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.
MEN’S BASKETBALL (23-10 Overall, 15-5 Big Ten, NCAA Second Round)
Last Week: The Illini, a 4-seed, defeated 13-seed Chattanooga 54-53 in a nailbiter on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately though, Illinois was knocked out of the tournament when it fell on Sunday to 5-seed Houston. The Illini struggled early against Chattanooga on Friday and found themselves trailing by 11 early in the second half. Illinois slowly chipped away at the deficit, however, and took the lead for the first time with under a minute to play when Kofi Cockburn put back a missed Coleman Hawkins free throw. Needing a stop up one with 12 seconds remaining, Hawkins blocked a Chattanooga jumper and contested another that would miss, sealing a far-from-comfortable win for the orange and blue. Despite the team’s struggles, Cockburn put up 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the win. On Sunday, the Illini got down early once again, scoring just 11 points in the first 15 minutes against Houston’s suffocating defense, trailing the Cougars by 12. Yet, as it has many times this season, Illinois scratched and clawed its way back, tying the game at 40 on an Alfonso Plummer three with just over 11 minutes to play. Unfortunately, Houston would score on the next possession, and it led the rest of the way, eventually pulling away to defeat the Illini 68-53. Once again, Cockburn led the Illini with 19 points and 8 rebounds. This concludes the Illini men’s basketball season.
BASEBALL (7-10 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: Illinois went 2-2 on the week, defeating Butler 13-4 at home on Tuesday and taking one of three at Southern Illinois over the weekend. Junior third baseman Branden Comia starred in the win on Tuesday, going 2 for 4 at the plate with 3 runs, 3 RBI, a home run, and a walk.
This Week: Four more games await the Illini this week beginning with Bradley on Tuesday afternoon at 4 at Illinois Field. They then travel to MSU to open up Big Ten play this weekend for a three game series from Friday to Sunday.
SOFTBALL (13-11 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: The Illini opened up the week with a doubleheader against #16 Missouri in Urbana on Wednesday, losing both. The team then took two out of four at the UGA Classic over the weekend, losing twice to the hosting #15 Georgia but defeating Mercer and Dartmouth. Sophomore Tori McQueen and freshman Lauren Wiles combined to shut out Mercer on Saturday, and senior Sydney Sickels allowed just one unearned run in five innings in a run-rule victory over Dartmouth on Sunday.
This Week: Illinois hosts SIUE at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and then kicks off Big Ten season with a three-game series at Purdue over the weekend.
WRESTLING (3-7 Overall, 1-7 Big Ten)
Last Week: Four Illini competed at the NCAA Championships this weekend in Detroit. Three of the four fell early, but freshman Lucas Byrd (133) placed fifth to earn All-American honors for Illinois. This concludes the Illini wrestling season.
MEN’S GYMNASTICS (4-3 Overall, 2-2 Big Ten)
Last Week: #5 Illinois finished off the regular season with its highest point total of the season, 416.000, defeating #10 Army, #8 Navy, and Rocky Mountain Pride in a quad meet in Colorado Springs. Seniors Hamish Carter and Ian Skirkey both won event titles, Carter (82.900) taking home the all-around and Skirkey (15.400) the pommel horse.
This Week: The Illini get a week off to prepare before the Big Ten Championships at Penn State on April 1 and 2.
WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS (4-3 Overall, 2-3 Big Ten)
Last Week: The 19th-ranked Illini finished eighth out of 10 at the Big Ten Championships in Columbus on Saturday with a score of 195.825. Junior Mia Takekawa scored 9.950 on the balance beam to tie for the Big Ten title.
This Week: Illinois will take a brief hiatus before returning to action at the NCAA Regionals from March 31 to April 2.
MEN’S TENNIS (6-9 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)
Last Week: The Illini went 2-1 on their road trip to the Sunshine State, defeating Fairleigh Dickinson 4-0 and UCF 4-3 but dropping their match 7-0 to #1 Florida. Sophomore Nic Meister won in both the Fairleigh Dickinson and UCF matches.
This Week: Illinois opens up Big Ten season this weekend at #2 Ohio State on Friday at 6 p.m. and at Penn State on Sunday at noon.
WOMEN’S TENNIS (8-6 Overall, 1-1 Big Ten)
Last Week: Big Ten season began this week, and Illinois split its two matches at home, defeating Minnesota 4-1 on Friday but taking a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. Sophomore Kate Duong and junior Ashley Yeah both went 2-0 in singles play on the weekend.
This Week: The Illini finish out their homestand this weekend against Maryland on Friday at 4 p.m. and Rutgers on Sunday morning at 11.
Last Week: The 20th-ranked Illini finished sixth out of 15 at the National Invitational Tournament in Arizona over the weekend. Junior Adrien Dumont de Chassart led Illinois, shooting 13-under in three rounds to place fourth.
This Week: Illinois gets the week off before heading to Georgia for the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational on April 2 and 3.
Last Week: Illinois placed sixth at the 17-team Briar’s Creek Invitational in South Carolina on Monday and Tuesday. Sophomore Isabel Sy shot even par on the tournament to lead the Illini and finish in a tie for ninth.
This Week: The Illini play in South Carolina for the second straight week as they compete in the Clemson Invitational from Friday to Sunday.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
This Week: Outdoor season begins for the Illini at the Ole Miss Classic on Friday and Saturday.