Illinois outlasted Iowa State 72-69 on Thursday night to clinch its spot in the Elite Eight.

The Illini are now one win away from their first Final Four appearance since 2005. The Illini also haven’t been to the Elite Eight since that 2005 squad that ultimately lost to North Carolina in the national title game.

Here are 3 takeaways from Illinois’ win.

Illinois’ defense stepped up

The Illini’s defense has come under fire over the past few weeks as they entered the weekend with the second-worst defensive efficiency of any remaining team in the field (behind only Alabama) per KenPom. But Illinois responded in a big way by limiting a solid Iowa State offense to just 69 points on the night.

Iowa State shot just 39% from the field. The Cyclones were able to make 46% of their 3-point tries, but they only attempted 13 3-pointers on the night. Their final official attempt from distance came with 5:27 left on the clock.

Curtis Jones scored 26 points on 18 shots for Iowa State off the bench. All other Cyclones combined to score 43 points on 40 field goal attempts.

Illinois survived an off-night offensively

The defense helped make up for what was an off night offensively for the Fighting Illini outside of Terrence Shannon Jr.’s solid performance. Illinois shot just 42% from the field as a team. Shannon, for his part, scored 29 points on 10-of-29 shooting. It was his 7th consecutive game of 25+ points.

Coleman Hawkins was the only other Illinois player to score in double figures, as he added 12 points and 6 rebounds on the night. Marcus Domask scored just 7 points on 11 shots, but did have a team-high 5 assists.

Illinois only scored 21 total points in the second half, but it was just enough to outlast the Cyclones.

Looking ahead to UConn

Illinois will have its work cut out for it in the Elite Eight. The Fighting Illini will be taking on the Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in UConn.

The Huskies dispatched of San Diego State by 30 points on Thursday night to secure their spot in the next round. Dating back to last season, it was UConn’s 9th consecutive NCAA Tournament victory by double digits.

Illinois will need to bring its best defensive performance of the season and have a stronger showing by its offense if it wants to be the team to upset UConn in this year’s Big Dance. Tipoff is set for 6:09 p.m. ET on Saturday night in Boston.

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