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FINAL: No. 10 Illinois 64, Norfolk State 54
Brandon Paul had 14 points and eight rebounds to help Illinois remain undefeated. D.J. Richardson scored 11 points as Illinois won even though it made only six three-pointers, well below its nation-leading average.
The Illini (11-0) were coming of a win at Gonzaga on Saturday that helped move them into the top 10, but were sluggish against the Spartans. Illinois was shooting 46 percent from the field coming in but shot just 35 percent on the night.
Rashid Gaston scored 12 points and Pendarvis Williams added 11 for Norfolk State (6-6), which led for much of the first half.
Richardson left late in the first half with a badly bruised shoulder but returned. His layup with just under two minutes remaining put the Illini up 56-51 and they went on to get the win.
NORFOLK ST. (6-6)
Johnson 3-9 0-0 6, Goode 1-3 1-2 3, Fuentes 2-3 0-0 4, Williams 4-10 0-0 11, Hawkins 2-12 3-4 8, Lila-St. Rose 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 3-4 0-0 8, Estime 0-2 0-0 0, Maye 0-0 0-0 0, Gaston 5-9 2-2 12, Rogers 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-55 6-8 54.
Griffey 1-6 2-2 4, Egwu 2-10 2-2 6, Richardson 4-7 2-2 11, Paul 3-10 5-8 14, Abrams 4-12 0-5 9, McLaurin 2-5 2-4 6, Bertrand 3-6 3-4 9, LaTulip 0-0 0-0 0, Henry 1-3 0-0 3, Langford 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-60 16-27 64.
Halftime—Illinois 32-29. 3-Point Goals—Norfolk St. 6-23 (Williams 3-8, Brown 2-3, Hawkins 1-6, Estime 0-1, Lila-St. Rose 0-1, Johnson 0-4), Illinois 6-23 (Paul 3-7, Henry 1-3, Richardson 1-4, Abrams 1-4, Bertrand 0-2, Griffey 0-3). Fouled Out—Johnson. Rebounds—Norfolk St. 36 (Gaston 8), Illinois 43 (Paul 8). Assists—Norfolk St. 12 (Fuentes, Johnson 5), Illinois 6 (Griffey 3). Total Fouls—Norfolk St. 20, Illinois 9. A—14,144.
More coming on HQ.
No. 10 Illinois 47, Norfolk State 41 — 11:38 second half
D.J. Richardson came out late from the halftime locker room. He didn’t start the second half, but he checked into the game a few minutes in. He’s got a shoulder contusion.
He took a three-pointer while in there, but wasn’t able to get it to go down. Shot looked normal.
After a fast start, Illinois has allowed Norfolk State to climb back in it. They led by 10 early in the half, but NSU keeps chipping away.
Illinois used quite a bit of zone early in the half. It’s amazing how excited most folks down here on press row get when they recognize that Illinois is in a zone. It’s like they’ve seen Bigfoot.
Norfolk State keeps hitting shots from deep on the perimeter. The coaches are calling for the guards to close out harder.
Nnanna Egwu nailed a mid-range jumper to start the half. That’s two of those tonight. He’s been close on a couple others and is shooting with a great deal of confidence.
Illinois made a mini-run to stretch the lead to eight, thanks to some energy from Sam McLaurin and Tracy Abrams.
Illinois started the half 3 for 17 from the floor. This is what happens when shots aren’t falling. Surprised the guards haven’t tried to attack the basket more than they have so far.
Maybe that’ll change.
No. 10 Illinois 32, Norfolk State 29 — Halftime
The message from the Illinois bench: “We’ve got to get stops.” They’re not getting a bunch of them, Norfolk State is playing with some confidence.
The fans aren’t big fans of some of these foul calls against the Illini “That is so soft!” Tracy Abrams got hit with two fouls in about a 25-second span.
Joseph Bertrand really gets up on rebounds. He skied for a defensive rebound, got it to Brando Paul and flushed down an offensive board on a missed three by Paul all in the same sequence.
But Norfolk State just keeps hitting shots.
Devin Langford checked in with a little more than five minutes left in the half. He didn’t play at Gonzaga.
Langford was a little lost on the offensive end. Groce sat him down with the coaches and they told him what he did wrong in a calm manner.
Mike LaTulip, who hasn’t played the last four games, got in for a minute.
