Jeremy Werner // Illini Inquirer

RAPID RECAP: UCF 68, Illinois 58

Illinois' season comes to an end with a 68-58 loss at Central Florida in the NIT quarterfinals.

UCF 68, Illinois 58

What happened

A Broadway show at the State Farm Center kept the Illini from hosting in the NIT quarterfinals, and instead, Central Florida sold out their arena and sent Illinois home for the season with a 68-58 defeat.

The Illini had a rough go offensively. Just 19 points in the first half. They made just two buckets inside the three-point arc during the first 20 minutes.

Illinois continued to sputter along in the second half -- finding themselves down 53-36 with 8:12 left in the game.

But one of the greatest scorers in Illini history, Malcolm Hill, ignited a 15-4 run to make it 57-51 with 3:14 remaining. Illinois had opportunities to get even closer, but they would not.

Hill finished with 29 points on the night -- giving him 1,846 on his career. The Illini did not have another double-figure scorer, though. The rest of the starting lineup had just 20 points on 31 shots.

Jalen Coleman-Lands was second on the team with nine points, but he was 3-of-10 from the field.

Illinois shot just 30.6 percent on the game and 12-of-38 from three. On the other side, Central Florida shot 44.9 percent from the field. The Knights also outrebounded Illinois 43-to-26.

B.J. Taylor led Central Florida with 17 points, while Matt Williams (16), A.J. Davis (16) and Tacko Fall (10) also scored in double figures.

The Jamall Walker era as interim head coach ends with a 2-1 record.

What it means

A season characterized by transition, awkwardness and unmet expectations has officially come to an end. Illinois says goodbye to one of its all-time leading scorers, and a pair of other senior starters. The Illini players and coaches deserve credit for how they battled given the circumstances. But now, it's time to move on to the Brad Underwood era. It's time to figure out whether Walker is staying or going. The same for some of the players on the roster. And now, there is nothing holding this program back from making moves that distract the current team. Assemble the staff, the roster and the recruiting class.

What went right

The era he played in won't be, but Hill will be missed by this program. He reeled off 29 points and hit six threes in his final game. Hill had 13 games this season scoring at least 20 points. What a career.

It was 85 degrees today in Orlando.

What went wrong

Hill and who else? The rest of the Illini combined to go 10-of-44 from the field and 6-of-26 from deep. Tracy Abrams was just 1-of-9 in 34 minutes. Maverick Morgan was poor as well with four points, five fouls and two turnovers in 31 minutes.

Illini didn't make a two-point field goal for the first 17-plus minutes of the first half. And chucking threes wasn't effective enough either. Have to make shots.

Tacko time. Playing against a 7-foot-6 center ain't easy. But his impact was too much for Illinois with his ability to block shots, and he also finished with a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

Illinois could not keep Williams under wraps early on. After seeing him go nuts from deep at Redbird Arena, Williams got hot early in this game too. He hit four threes in the first half.

This game should have been in Champaign based on the seeding. But Broadway came to Champaign, and helped to prevent Illinois from going to New York.

What's next

The offseason.


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