Friends resume real lives

   CHAMPAIGN  Lon Kruger''s guys won the game. Now the Illini coach can have his friendship back.

   Put on hold until after Monday''s matchup at the Assembly Hall, the close relationship between Kruger and Bradley boss Jim Molinari can resume. It was on hold for about two hours while Illinois bounced the Braves 69-59. The pair embraced at the game''s conclusion.

   "It changes your relationship," Molinari said of the first time he''s faced Kruger, his teammate on early 1970s Kansas State teams. "We have a good relationship, but it''s just more distant until the game is over.

   "You''re a little more aware of what''s going on with him down there. But I think once the game starts, we both played and coached hard. I thought it was great game."

   Little better for Kruger, though.

   "To win the ballgame is diminished a little bit because of the feelings that Mo''s going through now," Kruger said, "and yet after a day or two he''ll feel good about the effort, intensity and toughness of his ballclub."

Kerr at courtside

   Former Illini Johnny "Red" Kerr watched the game from press row after serving as a guest of the students'' Orange Krush section.

   Kerr spoke briefly to the crowd prior to the game.

   The Krush will have a special guest each game.

Sign him up

   If the Illini need an three-point help, Brian Deverman''s got eligibility left.

   The UI senior showed off his touch at halftime, hitting a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer and a halfcourt heave to win an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas.

   "Do you think anyone got that on videotape?" Deverman asked the press.

   Deverman played at Greenview, a Class A school near Springfield.

For openers

   Sergio McClain put in the most time off the UI bench, the freshman scoring four points and handing out two assists.

   Not bad, but not the best Division I debut of 1997 News-Gazette All-State bunch.

   Hinsdale Central''s Brian Wardle had nine points off the bench in Marquette''s 65-60 win over Wisconsin on Friday. In that same game, Badgers freshman Mark Vershaw (East Peoria) had three.

   McClain''s the only other ''97 N-G All-Stater playing Division I basketball. Academics sacked Tarise Bryson (Illinois State) and Melvin Ely (Fresno State).

   Said Molinari of McClain: "Sergio will come on. He''s like every other freshman. He''s adjusting too. He did some really good things. He''ll find his niche."

   Junior college transfer Arias Davis was the only scholarship newcomer not to see action for the Illini.

Special guests

   Close to 1,600 Peorians made the drive to Champaign. Among them: Illinois recruit Frank Williams, who''ll be back in the area for Schlarman''s Topper Classic from Nov. 26-29.

   Former UI recruit Marcus Griffin also was on hand.

Dye has deadly aim

   The last time Bradley''s Rob Dye went after a basketball bunch from Champaign-Urbana, his biggest worry was who to take to the prom.

   As a senior at Springfield Southeast, Dye scored 13 points to help eliminate Urbana in a first-round regional game in 1996. He nearly doubled that output Monday, leaving the Illini as impressed as David Hansen was that night.

   Dye made 9 of 19 shots, including 5 of 9 from three-point range, and scored a game-high 23 points while playing the entire 40 minutes.

   "He didn''t surprise me," Illinois'' Kevin Turner said. "Victor (Chukwudebe, a Lanphier grad) reminded us that he played against him in high school, and he kept reminding us that he was a good shooter."

Inside stuff

   If you ask Molinari, point guard isn''t the UI''s problem.

   "They''re going to have to have people come on inside for them, Chukwudebe and Sergio," Molinari said. "... I think that''s more of a concern  inside strength  than point guard."

Henson wins opener

   Lou Henson''s return to Division I was a success, his New Mexico State Aggies pounding Simon Fraser 106-70 in Las Cruces, N.M.

   The Aggies, who run into rival New Mexico on Wednesday, got 27 points from Louis Richardson.

   "Our defense wasn''t bad, we were aggressive, we did a good job," Henson said. "I think we''ve got to rebound better, but overall it was a good effort."

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