Illinois Wins Big Ten Tourney Title, Earns No. 3 Seed In East Region Of NCAA Tournament


Published on March 18 2024 5:50 am
Last Updated on March 18 2024 6:03 am

MINNEAPOLIS – Champions. Closing the game on an 8-2 run over the final two minutes, Illinois secured its fourth Big Ten Tournament title in program history, taking down Wisconsin, 93-87, at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Illini will return to Champaign with some hardware, using a second-half surge to take down the Badgers and win their second conference tournament crown in four years.

Terrence Shannon Jr., who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, once again led the way offensively for the Illini, as he made a 3-pointer with 1:28 to play to put Illinois ahead for good before finishing with a game-high 34 points. Making four of his final five shots from the field, Shannon brought his weekend scoring total up to 102 points, the second-most by a player in Big Ten Tournament history. Shannon also totaled three 3-pointers, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal, while he made a career-most 15 free throws.

Marcus Domask totaled 26 points, his 10th game this season with at least 20 points. Domask went 8-for-11 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line, while he also grabbed four of his seven rebounds on the offensive glass. He also dished out eight assists for the second straight game.

Dain Dainja went a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and scored nine points off the bench, while he also hauled in seven rebounds.

Despite battling foul trouble, Ty Rodgers amassed seven points and five rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass. He also had one assist, one block, and one steal.

Coleman Hawkins ended the day with seven points, six rebounds, and two blocks, with his two swats bringing him up to 100 in his career.
Quincy Guerrier tallied two 3-pointers, which accounted for all six of his points.

Four of the Illini's five starters scored before the first media timeout, a stretch that included 3-pointers from Hawkins and Guerrier. Grabbing three offensive rebounds within the first four minutes of action, the Orange and Blue jumped out to an early 10-6 advantage.

After the Badgers took their first lead just over six minutes into the contest, the Illini responded with makes on three of their next four trips down the floor to even the contest at 18 halfway through the opening frame. Seven different Illini recorded points during that stretch, while Rodgers was the lone Illinois scorer with multiple field goals through the opening 10 minutes.

Wisconsin briefly extended its edge to four points before Illinois fought back with a 5-0 run to move back in front. Shannon connected from 3-point range for his first field goal of the day during that 90-second stretch, which saw the Illini take a slim 23-22 advantage.

Neither side led by more than four points over the next five minutes, though Shannon moved into double figures with a layup with just over three minutes remaining in the opening frame. The Illini then closed the period with a 5-0 run, all of which came from Shannon, to give Illinois a 41-40 advantage heading into halftime.

Shannon totaled 15 points before the break, a team-high mark, while Domask had nine points while shooting 75% from the field through the first 20 minutes of play.

Following the intermission, the two sides combined to make their first 10 shots from the field, though the Badgers accounted for six of those field goals and held a 55-49 edge at the first media timeout of the second half. Domask had six of the Illini's first eight points during those four minutes, bringing him into double figures for the second straight contest.

With Wisconsin's lead growing to double digits with 14-and-a-half minutes to play, Illinois used a 10-2 run in a two-minute span to cut its deficit down to two. Guerrier made his second 3-pointer of the day during that stretch, while Dainja made an and-1 layup to close out the momentum-shifting run.

Dunks from Hawkins and Dainja and a driving layup from Shannon put the Illini back in front before Domask connected from 3-point range, completing a 9-1 run for the Orange and Blue and giving Illinois a 70-65 advantage with just over nine minutes to play. 

The Illini's lead soon climbed up to six points after Shannon and Domask combined for the Illini's next nine points, though the Badgers battled back to knot the game at 79 with just over five minutes left.

After Wisconsin briefly took a lead with four minutes remaining, two Domask free throws and a Shannon jumper put Illinois back in front, 85-82. The Badgers then drained a triple to even the contest at 85 before Shannon found himself open at the top of the arc and splashing in his third 3-pointer of the day, putting the Illini back ahead, 88-85.

Grabbing a steal on Wisconsin's next possession, Shannon went coast to coast before being fouled. His two free throws extended Illinois' edge up to five points with one minute remaining. 

Closing the game on an 8-2 run over the final two minutes, the Illini clinched their fourth conference tournament title in program history.

Illinois Earn No. 3 seed In East Region Of NCAA Tourney

The bracket is officially set for the 2024 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The Big Ten Tournament Champion Fighting Illini (26-8) earned an automatic bid, the program's fourth consecutive bid under head coach Brad Underwood. Illinois is the No. 3 seed in the East region and will open their NCAA Tournament run against No. 14 seed Morehead State (26-8) in the first round on Thursday in Omaha, Neb., at CHI Health Center Omaha. Game time is set for 2:10 p.m. CT and will be televised on TruTV.

Illinois is one of only three Big Ten teams – and one of just 14 teams nationally – to earn a bid in each of the last four NCAA Tournaments.

Illinois' active streak of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances is its longest since participating eight years in a row from 2000 through 2007.

Illinois is making its 34th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, owning an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 42-34.

Coach Underwood, meanwhile, will be making his eighth* NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years as a head coach (*ninth precluded by cancelation of 2020 postseason due to COVID-19).

Illinois Basketball Under Head Coach Brad Underwood

• Big Ten's winningest team in league play over the last five seasons

• 69 B1G wins from 2019-20 through 2023-24 are most in school history over five-year stretch

• Four straight NCAA Tournament appearances (fifth precluded by COVID-19 cancelation in 2020)

• One of only five schools with five straight 20-win regular seasons

• Three Big Ten Championships in last four years

• Five straight top-five B1G finishes, including top-2 finishes three of the last four years

• Three consensus All-Americans

• Seven first-team All-Big Ten selections

• 2024 B1G Tournament Champions

• 2022 B1G Champions

• Led B1G in wins in 2021

• 2021 B1G Tournament Champions

• 2021 NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed (fourth in school history)