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What We Learned: UCF 68, Illinois 58

Illinois season comes to an end against Central Florida

NCAA Basketball: Illinois vs Brigham Young Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been an interesting few weeks for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but finally, things have come to an end. In their quarterfinal game against UCF, the Fighting Illini fell 68-58, finishing off an up-and-down season.

Despite the loss, Illinois fans have reason to be optimistic. The program just hired one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the country (Brad Underwood), and things are finally looking up.

Here are three takeaways from their loss to Central Florida.

1. Malcolm Hill Went Out In Style

Losing is always tough, especially when you’re fighting for a championship. However, the Fighting Illini did have a bright spot in their loss.

Senior Malcolm Hill, playing in his last game in the ‘blue and orange’, had a career-night. In 34 minutes, Hill went 6 of 12 from beyond the arc, en route to a 29-point performance.

His huge scoring outburst was his third-highest of the year and his six three-point field goals was a season high.

It’s safe to say that fans will miss him, but he certainly went out with a bang.

2. Malcolm Hill Got Zero Help

Although, Hill was getting buckets against Central Florida, virtually no one else showed up to the party. He was the only Illinois player who scored in double-figures, as the Fighting Illini only managed 58 points. (Hill scored exactly half of Illinois points).

Taking out all of Malcolm Hill’s statistics, the Illini were atrocious across the board. The team shot 13 of 44 from the field (29.5 percent), including a mere 6 of 23 from downtown (23 percent).

One guy who you must feel bad for is Tracy Abrams, who like Hill, was playing in his final game. He scored only six points, knocking down only one field goal in nine attempts.

In addition, Malcolm Hill accounted for zero of Illinois 11 turnovers.

3. Help Is On The Way

Fifty-eight points in a tournament game is bad, not Virginia against Florida bad, but still bad.

Having said that, new head coach Brad Underwood should have the cure for what ails Illinois offense.

In his lone season at Oklahoma State, Underwood led the team to Top-5 rankings in two prominent offensive categories. The Cowboys ranked No. 1 overall in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings, and they also ranked No. 5 in the nation in points per game (85.7 ppg).

On The Horizon:

Illinois has a monster recruiting class coming in, with four different four-star recruits. Alongside the new freshmen will be some seriously talented returning players, including Kipper Nichols and Leron Black.

It may not happen in the first year, but Brad Underwood will certainly get this team back near the top of the Big Ten.