A senior wing on a mission to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career guarding a freshman wing determined to complete his comeback from an early injury was an appropriate ending to last night’s game between Illinois and Michigan State. The Illini’s Malcolm Hill has been on a complete tear lately, averaging approximately 20 points per game in leading his team to four straight wins to keep the team’s postseason hopes alive. The Spartans’ Miles Bridges did his part with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but the freshman could not close the deal in Champaign. Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Illinois (18-12, 8-9 Big Ten) is clearly back on the bubble while Michigan State (18-12, 10-7 Big Ten) cannot afford to lose a pivotal road game against Maryland. Let’s review three key takeaways from the Illini’s 73-70 victory over the Spartans last night.
- Malcolm Hill isn’t ready to finish his career without a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Illinois’ senior wing has played over 130 games for the Illini without a single minute in college basketball’s marquee event. As a freshman, Illinois didn’t have a point guard to support his offensive versatility. As a sophomore, a late season swoon cost the Illini a chance at an otherwise promising season. Last year, the team’s second-best offensive player wasn’t healthy. As a senior, Hill hasn’t had a consistent complementary player on the offensive end of the floor. Despite these many setbacks over his career, Hill has persevered. On Wednesday night, the senior contributed 22 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals — including the game-winning free throws — as Illinois played itself back on to the NCAA Tournament bubble after appearing all but dead just a few short weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »