This Day In Illini Basketball History: March 20

Matthew Stevens

Illinois men’s basketball has a rich history of playing on March 20 that includes some of the memorable postseason moments of its program.

Due to the concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus epidemic, the NCAA released a statement Thursday afternoon announcing an unprecedented decision of canceling the 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Therefore, Illini Now/Sports Illustrated will be detailing the Illini’s history on specific dates in March.

Illinois has played eight games on March 20 in its program history including the first NCAA postseason game of the program’s history, the last game of the Bill Self era and last win before the Brad Underwood era.

Here are the following games Illinois has played on March 20:

1942 - NCAA East Playoffs/NCAA Tournament - Kentucky 46, Illinois 44

This was the first postseason game Illinois ever qualified for in what at that time was an eight-team tournament. Illinois, led by head coach Douglas Mills and known as the ‘Whiz Kids’, lost to Southeastern Conference champion Kentucky, which was led by legendary head coach Adolph Rupp. Illinois, which was just 8 of 15 from the foul line, held a two-point halftime lead but the 15 points from Ken Menke wasn’t enough to stop a Kentucky team where all eight players scored and were led by 13 points from Milton Ticco.


1988 - NCAA Southeast Regional 2nd Round - No. 6 Villanova 66, No. 3 Illinois 63

This second round upset is pointed to as the game that motivated the Flyin’ Illini NCAA run the following year but in the meantime it was the game that gave Illini fans the opportunity to question if Lou Henson’s rebuilding project would ever get to the highest possible level. Illinois led by 10 at halftime of this game in Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati and Nick Anderson struggled to a 6 of 19 outing. Villanova, led by head coach Rollie Massimino, got 16 points each from Mark Plansky and Tom Greis.


1993 - NCAA East Regional 2nd Round - No. 3 Vanderbilt 85, No. 6 Illinois 68

Two days after barely getting past Long Beach State in Salt Lake City, Illinois was blitzed early by the three-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores led by head coach Eddie Fogler. Vanderbilt got 29 points from Bill McCaffrey, which is the third-largest NCAA tournament total by an Illini individual opponent, and Andy Kaufman went a disappointing 2 of 10 from the field. Illinois got down 39-28 at half to a Vanderbilt team that finished 10 of 24 from 3-point range.


2003 - NCAA West Regional 1st Round - No. 4 Illinois 65, No. 13 Western Kentucky 60

This was the last NCAA tournament win by Bill Self while on the Illini bench and the national introduction to the Illini freshmen looking to lead the program back to national relevance. Freshmen Dee Brown, Deron Williams and James Augustine combined for 37 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists in their first tournament game, and Brown hit two free throws with 22.8 seconds left to help the Illini seal the victory. Brown had 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Augustine finished with 10 points and nine rebounds and was key when Brian Cook, who finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, fouled out with two minutes to go. Nate Williams led the Hilltoppers with 17 points.

"The one thing that probably surprised me was Deron Williams going three-for-three from 3-point range," Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton said. "That made things a little more difficult for us."

Neither head coach would coach another game for their program as Self left the Illini for the Kansas opening and Felton would accept the Georgia opening.


2011 - NCAA Southwest Regional 2nd Round - No. 1 Kansas 73, No. 9 Illinois 59

This would be the first and only time Illinois would face former coach Bill Self and it would be the last NCAA tournament Bruce Weber would coach the Illini. Twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds for the top-seeded Jayhawks. The Morris twins scored 24 of Kansas' first 29 points in the second half, punctuated by consecutive two-handed slams by Markieff that made it 62-51 with 3:51 to play. The Illini were only down four at halftime but Demetri McCamey was held to just 2 of 9 from the field and had six turnovers. Mike Davis led the Illini with 17 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in the final minute of the game.


2017 - NIT Second Round - Illinois 71, Boise State 56

This is the last Illini win before Brad Underwood officially took over as head coach. Underwood had already been hired before the start of the NIT but Jamal Walker had the reigns as interim coach for this postseason run. Tracy Abrams scored 18 points and Leron Black had a double-double. Malcolm Hill scored 13 points and has 1,817 for his career, surpassing Dee Brown (1,812) for third place all-time at Illinois. Chandler Hutchison scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Boise State. Hutchinson would eventually become a first round pick in 2018 by the Chicago Bulls. The Broncos shot 0 of 14 from long range in the second half. Illinois had 10 steals, the program's most in an NIT game. Abrams passed Nick Anderson (1,167) and Roger Powell, Jr. (1,178) on the scoring list with 1,185 career points.