I think the reaction from the Illinois blog Hail to the Orange says it best for the Illini's first NCAA Tournament win since 2006.
Nothing about the season matters right now. All that matters is the next game. There was a lot of talk about this being a fresh start for the Illini seniors, who have been dogged all year by expectations and disappointments, and wouldn't you know it, the Illini played like they every loss from 2010/2011 was erased and there was a chance to rewrite their legacy.
Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis, two of the players who have most personified the up and down seasons that have come with their tenure, went off on UNLV tonight. Mike Davis: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists (welcome back, Mr Double-Double) Demetri McCamey: 17 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds. Without these two players playing like the seniors they were tonight, the Illini don't win tonight. They don't run out with the best first half of the season, and they sure don't survive the many second half pushes that the gritty Rebels threw at them.
I will grant that the Illini were once again outscored in the second half, 38-27, and that for the final four minutes of the half, the Illini sat on their lead. But for the other 36 minutes, this Illini team was dominant. Dominant like in Seattle against Gonzaga, dominant like against North Carolina, dominant like the win over Wisconsin.
There is a lot of good karma going right now, D.J. Richardson broke out of his slump, and nailed two key three pointers just when we thought the Illini might wilt. Crandall Head came in for great minutes, and reminded us again why his athleticism will make him lethal in the future. Meyers Leonard looked like the sophomore Meyers Leonard, the one who will play under control and with the sort of poise that brings that sweet left handed hook.