In a stunningly awful performance, Sunday during its 71-58 loss to No. 8 Loyola Chicago in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the final game of some of these seniors and the program’s best player won’t be remembered fondly.
Dosunmu, the program’s first player to win a national player of the year award (USA Today) since Dee Brown was selected by The Sporting News in 2005, was unable to find any offensive rhythm as his consecutive games streak of double-digit performances stopped at 42 against Loyola’s hounding defense. Dosunmu, who has announced his intention to leave Illinois for the upcoming NBA draft, finished his final collegiate game just 4 of 10 with only two rebounds and only two assists in 37 minutes.
Dosunmu, who was the only player in Division I college basketball over the last 11 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists, had a season-high six turnovers in the second-round loss and was beaten several times on the defensive end for back cut layups.
“At the end of the day, I’m disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed in the way I played,” Dosunmu said. “I don’t think I played to my standards. I don’t think I played anywhere near how I wanted to play to help my team win. I understand that.”
Dosunmu, who is one of the few players in school history to go through a Senior Day celebration at State Farm Center without being a four-year player, was a first-team All-America selection by USA Today, the United States Basketball Writers Association, and Associated Press. However, on Sunday, it was his Chicago native rival and friend on the opposing sideline that outplayed him in nearly every conceivable way. Loyola senior guard Lucas Williamson ended the contest with 14 points and the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year held Dosunmu to 4 of 10 shooting. Williamson and Dosunmu played on the same small fry league basketball team in Chicago years ago as elementary school players. The two then competed against each other in high school as rivals in the Chicago Public League with Dosunmu attending Morgan Park and Williams playing at Whitney Young.
“I definitely felt like I let my team down today, but I can take it. I can take the criticism.” – Illinois All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu
The last time Dosunmu was held under double digits in scoring and Illinois (24-7) lost the basketball game was the Big Ten Conference opener last season when the Illini fell 59-58 at Maryland on Dec. 7, 2019.
In his video announcing his return to Illinois for his junior season, Dosunmu set the expectation bar for himself and this Illini basketball season by saying “I need that national championship” and Sunday was the 21-year-old’s realization that dream will not come to fruition.