Miami vs. Illinois: Back-court pushes the Hurricanes to their first Sweet 16 since 2000

USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes advanced to the Sweet 16 on Sunday night, thanks to strong play from guards Rion Brown and Shane Larkin. The pair combined for 38 points in the victory.

One of the most exciting games of Sunday's NCAA Tournament slate came from the East Region, where the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes used a big effort from an unknown player to notch a 63-59 victory over No. 7 seeded Illinois. Rion Brown scored 21 points off the bench for Miami, helping propel the Hurricanes to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2000.

For more on the story, visit State of the U and Champaign Room

In addition to Brown's heroics, the Hurricanes also got a big game from star Shane Larkin. The first-team All-ACC guard finished the evening with 17 points, including a three-pointer with a little over a minute to go, which gave Miami a 59-57 lead they'd never relinquish.

With the victory, Miami will now advance to play Marquette in an East regional semifinal on Thursday evening in Washington D.C. And according to SB Nation Miami affiliate State Of The U, the Hurricanes will need a better overall effort than they got Sunday night if they're to advance to the Elite Eight.

Hurricanes Hoops survived and advanced to The Sweet 16 on a night they were clearly not at their best. If Miami is to advance even further, they will need a much more sound effort going forward. But tonight they can celebrate the team's first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2000, and just their second trip there ever!

Meanwhile, it was a frustrating loss for Illinois, in a game which was marred by a late-game officiating error.

That error came following Larkin's three-pointer, when Illinois guard D.J. Richardson missed an open three-pointer which appeared to be knocked out of bounds by a Miami player. The ball was rewarded to the Hurricanes though, and a pair of Durand Scott free throws iced the victory for Miami.

Despite the officiating gaffe, SB Nation Illinois affiliate The Champaign Room acknowledged that the Illini lost Sunday's game for reasons beyond the referees:

It wasn't just the call.

How about the fact that aside from Tyler Griffey the Illini were 3-for-21 from three tonight? And it seems like at least 15 of those 18 misses rattled around inside the rim, teasing you into thinking they'd drop just before they came out the wrong end.

There were plenty of chances for the Illini to take control of this game and put it away, and it wasn't for lack of effort that they failed to do so.

With the loss, Illinois finished their season 23-13 overall, while the victory was win No. 29 for the Hurricanes in 2013.

Miami will next play Marquette Thursday, with the winner advancing to take on the victor of Indiana and Syracuse in the East Regional final on Saturday.

More in College Basketball:

Florida Gulf Coast makes history by advancing to the Sweet 16

The best and worst of Sunday's Madness

Printable bracket for March Madness

Miami photobombs, dances, does it all

Full coverage of March Madness

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