West Virginia 89, Illinois 57
West Virginia (4-0) feasted on an overmatched and under-prepared Illinois (3-2) squad on Thursday in the NIT Tip-Off in Brooklyn, as the Illini were blasted 89-57.
On a Thanksgiving afternoon, Illini fans were thankful when this one was over. They would have a little more grateful if they would have called this fight early. Very early.
Illinois held a 9-7 lead through the first two minutes and 47 seconds. And quickly afterwards, the route was on. Less than nine minutes later, the Mountaineers were on a 24-to-4 run and leading 31-13.
Michael Finke (13 points) hit a turnaround jumper and a three to cut it to 33-24 with 4:50 left in the first half. But Illinois stalled, as West Virginia took a 48-29 lead into the locker room.
It didn't get better in the second half. West Virginia had a 12-0 start in the second half, and they were quickly up 62-31. It was long over at that point.
The Illini shot just 39 percent from the field with 24 turnovers. West Virginia shot 46 percent from the field with 52 points in the paint. The Mountaineers had 12 players score a point, and 11 players scored in the first half.
What it means
Following a bad loss at home on Monday, the Illini did not silence any critics or solve any problems. In fact, the wolves are howling even louder after this game. West Virginia looks like a team that's going to do damage yet again in March. Illinois looks like a team that isn't even close to that level. The Illini are healthy, but their defense is still very bad. Their frontcourt is underachieving. And their best player, Malcolm Hill, has looked below-average for three halves and an overtime period against good competition. The Illini also didn't play with the kind of effort and toughness you expect against a top-level opponent, and after a loss that was supposed to show what they're made of.
What went right
Illinois fans got to turn the game off early and spend more time with their families.
Mike Thorne Jr. had 12 points and hit all six of his shot attempts. He also had seven rebounds.
Freshman point guard Te'Jon Lucas (4 points) got 16 minutes of experience against a high-level opponent.
What went wrong
Just about everything else.
Illinois' press-break was terrible, and they looked completely unprepared for it. The Illini threw the ball in the corner, which played right into the trap. They whipped wild passes around the court. They had 24 turnovers, which resulted in 34 points.
The Illini got killed on the offensive glass. They gave up 11 offensive boards for 11 second-chance points in the first half. West Virginia had 19 offensive boards on the game.
Hill (7 points) continues to play bad basketball. He went 2-of-8 from the field with three turnovers in 28 minutes. He was 0-of-10 from the field after halftime on Monday. Hill has made two shots and turned it over six times in the last 45 minutes of basketball. That's Illinois' best player.
Illinois did not defend the dribble-drive well, and their interior defense is bad. They gave up 52 points in the paint.
Illinois will take on No. 25 Florida State (4-1) at 11:30 a.m. on Friday on ESPNU. The Seminoles blew a 10-point halftime lead and gave up 58 second-half points on Thursday against Temple to lose 89-86. But Florida State has a roster that's filled with talent and athleticism. Freshman phenom Jonathon Isaac is a 6-foot-10 wing, who is projected to be the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft -- according to DraftExpress. The Seminoles have talent in the backcourt with Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. And their frontline is big and athletic. Illinois is in for another difficult challenge, and it will be a test of mental toughness between the two squads who are coming off losses the previous day.