It wasn’t pretty for the Illinois Fighting Illini in their First Round NCAA Tournament game against the Chattanooga Mocs. But Illinois got the result it needed.
The Mocs struggled offensively, shooting 32.3% from the field, 26.7% on threes and 50.% on three throws. Despite that — and the fact that Chattanooga had only one player in double-digit scoring — the Mocs led for nearly the entire game, with the Illini not taking their first lead until the final minute. Illinois struggled in its own right, shooting 39.6% from the field, 17.6% on threes and 59.1% on free throws.
Normally, that’s a recipe for a loss and a long offseason. But on Friday, it was just good enough for a win.
Illinois survives! Barely. #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/spIk06mKUB
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) March 19, 2022
Tournament watchers had a strong reaction to Illinois pulling off the hard-fought victory.
One down, five to go. Go Illini
— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) March 19, 2022
Illinois had the lead for *25 seconds* of the entire game.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 19, 2022
That Illinois win over Chattanooga was quite possibly the worst game in NCAA Tournament history that was decided by one point. pic.twitter.com/h0DAKC1hcn
— Kellis Robinett (@KellisRobinett) March 19, 2022
Illinois Basketball. Here Comes The Paign.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 19, 2022
Illinois escapes with a win. HELL of an effort by Chattanooga. Mocs just couldn’t close it out.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 19, 2022
Illinois did not deserve to win that game
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) March 19, 2022
Illinois did not in any way deserve that W but they found a way
— Josh Augdahl 〽️: Rent Free Walvie (@UMFanAugdahl) March 19, 2022
Fortunately for Illinois, “deserve” doesn’t enter into the equation. You either win or you lose. And in March Madness, that’s what matters. Illinois coach Brad Underwood knows that.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood opens his press conference with, "Survive and advance."
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) March 19, 2022
Will a narrow win over Chattanooga inspire confidence for the Fighting Illini’s chances in their next game? No. Not at all. But that’s a bridge they can cross on Sunday when that game comes.
The bottom line is, there is a next game to worry about. That’s the most important thing.