Notre Dame 84, Illinois 79
CHAMPAIGN - Home cooking wasn't enough to cure the Illini's ails as it lost its third straight ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.
The Illini (3-5) got off to a hot start, taking a 43-33 lead at the start of the second half on 16-for-29 shooting. But the Illini offense went cold to start the second half (missing 1 of 13 shots over one stretch) and Notre Dame (5-2) went on a 25-6 run to take a commanding lead it never lost.
The Illini have lost five of their first eight games to the start the season, the first time that has happened at Illinois since the 1967-68 Illini started 2-5 under then first-year head coach Harv Schmidt.
Malcolm Hill led the Illini with 19 points but 10 of those came in the final 27 seconds. He didn't get off a shot attempt in the previous 12:24. Freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands led the Illini with 14 points (5-for-11 FG, 4-for-10 three),
Kendrick Nunn had 13 points but went 5-for-16 from the field, including 2-for-11 from three, while Leron Black (two points, seven rebounds) went 1-for-7 from the field. Michael Finke scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Steve Vasturia led the Irish with 21 points (8-for-11 FG, 3-5 threes). Former Illini recruiting target Demetrius Jackson scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, and Zach Auguste added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Notre Dame shot 51.8 percent from the field and 10-for-20 from three.
Maverick Morgan started in place of Illinois injured center Mike Thorne Jr. and had six points in 13 minutes
What it means
Illinois already has five losses when 13 losses may end any NCAA Tournament hopes. The Illini have a winnable stretch ahead, starting with Saturday afternoon's tipoff against Western Carolina. But already in a hole, Illinois has no remaining margin of error during the nonconference.
What went right
The first half. Illinois got off to a hot start offensively. Seven Illini had at least three points in the first half with Nunn, Hill and Khalid Lewis all scoring seven points in the first 20 minutes. Illinois also had stretches of lock-down defense and forced six turnovers, leading to several easy buckets. The Illini had active hands and limited Demetrius Jackson to three points in the first half.
What went wrong
The second half. The offense was horrid, shooting 13-for-37 -- 3-for-20 to start and then 8-for-32 before making their final five shots -- and most of those buckets came in the closing minutes. The defense was no better as Notre Dame shot 16-for-28 and 6-for-10 from three. For the second straight game, Hill barely got the ball down the stretch. That's on everybody: Hill to be selfish and for his teammates and his coaches to get him the ball.
Star of the game
Steve Vasturia: The Irish go as Jackson goes, but Vasturia -- a skilled 6-foot-5 guard -- kept the Irish afloat in the first half (11 points) and made some big buckets down the stretch, including a clutch corner three.
The Illini start a five-game stretch to end the nonconference against teams below the top-100 in the KenPom -- Yale is the only team in the top-175 -- with a 2 p.m. Saturday tipoff against Western Carolina (2-4) at the State Farm Center.