Though the final margin was only 11, make no mistake: Illinois was in total control of its NCAA Tournament opener against UNLV on Friday night. The Fightin’ Illini took a 22-point lead into the half and put it on cruise control in the second, rolling to a 73-62 win.
Illinois was up 20 with two minutes to go before UNLV came storming back, pouring garbage-time buckets in to at least make the final spread look a bit more respectable. The Illini were lights out all night, shooting 59.6 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from beyond the arc. UNLV, on the other hand, had trouble finding the bottom of the net from much of the game, shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three-point range.
Illinois moves on to face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Southwest region on Sunday. Kansas took care of business earlier in the day with a 72-53 win over Boston University.
No. 1 Kansas def. No. 16 Boston University Terriers, 72-53
No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini def. No. 8 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, 73-62
No. 12 Richmond Spiders def. No. 5 Vanderbilt, 69-66
No. 13 Morehead St. Eagles def No. 4 Louisville Cardinals, 62-61
No. 6 Georgetown Hoyas vs. No. 12 VCU Rams
No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers def. No. 14 Saint Peter’s, 65-43
No. 10 Florida St. Seminoles def. No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies, 57-50
No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish def. No. 15 Akron Zips, 69-56