LIVE! UI-St. Francis

FINAL — Illinois 89, St. Francis 64

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois heads to Hawaii with plenty of momentum.

Tyler Griffey scored 17 points and Tracy Abrams had 15, leading Illinois to an 89-64 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) Monday night. Brandon Paul added 14 points and six assists for the Illini (2-0).

Akeem Johnson led St. Francis (1-1) with 13 points, Ben Mockford added 12 and Jalen Cannon had 11 rebounds.

Illinois couldn’t shake the Terriers early, but closed the first half on a 15-0 run to take a 45-25 lead. The Illini held St. Francis scoreless for 7:11 during the spurt.

Illinois had only eight turnovers, something that concerned first-year coach John Groce during exhibition play.

— AP

More to come on HQ

MJ'S RECAP

Illinois 72, St. Francis 39 — 10:25 Second half

I've said this a few times tonight on Twitter, but goodness are these guys having fun. At the same time they're playing extremely hard and they're being rewarded for it.

I thought St. Francis was going to be a lot tougher than this. Illinois has a lot to do with the fact that the Terriers can't get anything going.

Tyler Griffey has remained hot. The senior is one point shy of reaching his career high of 18 he set last year at Michigan. He's got four rebounds, too and has showcased a mid-range game to go along with his prolific three-point shooting.

Mike LaTulip got off the Illini bench and buried a three-pointer on his first touch. The freshman then got free in transition, got fouled and made his free throws. Illinois can do no wrong tonight, Illini hitting on all cylinders.

Illini with just seven turnovers and they've forced 13.

The offociating crew went to the monitor to see if Griffey elbowed a St. Francis player in the throat. There was nothing there.

Abrams has 15 points, Paul has 12 and six assists.

Illinois 45, St. Francis 25 — HALF

Tyler Griffey with an real nice first half for the Illini. The senior made his first three attempts from behind the three-point line then took his man off the drbble and hit a nice 12-foot pull-up jumper. He leads with 13 points. Tracy Abrams has 10. 

Illinois ended the half on a 15-0 run and didn't allow a point for the last 7:11 of the half. Man, were they getting after it on both ends.

Brandon Paul had a nice half, too, alternating between the 1 and 2. He's 1 for 6 from the floor, but had four assists and took good shots. He's 4 for 6 form the line.

Illinois played hard the entire first half, that's carried over from the first game and something Groce was really looking for from this group after a nice game Friday.

At least twice, Myke Henry cut open to the basket and got good passes, but he wasn't able to handle them. He would have had two easy layups. Groce yelled "I think you were surprised he threw it to you" agter one of the fumbles. He's got to handle those. Henry did bury a three a few minutes later, he's still comfortable doing that.

Illinois scored 40-plus in the first half for the second consecutive game. They only scored 40 or more one time all of last season. The fans are fired up.

Illinois went 7 for 15 from 3 and 15 of 34 (44 percent) overall. They've got eight assists to four turnovers.

St. Francis was 11 for 29 (37 percent) and 2 for 8 from 3 (25 percent). They turned it over nine times.

See you in the second half.

Illinois 20, St. Francis 19 — 10:48 First half

Illinois starte hot again from behind the three-point line. Tracy Abrams confidently buried two treys early then D.J. Richardson and Tyler Griffey nailed a couple within a minute of one another.

Joseph Bertrand gets some serious credit for D.J.'s three. He hustled to keep an offensive rebound alive and fed D.J.

Illinois is 4 for 7 from 3, 6 of 13 overall.

If there's a gripe so far, it's rebounding. Illinois has a size advantage, but St. Francis leads 10-8. St. Francis is playing tough. Illinois has played tough thus far, but needs to get after it  alittle better.

Abrams leads the way with eight early points. He keeps getting better.

After a St. Francis got away for a back-door layup, Abrams came to the bench, sat down with Dustin Ford and the assistant coach drew up the play and told his point guard what went wrong and how to fix it next time.

Just caught up with Jeni Thomas, the wife of AD Mike Thomas and John Groce's wife Allison. They're fired up for the trip to Maui.