D.J. Richardson collided with a Norfolk State player and lie on the ground for a few minutes before being helped up and walking to the locker room. He was rubbing his neck as he left the floor. We’ll get an update on D.J. as soon as we can.
The building for eerily quiet while D.J. was down.
NSU shot 12 for 26 (46.2 percent) for the half and 4 of 11 from 3 (36.4 percent).
Illinois was 13 for 30 (43.3 percent) and 4 for 15 (26.7percent) from deep.
Groce wanted one shot on the last possession when the Illini had the ball with 16 seconds left. They didn’t hear him and he almost broke his hand slapping the scorer’s table.
Brandon Paul led Illinois with 10 points. Richardson and McLaurin had four, Henry and Bertrand had three. Illinois had five turnovers.
NSU got 11 from Pendarvis Williams. They turned it over seven times.
Norfolk State 20, No. 10 Illinois 16 — 9:24 first half
After the first foul of the game Nnanna Egwu committed, a cheap one, John Groce yelled “Sam, Nnanna — NOW!” McLaurin checked in immediately, less than two minutes in.
Groce also thought Brandon Paul was fouled on the first play of the game. It wasn’t called.
Good crowd to start. I’m guessing it’ll be 14,000-plus again. The upper reaches of C are bare. Loren informed me that Indiana sold out its Hoosier Hysteria event back in October. They turned away more than 2,000, according to some Indiana folks.
A good sign for the Illini: D.J. Richardson has taken the ball to the bucket twice and has scored both times. He’s dangerous if he can do that. D.J. is bringing it at both ends early.
As Tyler Griffey was checking in, Groce yelled “Hey, Griff, play hard!”
Myke Henry’s got a cut above his left eye. He’s got it covered up. Henry’s already bagged a tree-pointer. Expect him to keep shooting.
Norfolk State came to play. The Spartans are making shots. They have hit 9 of 18, including a pair of three-pointers. Illinois 7 for 19 (36.8 percent). They’re 2 for 8 (25 percent) from long range.
D.J. and McLaurin (three rebounds) each have four points. Brandon Paul and Myke Henry each have three. Abrams has the other bucket.
Sunday’s opponent, unbeaten Eastern Kentucky, beat Norfolk State 68-44 a few weeks ago, FYI.
Norfolk State at No. 10 Illinois — Tipoff
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is in the house sitting near the Illini bench. He's joined by safety Steve Hull and superstar freshman linebacker Mason Monheim.
Michael Finke, the star 2014 forward from Centennial here in Champaign is not here. He's got a game tonight, but the 6-foot-9 junior is making his official visit to Illinois tomorrow. The hope there is to lock up the local product.
The coaching staff recognizes the importance of nabbing the hometown kid and he's exactly the kind of big man they like in their system. He's big, runs the floor well and he can shoot it from the perimeter. Getting him tomorrow would be huge. He's a priority in that class.
Illinois starters tonight are the same as they've been all year: Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Tyler Griffey and Nnanna Egwu.
Former Butler star Ronald Nored, who helped lead Butler to a pair of national championship games is also sitting near the Illinois bench. Nored is here as a guest to another former Butler start, Illinois special assistant to the head coach Brandon Miller.
Former Illinois beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Stu Durando is here working tonight. Stu's been covering Missouri. Couldnt stay away from Top-10 Illinois, apparently.
I'll be back with you midway through the half with an update.
Norfolk State at No. 10 Illinois — 30 minutes before tipoff
Just about everybody is here now. The big men are going through their drills with Dustin Ford. Paris Parham and Jamall Walker are working the guards out, too. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Basgier is stretching guys out. I need to jump out there and get a stretch. Everything started to hurt when I turned 30 a few months ago.
A big reason the Illini find themselves in the Top 10 is the contributions from fifth-year senior transfer Sam McLaurin. I’ve said and the coaches have said that what Sam contributes won’t always show up in the box score. He’s averaging 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds on the season. His energy and aggressiveness on the boards, particularly on the offensive end, have really sparked the Illini at times.
He’s as surprised as anyone that this team is in the Top 10 and he’s enjoying it. But being here in December is not my McLaurin came to Illinois.
“Anytime you get ranked in the Top 10, it’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s not our end goal. I came here to play in the NCAA tournament. I’ve been to the NIT twice. I came here for an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament and that’s our goal.”
