Instant analysis: UConn dominates as Illinois' March Madness run ends in the Elite Eight

Illinois had UConn right where it wanted them.

The Huskies, limited by dismal shooting in the first half, were tied with the Illini 23-23 at the 1:35 mark of the first half. That's when Connecticut went nuclear.

When the smoke dissipated and the dust settled, No. 1 overall seeded UConn eviscerated No. 3 seed Illinois 77-52 in Boston to advance to the Final Four.

The versed basketball cliche is that it was a tale of two halves. For UConn, that was certainly true. The Huskies struggled in the first half, leading 

To open the second half, UConn played the best basketball of the season. Illinois could not stop it. 

A tied game ballooned to a 30-point Husky lead in a blink of an eye, and the world could only watch.

Here's how the game played out.

Why Illinois lost

There wasn't a worse way Illinois could have opened the second half. 

Through the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Illini were a combined 2 of 20 from the floor.

Illinois struggled to space the floor, it struggled to pass and it struggled to find an open spot on the defense to take advantage of.

The Illini had tied UConn at the 1:35 mark of the first half. From there 

At the 8:58 mark of the second half consider these team stats: Illinois was shooting 38 percent from the free throw line, 22 percent from the floor and 19 percent from 3-point range.

That would struggle to win against plenty of other teams. Against UConn, that's all but a death sentence.

Why UConn won

The Huskies woke up.

It really was as simple as that. 

Connecticut shot 1 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half. UConn did the opposite of that and more in the second half. 

It is true that Illinois struggled to space the floor, it struggled to pass and it struggled to find an open spot on the UConn defense to take advantage of.

It's also true that UConn's offense spaced the floor expertly well, passed like the best team in college basketball, kept Illinois from getting set on offense and never gave the Illini a spot on the defense to take advantage of.

This was the best team in college basketball at its best.

It was over when

Remember when the game was tied at the 1:35 mark of the first half? From there, the Huskies scored 30-straight points. It was dominance. It was near flawless execution.

It was a hole Illinois could not come back from.

Illinois scored its first points of the second half at the 12:39 mark. 

Connecticut continued its run of dominance.

At the under-eight media timeout, UConn held a 63-33 lead. There was nothing Illinois could do as the Huskies did whatever they wanted.

Who starred

For the Huskies, Donovan Clingan was the X-factor. He had 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting from the floor.

When Clingan was on the floor, Illinois struggled. Through the first three thirds of the game, Illinois scored just four points when Clingan was on the floor. Illinois also went 0 for 19 on baskets contested by Clingan.

The Illini had no answer for him. His size shut down the Illinois transition offense, which was Illinois' bread and butter all season long. 

In his final game, Marcus Domask scored 17 points in his final college game. Domask had a phenomenal tournament, and that continued on Saturday.

What it means

The Illini's season is over.

Still, don't let the xx-point loss fool you. It was a successful season for Brad Underwood and his team.

Illinois, which enjoyed its best season since the 2005 national title run, will get to hang banners next season. 

There are Elite Eight and Big Ten Tournament Championship banners to unveil, but that comes next November.


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