This Day In Illini Basketball History: March 19

Matthew Stevens

Illinois men’s basketball has a rich history of playing on March 19 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 19 in its program history including Lou Henson’s third place in the 1980 NIT with the Illini, Lon Kruger’s final game with the Illini and Bruce Weber’s first NCAA win with the Illini.

Here are the following games Illinois has played on March 19:

1980 - NIT Third Place Game - Illinois 84, UNLV 74

This was the first postseason run for the Illini with Lou Henson on the sideline and two days after losing to Minnesota in the semis, Illinois took home a trophy from Madison Square Garden after a 10-point win over the Runnin’ Rebels. Illinois was led by Eddie Johnson and Mark Smith on this team and it was this team that brought postseason March basketball back to Illini history after a 17-year drought. .

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1981 - NCAA West Regional Semifinals - No. 8 Kansas State 57, No. 4 Illinois 52

Future NBA veteran Rolando Blackman led the Wildcats to another NCAA tournament upset just five days after they knocked off No. 1 seed Oregon State. Interestingly, this Kansas State team also started future Illinois assistant coach Tim Jankovich. Eddie Johnson led the Illini with 15 points and nine rebounds. However, this game revolved on the idea that Derek Harper was unfortunately 0 of 7 from the field and the Illini attempted just three free throws.

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Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger yells from the bench during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum.
Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger yells from the bench during the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum.Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

2000 - NCAA East Regional 2nd Round - No. 4 Florida 93, No. 5 Illinois 76

This was the last game of the Lon Kruger era of Illini basketball and he lost the game to the program he left to take the Illinois job. What is amazing about this game is it might be the worst defensive game Illinois played this season. Florida was 9 of 18 from 3-point range and Mike Miller, who turned into a 3-point specialist in professional basketball, never hit one. Miller led the Gators with 19 points and nine rebounds. The Illini were led by 27 points from Corey Bradford off five 3-pointers but Frank Williams was 3 of 11 from the field and Brian Cook was held to just two points. This Florida team would advance all the way to the National Championship Game and losing to Michigan State.

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2004 - NCAA Atlanta Regional 1st Round - No. 5 Illinois 72, No. 12 Murray State 53

In the first season under head coach Bruce Weber, Illinois easily avoided the classic 5-12 upset in Columbus, Ohio by a Murray State team led by current UCLA coach Mick Cronin. Dee Brown led Illinois with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Five different players hit a 3-pointer for the Illini as Murray State managed to just hit nine of 29 two-point field goal attempts.

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James Augustine had 23 points, including 17 points in the first half, and 10 rebounds with four blocks and two steals in a 71-59 win over Nevada in the 2005 NCAA second round game in Indianapolis. University of Illinois athletics department/AP

2005 - NCAA Chicago Regional 2nd Round - No. 1 Illinois 71, No. 9 Nevada 59

This second round game at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis of the 2004-05 Illini team that made it to the National Championship Game will always be known as the James Augustine game. Augustine scored a career-high 23 points while dominating the matchup against Nevada star forward Nick Fazekas. Augustine scored 17 points in the first half, including 11 of the last 13 to give the Illini a 34-27 lead at the halftime break. He also finished with 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Illinois also got a double-double from Deron Williams with 15 points and 10 assists. The victory gave Illinois the most wins by a Big Ten team, breaking the mark it shared for two days with Michigan State, which went 33-5 in 1999.

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2009 - South Regional 1st Round - No. 12 Western Kentucky 76, No. 5 Illinois 72

Steffphon Pettigrew had 17 points to lead Western Kentucky, which led this game by as many as 17 points. It was the 19th time in the last 21 years that a 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed. Trent Meacham had a season-high 24 points for the Illini, who were without senior defensive specialist Chester Frazier, who had surgery on his right hand last week. Western Kentucky led by nine at halftime. Mike Tisdale, who struggled through foul trouble, went scoreless in 19 minutes of action. All five starters for WKU posted a double-figure scoring effort and the Hilltoppers nearly pulled a second-round upset of fourth-seeded Gonzaga two days later.

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2014 - NIT 1st Round - Illinois 66, Boston University 62

With Assembly Hall being booked for this day, top-seeded Illinois had to travel to Boston University for this NIT matchup. Illinois went down 33-24 at halftime but Rayvonte Rice’s game-high 28 points led the Illini through this potential upset in John Groce’s second season on the sidelines.

"I'm proud of our kids for not getting discouraged when you're on the road and you're down 30-13," Groce said.

Dom Morris missed a contested layup on an inbounds play with 10 seconds left that would have tied it for BU, the regular-season champion in the Patriot League.

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