by Mariah Guzman
In the first ten minutes of the game, No. 8 Loyola was dominant over No. 1 Illinois. In a single-elimination tournament, where no mistakes can be made, Illinois made too many, losing 71-58 and exiting from the NCAA tournament in the round of 32.
“We tried establishing Kofi, we didn’t go early enough to Kofi,” said head coach Brad Underwood in a postgame press conference. “We tried everything that’s made us one of the most offensive teams and today it didn’t work. Trent goes 1-for-10, but you can’t turn it over 17 times in an NCAA tournament game and expect to win.”
Illinois shot 29 percent from beyond the arc. Loyola had 40 points in the paint compared to the Illini’s 24. The Rambler’s top defense consistently stopped Illinois and never allowed them to lead in the game.
All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu tallied seven points and went 3-for-9 shooting. The least amount of points he scored this entire season.
“At the end of the day, I’m disappointed in myself…” Dosunmu said after the game. “I don’t think I played to my standards. I understand that. Life comes with adversity. So I just try to tell them (the team) keep your heads high. We didn’t win… but you got to take your medicine.”
Underwood said one of the hardest parts of losing in the NCAA tournament is the locker room afterwards.
“I’m with those guys in the locker room,” Underwood said. “My heart aches for them. I’m truly sad that today wasn’t our day.”
Dosunmu along with Kofi Cockburn will likely see their numbers raised in State Farm Center. This team will go down as one of the most talented Illinois basketball teams in program history, with a season that ended too soon.
“Today was not our day but where Illinois basketball was four years ago, compared to where it is now, I like our young guys, I like our pieces,” Underwood said. “We’ve just got to continue to work to stay at this level.”
Illinois vs. Loyola Chicago Postgame press conference (Brad Underwood and Ayo Dosunmu)