With 4:52 remaining in Thursday's Big Ten Conference tournament game, Illinois led Penn State 62-52. And announcer Brent Musberger declared the Illini had "taken control" of the game.
Uhhh, Brent? Have you watched the Illini at all this year? I know you have, and you should know better.
Sure enough. As soon as those words came out of Musberger's mouth, Penn State went on an 11-0 run to seize a 63-62 advantage.
The Illini were doing what they've done all season: Empty possessions under pressure. Turnovers, missed free throws, anything and everything to give the game away.
But this time, the script changed at the end. Penn State made a horrible defensive mistake on the final sequence of the game, sending two defenders at guard Trent Meacham off an inbounds play.
Meacham found Chester Frazier wide open underneath the basket. Frazier converted with 3.8 seconds left, giving the Illini a 64-63 win.
The 10th-seeded Illini play No. 2 seed Purdue today at 5:30 in the quarterfinals. Can they win it? Probably not.
The Boilermakers are a tough matchup for the Illini. They are undersized, but very quick on the perimeter. They are also the most physical, aggressive defensive team in the Big Ten.
That's a bad combination for the Illini. The Illinois guards lack lateral quickness, and they struggle to contain teams with speedy guards that can beat people off the bounce. Purdue freshman E'Twaun Moore fits that mold, and he torched the Illini for 24 points in the Boilers' 83-75 victory at the Assembly Hall in February.
When the two teams played in West Lafayette in January, Purdue's guards destroyed Illinois' guards with on-the-ball pressure, forcing 21 turnovers in a 74-67 win. The Illini have a season-long habit of crumbling when the opponent turns it up defensively.
In the rematch in Champaign, Illini coach Bruce Weber did a good job of working the officials. All Purdue's hand-checking got called, and Illinois lived at the free-throw line, making 30 of 41 shots. Still, it was not enough because the Illini couldn't check the Boilers' guards.
Expect a similar scenario to play out today. The "run" is likely over for the Illini.