Rapid Reaction: Illinois fades late, falls to Houston in Round of 32
The No. 5-seed Houston Cougars proved to be too much for No. 4-seed Illinois. UH won 68-53, ending the Fighting Illini’s season in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
It was a back-and-forth battle until about midway through the second half. Poor officiating isn’t an excuse, but a bad technical foul call on Illinois appeared to swing momentum in the Cougars’ favor.
When Illinois’ RJ Melendez dunked at the 8:40 mark, it was a 46-42. He was given a technical for hanging on the rim, a widely criticized call. After the technical, Houston went on a run that opened up its lead to double digits, effectively putting the game away.
It’s been a 19-7 Houston run since this tech. https://t.co/PuTOhwudU3
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) March 20, 2022
It was a 30-26 Houston lead at the half after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for the Illini. There were ties and lead changes in the second half before the Cougars finally took control and closed it out in the final minutes.
Turnovers plagued Illinois. The Illini had as many turnovers as made field goals, with 17 apiece. Both teams shot under 50% from the floor with Houston posting a better mark of 42.4% (26-of-59) to Illinois’ 34%.
Houston guard Taze Moore was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, going 9-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-5 at the free-throw line. Kofi Cockburn was the only Illinois player in double figures, leading the Illini with 19 points.
Houston won the rebound battle 39-33. The Cougars also had more steals (8-6) and blocks (6-2) while turning it over only 9 times.