Illinois men’s basketball drops heartbreaker to Providence

By Joey Figueroa, Staff writer

Illinois men’s basketball head coach John Groce bent over in breathless frustration as the buzzer blew on the Illini’s chance at escaping Providence with a one-point road win.

Inches away, do-it-all forward Malcolm Hill crumbled into the same position as his head coach. He had just missed two potential game-winning buckets in the span of 10 seconds.

Illinois suffered a 60-59 loss to Providence in a game that was close throughout. Trailing by one, the Illini had possession and put the ball in Hill’s hands. He manufactured a clean look at the basket that trickled off the side of the rim. Michael Finke soared in for an attempted putback dunk that bounced off the back iron and found its way to Hill for one more shot.

His second attempt clanked off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded to seal Illinois’ second loss of the season.

Hill finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal while being shadowed by Providence’s star guard Kris Dunn for much of the second half. Dunn didn’t score his first field goal until the nine-minute mark, but made his presence felt with big plays on both ends down the stretch. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Sophomore forward Ben Nentil led the Friars with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

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    The freshman trio of Finke, Jalen Colman-Lands and Aaron Jordan combined for 32 points. Finke scored the Illini’s first eight points of the second half and finished with a career-high 12 points. Coleman-Lands kept up his hot shooting with five treys en route to 17 points.

    Despite allowing 10 offensive rebounds and coughing up nine turnovers, the Illini only trailed by two heading into the half. Hill was the aggressor throughout the first half, consistently pushing the ball up court and crashing the offensive glass. He finished the half with nine points and nine rebounds. Coleman-Lands hit two threes, and the big man pairing of Maverick Morgan and Finke combined for eight opening-half points while Thorne Jr. sat with two fouls — he would later foul out early in the second half with zero points on the night.

    On the defensive end, the Illini clamped down and held Dunn to just one first-half point on 0-of-3 shooting as he battled foul trouble.The Friars were 13-of-39 from the floor in the game’s first twenty minutes.

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