Illinois 83, Northwood 67 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — It was kind of nerve-wracking there for a while for Illinois basketball fans, Division II Northwood taking a 48-47 lead early in the second half. But homegrown Rayvonte Rice would have none of the Timberwolves’ upset bid. The fourth-year junior buried back-to-back three-pointers to highlight a 20-7 Illinois run to send the Illini to a victory at the State Farm Center, their final tuneup before Friday’s season opener against Alabama State.
Rice, who didn’t play the first 11 minutes Sunday, finished with a team-high 16 points. Mike LaTulip added 14 points for the Illini. Freshman point guard Jaylon Tate, starting in place of an injured Tracy Abrams, scored 11. Malcolm Hill and Joseph Bertrand also reached double figures for Illinois, scoring 10 points apiece. Jon Ekey pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
Abrams sat out the game with a mild hamstring strain.
All 10 Illinois players who saw action cracked the scoring column.
Northwood got 25 points from Wes Wilcox and 16 from Will Bowles.
More later on HQ.
Illinois 52, Northwood 51 — 11:46 second half
A 9-2 run by the Timberwolves forced John Groce to call a timeout early in the half. In the game against McKendree, Groce said he didn’t call a timeout intentionally when McKendree made its run to see how his team would react. He apparently had seen enough four minutes into this half today.
Northwood kept it up and eventually took a 48-47 lead after Khalid King buried a three-pointer, but Illinois has retaken the lead, thanks in large part to a three-point play by Rayvonte Rice.
It’ll be real interesting to see how the young Illini play these last 11 minutes and 46 seconds. We’ll see ups and downs like this all season.
Northwood opened the second half in a zone. Illinois did a nice job of breaking it down, just couldn’t get a shot to drop.
Jaylon Tate and Nnanna Egwu blocked back-to-back shots early in the half. Kendrick Nunn then helped force the shot-clock violation with some hustle on the perimeter.
Northwood’s Will Bowles got a technical in the first half for hanging on the rim and it was incorrectly marked as his second foul of the game. He sat the last 10 minutes of the half as a result and it’s just been determined that he should only have one personal foul because hanging on the rim is an indirect personal foul.
That’s a major mess up and really hurt Northwood. Bowles is their best player, at least he has been tonight.
Illinois 45, Northwood 34 — Halftime
Thanks to five three-pointers, Northwood made a nice run to get back into the game before the half, including a three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
Malcolm Hill fell victim to the new foul rules, getting whistled after putting his hands on a ball-handler.
Northwood’s Will Bowles was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. It was a bad call. The Timberwolves big man had to hang to avoid falling on his back had he let go of the rim. Most importantly, it knocked him out of the game with two fouls. He had been real effective. He had eight points and four boards in nine minutes.
Lots of early post touches for Nnanna Egwu today.
Maverick Morgan beasted a defender setting a screen and got himself open for a short jumper. The Northwood fans were up in arms about it.
Rayvonte Rice checked in for the first time about 11 minutes in.
Malcolm Hill got called for a travel on a ball fake. “Good call,” Groce yelled to the officials.
“Coach, why are these guys getting threes off, the good shooters?” Groce asked assistant Jamall Walker. “I don’t like that.”
Northwood is hitting the offensive glass too regularly. Paris Parham is getting on the guys about that.
The Timberwolves pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, but only six second-chance points.
At one point, Illinois led by 24. The Timberwolves have more than cut that in half. They did that without the services of Bowles.
“Ekey’s a tipper,” Loren Tate said. He means with rebounds, not at restaurants.
Michael Finke is here with his family. Finke will sign his letter of intent in 12 days.
Rayvonte Rice showed his strength on a late contested layup.
Kendrick Nunn led the Illini with eight points. He scored all of those very early in the half. Mike LaTulip had seven points while Jaylon Tate and Nnanna Egwu each had six. Jon Ekey’s six rebounds led the Illini.
Illinois 20, Northwood 11 — 11:45 first half
The defense has been the story for Illinois early. Northwood missed its first six shots and didn’t score until four and a half minutes had passed.
The defense fell off a little bit and Groce wanted them to get their bite back after Northwood closed to within 19-11.
Nnanna Egwu has really improved his fadeaway jumper. The big man got one off, one-legged on the opening possession of the game. He can get that shot off against anybody.
Jon Ekey doing what Jon Ekey does. He tapped the ball to keep it alive after a Jaylon Tate missed free throw, then drew a foul away from the ball headed back down the court on defense.
Joseph Bertrand had a wide-open three in the corner and didn’t take it. “Wasn’t ready to shoot, fellas,” John Groce told the bench. “We don’t hesitate here.”
Malcolm Hill checked in at the 4 spot early in the half and on the first possession, he pulled in a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup. Not many 4s in the country doing that. The benefit of going with a small lineup.
Mike LaTulip, who has hit a three-pointer, took one of the few charges you might see this year. You’ve really got to be in position in order to get the call this season under the new rules.
A little more than eight minutes in, Rayvonte Rice has yet to check into the game. At the under-12 timeout, he took off his warmup top. Wonder if this might be a discipline thing. He is healthy.
Exhibition: Northwood (Mich.) at Illinois — Tipoff
Jeni Thomas, wife of AD Mike Thomas, stopped by a few minutes before the game to deliver cupcakes to celebrate Loren’s birthday.
Loren’s passing them out on press row. He’s got icing all over his face.
Late-arriving crowd here at the State Farm Center for this one.
