Top-seeded UConn routs Illinois in Elite Eight

BOSTON — Coleman Hawkins looked dejected.

Terrence Shannon Jr. couldn’t buy a shot.

And Marcus Domask’s magic had faded.

All the while, UConn paraded up the court, through the lane and to the rim like it was practice. Saturday’s Elite Eight matchup between the top-seeded Huskies and No. 3-seeded Illinois was supposed to be a battle between the nation’s top two offenses.

Instead, it was yet another NCAA Tournament mauling courtesy of UConn. The Illini went into the half down five, but like they have all Tournament long, the Huskies proved their opponents are never as close as they seem.

After not losing a game by double digits all season, Illinois’ Tournament run ended with a 77-52 loss to the title-defending Huskies, who opened the second half on a 25-0 run.

“This one soured quickly,” one Illinois fan sitting near the court muttered, commiserating with the person next to him.

Domask, a transfer guard from Southern Illinois, was the Illini’s star of the first half. As Shannon struggled, shooting 1-for-7 from the field, Domask kept Illinois in the game.

UConn opened the game on a 9-0 run before Domask scored Illinois’ first point of the game from the free throw line. From there, he added nine more quick points to put his team down two points with 11 minutes to play in the first half.

An important note: UConn’s Donovan Clingan was bench-ridden for this hot streak. Upon his return, the Huskies’ lead jumped back up to six.

Clingan was an immovable force in the paint.

At one point in the first half, Shannon drove to the rim like he had a million times before. This time, the steel wall that is Clingan was waiting. He sent Shannon bouncing off of him and onto the floor like a rubber ball.

“If he blocks 100, he blocks 100,” Underwood said during the TBS broadcast. “We’re going to keep going at him.”

Clingan had five blocks in addition to his game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Four other Huskies scored in double figures. Meanwhile, Domask was the only player from Illinois with more than 10 points.

He finished with 17 points and three assists. Shannon added eight, three assists and two rebounds.

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