Providence 60, Illinois 59
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Illinois had three chances on its final possession to notch a huge road victory but Malcolm Hill's runner lipped out, Michael Finke's dunk didn't go in and Hill's last-second three fell short, causing most of the Illini players and coaches to collapse or heave over ine The Illini (1-2) missed 11 of its final 12 shots over the final 6:06 in the loss to Providence (2-0).
The Illini were paced by its bench with freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands leading the Illini with 17 points (6-9 FG, 5-7 3FG), and redshirt freshman Michael Finke notching 12 points and seven rebounds. Junior Malcolm Hilll had his second double-double in three games (15 points, 11 rebounds) and played all 40 minutes.
Big East Preseason Player of the Year Kris Dunn was limited to 10 points, but Ben Bentil had 18 points and Rodney Bullock added 13.
Both teams shot 38.3 percent. Illinois committed 13 turnovers, nine in the first half, and gave up 30 points in the paint. Providence shot 8-for-18 from the free-throw line.
What it means
Illinois played tough on the road but made too many mistakes to pull out a much-needed road upset. Instead of feeling like they made up for the season-opening loss to North Florida, the Illini remain in a hole that they need to dig out of, probably next week in the Emerald Coast Classic. This team plays hard, but it needs more discipline. Will that come with more experience? Like too many games in seasons past, this is the type of game that haunts you in March.
What went right
Illinois shut down Big East preseason Player of the Year Kris Dunn in front of two dozen NBA socuts, including Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie. Meanwhile, Illinois junior Malcolm Hill played like the veteran star, affecting the game in so many different ways. The Illini bench came up huge. Freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands continues to show the stroke that earned him praise as one of the top shooters in the Class of 2015, and Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan gave big boosts off the bench.
What went wrong
Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black, starting his first game of the season after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in early October, were absolute nonfactors due to foul trouble. Thorne Jr., who averaged 23.0 points over his first two games, was held scoreless in 13 minutes (0-5 FG) aand fouled out. Black . Illinois missed its opportunity in the first half. Dunn was off or in foul trouble but the Illini had nine first-half turnovers. Walk-on Alex Austin played good defense but forced the issue on offense, attempting a contested runner with under 30 seconds left. He should've gotten the ball to Hill or Coleman-Lands.
Star of the game
Michael Finke: The redshirt freshman forward looked uncomforable and uncertain of himself the first two games, but he hit an elbow jumper and got some swagger. He scored the Illini's first eight points of the second half and kept the team afloat. Finke won't add a lot of defensive battles, but he gives the Illini a great offensive option (both as a scorer and a passer) off the bench, and also adds some versatiltiy since he can play both the 4 and 5.
Illinois heads back to Springfield to host two games in three days, starting with another solid mid-major team, Chattanooga, on Saturday. The Mocs (2-0) have topped 90 points in both their games this season, including a 92-90 overtime win at Georgia. Monday's matchup against Chicago State is much easier.