March Madness: No. 3 Illinois blows out No. 11 Duquesne to reach Sweet 16 for first time in nearly two decades

Illinois cruised to a dominant 89-63 win over Duquesne on Saturday night in Omaha

Illinois was not letting its shot at a Sweet 16 berth go down to the wire.

The Illini absolutely rolled over No. 11 Duquesne in their second-round NCAA tournament matchup on Saturday night. They cruised to a dominant 89-63 win over the Dukes at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, to officially secure their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2005.

Illinois wasted no time Saturday. The Illini took the lead from the jump, and then broke it open on a 25-7 run to suddenly grab a 21-point lead in the opening minutes of the first half. They took a 24-point lead into halftime and put up 50 points while shooting nearly 67% from the field as a group.

By then, the Dukes were simply too far out of it. Illinois held on in the final 20 minutes to take the 26-point blowout win without any issue.

Jimmy Clark led Duquesne with 14 points and four assists in the loss. Fousseyni Drame added 13 points. They were the only two Dukes players to hit double figures. Clark led the Dukes down the stretch to push them to their first NCAA tournament win in more than 50 years on Thursday afternoon when they beat No. 6 BYU in the opening round. That kept head coach Keith Dambrot, who was LeBron James’ high school coach, around for another game after he announced before the tournament that he planned to retire after the season. The Dukes won eight straight games to close out the season before their win over BYU, including a six-point win over VCU in the A-10 tournament championship game.

Terrence Shannon led Illinois with 30 points after he shot 10-of-14 from the field. Marcus Domask added 22 points and seven assists, and Coleman Hawkins finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. They finished shooting just better than 60% from the field as a team.

The Illini have made one of the most dominant runs in the tournament so far, and clearly seem like a real threat to counter top-seeded UConn on the other side of the East region. They easily handled No. 14 Morehead State 85-69 in their opening round game, which followed an easy run to the Big Ten tournament championship last week.

Illinois will now take on No. 2 Iowa State in the Sweet 16 in Boston next weekend. The Cyclones, after flying past South Dakota State in the opening round, rallied to beat No. 7 Washington State on Saturday night to reach their second Sweet 16 in the last three seasons.

While the Iowa State matchup will be a much different battle than their first two outings, the Illini seem to have it all together at the perfect time.