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 width=Illinois coach John Groce said his team handled injuries and suspensions to make the most of its first 31 games. That left the Illini on the verge of a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

But the last three games left the Illini in the National Invitation Tournament and, finally, done for the season.

Groce said Monday that Illinois' trouble started in the second half of the regular-season finale at Purdue. It ended with a blowout loss to Alabama in the NIT.

Groce said the Illini didn't play tough or together in those games, and players and coaches share the blame.

Groce said he won't have any idea whether anyone might transfer until he meets with players next week.

Groce also said he understands fan unhappiness with the season's disappointing ending.

>>Former UCLA Coach, Howland, Named Coach At Mississippi State

en Howland has been named the new men's basketball coach at Mississippi State, the university announced Monday night.

The school acted quickly after Ricky Ray was fired on Saturday after just three seasons. Mississippi State finished 37-60 during Ray's brief tenure, including 13-19 this past season.

Howland has been out of coaching since March 2013 when he was fired by UCLA after 10 seasons with the Bruins. He guided UCLA to a record of 233-107 with seven NCAA Tournament berths, including three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-08.

Despite the success, Howland was fired after a 25-10 season in 2012-13. The Bruins won the Pac-12 regular-season title that year, but fell to Oregon in the conference tournament championship game and lost to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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