On a trip to Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic, the No. 2 Texas Longhorns face off against the No. 17 Illinois Fighting Illini on Tuesday evening in New York, the third top-25 matchup of the season for head coach Chris Beard’s team.
Texas enters the contest with wins over then-No. 2 Gonzaga and then No. 7 Creighton, but the Bulldogs have lost two games since then and the Bluejays had a bad loss at home to the rival Cornhuskers, raising questions about how much those wins will help the Longhorns in March.
But the Longhorns can’t control how teams play after beating them, so the focus will fully land on Brad Underwood’s Illini on Tuesday, a group that also has a defense-focused approach, significantly improved so far at forcing turnovers (17.9 per game) and still capable of limiting assists 10.5 per game).
The Fighting Illini also boast some familiar faces with Texas Tech transfer guard Terrence Shannon leading the team in scoring and former Baylor forward Dain Dainja and Matthew Mayer serving as role players.
Texas starting lineup
- Guard Tyrese Hunter
- Guard Marcus Carr
- Forward Timmy Allen
- Forward Dillon Mitchell
- Forward Dylan Disu
Both teams opened by hitting threes — one from Mayer after the opening tip and then one by Hunter. Mayer followed up his opening bucket with a basket in the lane after Disu, nearly matching his scoring average on two possessions. On a pump-fake drive, Carr hit Allen for a layup on a bounce pass into the pocket. Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins responded by drawing a foul and hitting both free throws. Carr kept making plays for his teammates on the ensuing possession, hitting Disu in the corner for a three as both teams got off to a hot start. After the Longhorns finally got a stop, Allen drew a foul and hit both attempts from the line. The play turned a little more sloppy heading into the under-16 timeout with Texas leading 10-7 as both teams missed shots and committed bad turnovers.
Out of the timeout, Hunter hit a three and guard Brock Cunningham took a charge in the open court on a barreling Dainja, who is perhaps conservatively listed at 270 pounds. Otherwise, the play generally remained sloppy as Hunter turned the ball over in traffic, Disu airballed a three, Dainja turned the ball over again, and Carr badly missed a wild shot.
During that stretch, Illinois missed 9-of-10 shots as Texas failed to extend the lead, though guard Sir’Jabari Rice made two free throws after using one of his patented shot fakes to get into the lane to make it 15-10, where the score remained at the next media timeout.
Mayer went above his scoring average with a shot in the paint, Bishop converted on the block over a walled-up defender, Illinois guard Skyy Clark hit a step-back three, and Allen hit a driving bank shot, and Hawkins scored his own driving basket as both teams came out of the break with better rhythm. Allen finally broke the run on both ends by drawing a charge in transition, but Mayer hit a step-back three to hit the type of conscience-free performance he often had at Baylor. Even with Cunningham on him, Mayer hit another step-back three for 13 points while making all five attempts from the field and then drawing a foul on Cunningham at the under-eight timeout with Illinois leading 23-22.
Hawkins made a three of his own as Illinois hit a 6-0 run and made 6-of-7 shots from the field. Texas finally forced a shot-clock violation two minutes into the stretch before the next media timeout, but wasn’t able to score until Carr found Allen for a layup following an Illinois switch. But Mayer responded with a drive to the basket for his own layup before Allen found Hunter for a layup and guard Arterio Morris hit a three in transition after previously hitting two free throws. After Dainja was fouled at the 2:39 mark, Illinois went into the final media timeout of the first half trailing 31-30.
Dainja made both free throws to take the lead before Disu drew a shooting foul and split his attempts at the line. More free throws by the Illini and a dunk by Dainja extended the lead to 37-32 as the Longhorns went cold from the field until Hunter hit a pullup jumper right before the halftime buzzer to cut the margin to three.
Texas was able to force 11 turnovers in the first half, but Illinois cut them down late and the Longhorns were only able to score nine points from those miscues, a consequence of shooting poorly from the field — Texas only hit 35.5 percent from the field in the first half, even though the 10 assists on 11 field goals was a remarkable accomplishment against an Illinois defense intent on forcing one-on-one play.
Allen led the way for the Horns with 11 points while Hunter added 10. For Illinois, Mayer’s hot start and an efficient performance by Dainja helped cover up for Shannon, who committed two turnovers and went scoreless in the opening 20 minutes on only three shot attempts.
