On Monday night, Illinois looked like they were on their way to a blowout victory in bounce-back fashion for about 10 minutes until the switch flipped.
Illinois led 23-10 with 9:43 to go in the first half, and then the Bearcats' defense turned up the pressure to propel a 24-8 run to finish the first half. That dominating stretch gave Cincinnati a 34-31 lead at halftime. The run continued in the second half as the Bearcats outscored Illinois 19-5 through 9:16 of action, resulting in a 53-36 advantage.
The Illini waved the white flag as Brad Underwood benched Kofi Cockburn and Andre Curbelo shortly after to conserve their energy for Tuesday's matchup against Kansas State or Arkansas. Cincinnati won the second half 37-20 in route to a comfortable victory.
What's Wrong With The Illinois Offense?
The first 24 points scored by Illinois turned out to be the highlight of their night. They fed the basketball to Cockburn early in possessions and he was able to score easily or draw fouls. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting.
It's hard to believe the best offensive player for Illinois tonight was the player who hadn't played in competitive action for two weeks.
Curbelo had a much better flow to his game in the first half but it took 12 shots to score his 12 points. Turnovers were once again an issue as he gave the ball away five times.
Illinois shot 28 percent from the field, including 3-for-22 from three-point territory. They could not buy a shot if someone charged them. It was awful to watch.
Trent Frazier followed up his best performance of the season with his worst, shooting 0-for-9, including 0-for-5 from the perimeter in 33 minutes.
Worst Loss Of The Brad Underwood Era?
Last week's loss to Marquette felt like the most embarrassing loss of the Underwood era. Illinois managed to one-up that defeat Monday night in the Hall of Fame Classic.
Cincinnati dominated the Illini in all facets of the game. Illinois is the No. 14 team in the country. They were a 9.5-point favorite over a team that's transitioning to a new head coach. Not only did the Illini lose, but they never had a chance to win.
Pick Yourself Up
It's a quick turnaround for Illinois as they will face off against the loser of Kansas State and Arkansas on Tuesday at 6 PM CT.
Illinois needs to find a go-to option when they enter their scoring droughts. Not only are Illini fans missing Ayo Dosunmu, but so is Brad Underwood. It's still early in the season, but Illinois needs to find an identity sooner rather than later.