The starting lineup is indeed Tate, Nunn, Bertrand, Ekey, Egwu.
Northwood will counter with Ruhlman, Langkabel, Wilcox, Ham, Bowles.
Tracy Abrams is in street clothes along with the other transfers. He’s walking with a bit of a limp.
As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of chatter here today about Stephen Bardo’s book about the Flyin’ Illini that was released on Friday. Loren Tate’s column linked here details the controversy surrounding the book. I went to the book-signing reception Friday night where about 75 folks or so showed up at the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign. Kendall Gill, P.J. Bowman, Larry Smith, Ervin Small, Marcus Liberty and Travis Smith were all there. John and Allison Groce were also there.
Exhibition: Northwood (Mich.) at Illinois — 5 p.m.
Before we continue any further, I’d like to take this time to wish Loren Tate a happy 82nd birthday. The ageless wonder is just that, a wonder. It’s amazing how hard he continues to work as an octogenarian.
Expect the starting lineup tonight to look like this: Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu. Tracy Abrams won’t play today. He’s got a very minor injury and he’s being held out as a precaution since there’s absolutely nothing riding on today’s game.
Strength and conditioning coach Mike Basgier is a big Washington Redskins fan. He hit me up for the score a little while ago: Washington 30, San Diego 24 (OT). Basgier’s pumped up. He says he’s got to enjoy the victories because they’ve been few this season. He’s been rubbing that win against the Bears two weeks ago in the faces of a lot of people around here (yours truly included).
The Northwood players entered the gym about 90 minutes before tipoff wearing their navy blue warm-ups and most with oversized headphones. They looked around the building, many taking photos of the inside of the State Farm Center with their cell phones.
I think their locker room was still being cleared out after the Cardinal Stritch women used it.
Dustin Ford put Hill, Ekey, Colbert, Egwu and Morgan through a pregame shooting drill.
This was another weekend full of recruiting for the UI staff. As you probably heard, Cliff Alexander was in town. He was spending a little bit of time with his Chicago buddies on the UI roster. Elite 2016 swingman Jayson Tatum made an unofficial visit, too. The St. Louis-area product is a top-five player in his class. The ball is definitely rolling on the recruiting front.
The Northwood players finally got into their locker room and they decided it was a good idea to warmup in some camouflage-type shirts. There’s a slogan on the back I wish I could read without squinting. It’s almost like one of those Magic-Eye patterns on their shirt. After further inspection, it reads: “Defend, Rebound, Sprint.” All good things to do on the basketball court.
Play-by-play man Brian Barnhart will call the action after returning last night from Penn State. Barnhart just said “When they fumbled on the 2, I thought it would be our day.” Optimism is so cute sometimes.
The students started filing in when the doors opened at 4. The Orange Krush seats under the basket are just about full a half hour before the game. Not many other seats are occupied. Might get a few thousand here today.
I’ll be back at the tip with a reset for you.
Exhibition: Northwood (Mich.) at Illinois — 5 p.m.
Good afternoon and welcome to the exhibition finale today for the Illini ahead of Friday’s season opener against Alabama State. I’ll be here through the final buzzer, updating you a couple of time before the tipoff and again midway through each half.
I got here early to the State Farm Center today to catch the second half of the women’s game against Cardinal Stritch. Matt Bollant’s team dominated 78-49. I sat behind the bench and based on all the chatter from Bollant and his assistants, you’d have thought Illinois was losing. I think the women are going to have a good season. Sarah Hartwell looks like a real nice player.
Amber Moore picked up her fourth foul early in the second half and sat a large portion of the half before Bollant sent her back in midway through the half and said “Let’s see how long you can play with four (fouls).” Mike Divilbiss came back with “I’ve never seen a shooter get five fouls” to which Moore responded “That’s because I’m more than just a shooter, Coach.” Said Divilbiss: “Oh, you’re a complete player, huh?”
Very entertaining exchange.
Nnanna Egwu, Malcolm Hill, Austin Colbert and Jaylon Tate got here early and watched most of the second half of the game along with athletic trainer Paul Schmidt.
Today’s game today was fully scouted by John Groce and his staff and they hit the players with a full scouting report like they will throughout the course of the season. They didn’t do that for the first exhibition game against McKendree. It’s quite detailed and will take the freshmen some getting used to.
I asked Egwu about getting used to digesting scouting reports the other day.
“You’ve got to be mentally prepared for all that. All the film, all the reading and all the analysis, it’s a real adjustment,” Egwu said. “I know when I came in I was like ‘What is all this? What is going on? We’ve got to do all of this?’ It was tough. We prepare for every team the same, it’s going to be long. We analyze every player, make sure everyone knows each player and how they play; their weaknesses and strengths. Its going to be tiring for some. They’ll adjust and get used to it.”
Northwood is a Division II program out of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Timberwolves played an exhibition at Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday and lost 76-71. Their three big men all scored in double figures. Center Will Bowles had 10 points and 14 boards. Forward Darvin Ham (the son of the former NBA player of the same name) had 15 points and 10 rebounds while forward Wes Wilcox dropped 13.
Should be a good challenge for Egwu and freshman Maverick Morgan.
The building was cleared following the women’s game and doors just reopened for the men’s game, which will start in an hour. The State Farm Center crew is cleaning the place in preparation for the second half of the double header.
Jon Ekey was the first Illinois player on the court. Austin Colbert and Malcolm Hill soon followed.
I'll be back with another update in a little while.