeks Ago: The 20th-ranked Illini placed eighth (-10) behind six other ranked teams at the 15-team Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas. Three Illini finished the three rounds under par: junior Tommy Kuhl (-7, T13), junior Adrien Dumont de Chassart (-4, T21), and sophomore Jerry Ji (-1, T32).
This Week: Illinois heads to Arizona on Friday and Saturday for the National Invitational Tournament.
This Week: After a two-week hiatus, the Illini are back in action today and tomorrow in South Carolina for Charleston’s Briar’s Creek Invitational.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
Last Week: Three Illini earned All-American honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships over the weekend. Senior Jon Davis placed fourth in the men’s mile, his time of 4:07.69 just 0.15 seconds off of first. Junior Tyler Sudduth finished 15th in the men’s shot put with a throw of 18.68 meters. Finally, junior Olivia Howell’s time of 4:36.86 was good for fifth place in the women’s mile.
This Week: Illinois takes a short break before outdoor season begins at the Ole Miss Classic on March 25 and 26.