Myke Henry was just all up in his guys face on the defensive end. Haven't said that a whole lot.

Sam McLaurin was the first guy off the bench. The regular eight have all played to this point.

St. Francis (Brooklyn) at Illinois — Tipoff

Late-arriving crowd. Probably won't be as good a crowd as you had Friday night. That one was pretty impressive.

The Illini starters tonight are the same as they were Friday. Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Tyler Griffey, Nnanna Egwu.

Expect to see plenty of Myke Henry, Sam McLaurin and Joseph Bertrand.

John Groce said yesterday that he liked what Devin Langford did in his seven minutes Friday. Langford still needs to better grasp the system and bring more consistency to grab a hold of that ninth spot. 

Another note on Colbert. In speaking to him today, he seems like an excellent kid. He really loves the academic challenge of Illinois and though he wants to play in the NBA, he knows a degree from here will set him up to succeed.

I'll be back at the 10-minute mark of the half with an update and then another one at half.

St. Francis (Brooklyn) at Illinois — 10 minutes before tipoff

As far as I know, there will be noise from the start tonight. No more Orange Hush, though I must saw the deal went pretty well the other night. Here's a video if you missed it.

"Call Me Maybe" is playing. That one still gets people all riled up. "Gangham Style" was on a few times earlier tonight. I fear that one isn't going away any time soon. That's unfortunate.

St. Francis scares the heck out of the Illinois coaches. Here's how we sized this game up in today's paper.

My prediction for tonight was Illinois 70, St. Francis 63. I was close on the numbers from the season opener. Don't expect that to happen very often.

St. Francis beat Lafayette in its season opener.

The media folks are freaking out because the pregame pizza from Domino's was late arriving. I'm not sure if it's here yet. That's going to make for some cranky reporters. I had steak before I came to the arena, I'm not angry.

St. Francis (Brooklyn) at Illinois — 25 minutes before tipoff

Tonight's game, again, isn't on actual television. You can watch the broadcast live on your computers, however, on ESPN3.com. Jim Barbar (play-by-play) and Brooke Weisbrod (analyst) have the call.

There will be at least two former Coastal Carolina basketball players in the house tonight. You know about Illini fifth-year senior Sam McLaurin. Weisbrod is also a former Chanticleer. Weisbrod was the 2001 Big South Player of the Year, Big South Scholar Athlete of the Year and the NCAA's Woman of the Year for the state of South Carolina. She also played tennis and softball. 

I'm told Ed Hightower will be one of your officials tonight. His hair isn't real, FYI.

The Illini will hit the road immediately after tonight's game for Hawaii. Awesome opportunity for college kids to get to play in paradise and participate in one of the sport's premier events.

Illinois is on the floor stretching, shooting, etc. They'll wear the white uniforms again tonight.

The visitors from Brooklyn will wear navy with red and white trim.

St. Francis is a tough matchup. They've got quality guards and big men who can play. The Terriers remind the Illini staff of Robert Morris, which beat Ohio three years in a row while Groce and Co. were there. Their guards are going to really get after the Illinois guys.

St. Francis (Brooklyn) at Illinois — 40 minutes before tipoff

Good evening, folks. Marcus Jackson joining you courtside from Illinois' second game of the season. Apologies for the delay. Been a pretty busy news day for us and I just got off the radio for a couple of different shows. 

Big news coming out of Illinois today was the commitment of Austin Colbert. I caught up with the 6-foot-9 forward from New Jersey this afternoon shortly after he made his announcement and he's thrilled the be headed to Illinois to work with John Groce and his coaching staff.

Here's our story on Colbert.

He fits the up-tempo style of play that Illinois prefers. Colbert is a lot like Jon Smith, who played for the current Illinois coaches on Ohio's Sweet 16 team last season. Colbert is a high-major version of Smith. And he's a lot bigger.

Colbert and the rest of the Illinois recruiting class of 2013 can sign letters of intent starting Wednesday. Colbert, who was also considering Villanova, Seton Hall and Miami (Fla.), told me today he will sign Wednesday.

St. Francis is going through its layup line. Illinois will be out here soon. I'll check back in soon.

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