Shannon used a nice cut into the lane to make his first basket on a jumper opening the second half and Carr responded with a high-arcing floater. When Mitchell turned the ball over on an offensive rebound, Mayer hit another three in transition to keep his perfect shooting streak intact. But the Longhorns responded by scoring from two turnovers as senior forward Christian Bishop scored at the rim and Mitchell made his own layup. After Illinois made a layup on a back cut, Allen scored on a second-chance bucket. Mayer finally missed for the first time trying to bully a smaller Texas player into the box, followed up by a Bishop dunk on a busted out-of-bounds coverage from Illinois, producing a 44-44 tie at the first media timeout of the second half.
Rice hit a corner jumper to retake the lead thanks to a 10-2 run. A help-side block from Morris helped produce a turnover by the Illini before hit a jumper in the lane that benefited from a soft bounce and Rice extended the lead to six on a spinning, difficult shot from the left side that somehow snuck into the basket off the backboard. An aggressive drive by Morris drew the fourth foul on Dainja and resulted in two made free throws for the Texas freshman, but a goaltend on Morris cut the Texas lead back to six at the under-12 timeout.
Morris remained committed to winning off the bounce, getting a switch onto Hawkins and taking advantage with a driving layup. Then Carr drew a charge on Mayer with good help-side defense to put the Illini in their most serious trouble of the evening, increased when Mayer committed his fourth foul trying to defend Bishop in the paint, although Bishop missed both attempts at the line. Following a double-dribble turnover by Illinois, Underwood was forced to call a timeout down eight points.
Carr wasn’t able to finish a late-clock drive to the basket, but the Illini responded with its 17th turnover, a potentially deflating giveaway upon which the Longhorns failed to capitalize with a turnover of their own. After Illinois missed two free throws, Texas was able to score quickly on a layup by Mitchell. But the Illini were able to cut the lead back to six as the Horns missed some opportunities on the offensive end, but Hawkins forced a three that led to a runout lob dunk for Mitchell.
A free throw and a fast-break layup cut the Texas lead to five and Carr had a three rim out before Cunnigham threw away an offensive rebound. An Illinois three got the Illini within two points on a 10-2 run, but Cunningham made up for the turnover with a three, then Rice hit his own following two free throws by Illinois. Mayer bailed out a poor possession with his fifth three, however, on a miscommunication by Texas defenders. With the game at a three-point margin, Illinois was initially called for goaltending on a layup attempt by Cunningham that stood upon review.
Two free throws from Hawkins cut into the Texas lead again, but Carr hit a turnaround jumper in the lane as the game went under one minute remaining. Another close play ensued — Hawkins was calling for a timeout just as his teammate was releasing a made three that ultimately didn’t count upon review. Illinois hit a three anyway to make a two-point margin before fouling Hunter, who missed the front end of a one and one. A foul on Rice when he lost his balance 40 feet from the basket allowed Illinois to cut the lead to one before a timeout by Beard to set up the final play. The Illini tied the game and Carr wasn’t able to get a clean look at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Shannon hit his third field goal to open the scoring in the extra period before Allen hit a bucket in the lane against Mayer, who was trying not to draw his fifth foul. But Shannon started to heat up with a three on the next possession and Cunningham stepped on the baseline trying to drive. When Illinois drew a foul, the Illini took a four-point lead by splitting at the line, then Shannon scored through contact for a seven-point lead following a made free throw. Cunningham was able to hit a three as Beard called a timeout, but time was ticking down with 2:02 remaining.
Allen blocked a late-shot clock attempt by Shannon and Carr drew a foul shooting a three in transition to give the Longhorns some hope when the Texas guard hit all three from the line. Illinios guard Jayden Epps responded again by hitting a bank shot over Carr, Allen had a shot blocked, and Cunningham was called for a foul on the rebound from a miss by Carr. Making both free throws gave the Illini a five-point lead and Carr was blocked at the rim on a drive to the basket, the 12th blocked shot by Illinois. Hawkins missed two free throws, but Texas threw the ball away on the ensuing possession.
At that point, the game was over and the Longhorns ended up falling 85-78 after 3-of-8 shooting in overtime, including two misses by Carr, along with two turnovers. Illinois, meanwhile, made 8-of-11 free throws, avoided any turnovers, and made four key baskets, including three from Shannon.