Illini short in comeback

Ed Thomson

Ed Thomson

By Lisa Koulias

All season, the Illini have been called many things. From Smilin’ Illini, to Stylin’ Illini, to the No. 1 team in the nation.

But after Monday night’s game, the best name for this team is the Fighting Illini.

In its 75-70 loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game on Monday, the Illini did what they did best – they fought.

“We just tried to go out and do what we did all year,” Dee Brown said. “Just play Illinois basketball and keep fighting.”

Down by 13 at halftime, the Illini came back to tie the game with 5:34 left, but they could never get out on top over the Tar Heels.

“We fought and fought hard,” Roger Powell Jr. said. “They are a good team. They played hard. That’s what coach said really mattered: that we competed and played hard. We gave it our all.”

And although the Illini didn’t get what they wanted in the end, they did take Illini Nation on quite a trip.

“I’ll remember the year, the journey,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “It’s been unbelievable. I told the kids that they shouldn’t hang their heads. They’ve been such a great group, so focused. It’s just been a blast.”