McLaurin’s friends back at Coastal Carolina have gotten a kick out of seeing him play on national television.
“They love it. Everybody’s calling me superstar, it’s all fun. When you get that kind of attention, it’s never a bad thing,” he said.
The Orange Krush is filing in here. Some of the members of the student section are lying on the ground, mimicking the stretches that the Norfolk State players are doing. Looking for a big effort from the Krush tonight. The Kennel Club brought it at Gonzaga.
Norfolk State at No. 10 Illinois — 60 minutes before tipoff
As I mentioned before, Tyler Griffey took three three-point shots in the second half at Gonzaga. Two of them did not hit the rim. He almost broke the backboard. That’s strange to see from such a good shooter.
“I was trying to break the backboard for the next game,” Griffey said while laughing. “I came in early and got some shots up, everything’s fine. I don’t know what happened. Both of those shots felt good, too. It was just one of those nights. I was too pumped up to play.”
You’ll be glad to know that Tyler looks like his old self here tonight during his shooting routine as the other players start to matriculate onto the court.
Groce talked about his relationship with Griffey yesterday during a conference call. He said the senior from Missouri is an intelligent guy, they share an affinity for coffee and Griffey has even passed along some inspiration quotes the coach has relayed to the players on their daily practice plan. He’s also got a few saved from Griffey to use in the future.
It’s been a breakout season for Griffey, who’s averaging just under 10 points per game. Groce said there’s no magic wand that made Griffey take a leap in his game. He’s earned everything he’s achieved this season through his work in the offseason.
On a team with nothing but good guys, Griffey stands out. It’s nice to see him having fun on the floor.
Hopping on the pregame show in a little bit with Loren Tate and Steve Kelly.
Oh, tonight’s game is the last one this season that will not be available on an actual television. It is available on ESPN3.com with Mike Couzens and Brooke Weisbrod calling the action. Weisbrod did the St.Francis game earlier this season and got rave reviews on Twitter for her analysis. Let me know what you guys think. She played at Coastal Carolina and is a Hall of Famer there.
The people are starting to file in here and I'm guessing there should be a good crowd here tonight. This game was part of either the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal. We'll see when the game stars.
Be back soon.
Norfolk State at No. 10 Illinois — 90 minutes before tipoff
Good evening, folks, welcome to another HQ Live Report ahead of the first game featuring a Top-10 Illinois team playing at the Assembly Hall in more than six years.
It’s been a heck of a couple of days for the Illini since knocking off then-No. 10 Gonzaga in Spokane on Saturday night.
Brandon Paul, who scored 35 points in the game has earned just about every honor imaginable in the last two days.
The senior guard was the Big Ten’s Player of the Week. He was the U.S. Basketball Writers of America’s National Player of the Week. ESPN’s Grantland said his performance at Gonzaga was the best performance by anyone at any school this season. Paul was named Dick Vitale’s Player of the Week and John Groce was Vitale’s Coach of the Week. He’s also on CBSsports.com’s Top 10 list of National Player of the Year candidates at No. 7 and ESPN's Andy Latz had him as one of six POY candidates.
I think that covers just about all of it.
I caught up with Brandon and asked him about all the love.
“(I'm) just trying to stay focused, we talk about this all the time, Coach tells us not to swallow the poison of success,” Paul said. “We’re having a good season, it’s still early on, it’s only 10 games in and we know there’s a full season ahead of us.
“Obviously, I’m always on Twitter, people are tweeting me, congratulating me and all of that. It’s just a chance for me to stay humble and I feel like we still have a lot of ground to cover.”
The Illini struggled a bit after returning home from the big championship at the Maui Invitational, but still found ways to win games at the end. Tonight is an opportunity to show that they’re growing in terms of handling big-time success and they can show that by winning convincingly here tonight against a 6-5 Norfolk State team. Illinois hasn’t really had a blowout win since the first two game at Maui.
Of course, Tyler Griffey is here, getting up some shots early. He needs it after the two bricks he fired up in the second half at Gonzaga. I had some fun with Tyler about that earlier. He’s got a good sense of humor, which helps. I’ll let you know what he said in a little while.
Mike LaTulip is out here, too, sporting a fresh new buzz cut. Tyler says he's growing his hair out. Not as long as Kelly Olynyk, though.
Be back soon.