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Illinois 77, Chicago State 53 — FINAL

CHAMPAIGN — Jon Ekey scored 19 points for the second consecutive games and Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand and Rayvonte Rice scored 12 points apiece to lead the Illini to a win Friday at State Farm Center.

Beat writer Marcus Jackson breaks down Friday's win here: http://www.news-gazette.com/video/2013-11-22/illinois-77-chicago-state-5...

Ekey went on a personal 10-0 run during a ciritical second-half stretch to extend a four-point Illinois lead to a 14-point cushion. He drilled a pair of three-pointers and threw down a thunderous one-handed tip dunk to close the burst.

Nnanna Egwu (six points) grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots.

Bertrand corralled eight rebounds for the Illini (5-0).

More later on HQ.

Illinois 53, Chicago State 43 — 10:39 second half

Joseph Bertrand put Eddie Denard on a poster. I think Joe traveled on the play, but no one seemed to notice.

Brandon Paul noticed it from Russia. He says Joe took three hard steps on Twitter.

Loren said he developed that shot growing up in Monticello.

D.J. Richardson is here. They showed him on the big screen and he received a nice hand from the fans.

A quick 8-2 run for the Illini got them off to a nice start to the second half. Jon Ekey banged home a three then Rayvonte Rice drove for a layup and drilled a three to get them off on the right foot.

I’m looking at the big heads the Orange Krush is waving. They don’t have one big enough to represent my head.

Krush getting after Matt Ross, calling him “Birdman.” He’s tatted up.

This one’s going to be close till the end, me thinks.

I’ve got to get to work on tomorrow’s coverage.

Illinois 33, Chicago State 26 — HALFTIME

Chicago State doesn’t appear to be interested in lying down for the Illini. The Cougars have made runs to stay in the game and withstood small Illinois spurts.

Tracy Abrams and Chicago State’s Clarke Rosenberg were exchanging words entering the locker room. The Illinois coaches had to get in between to keep things civil.

Groce sent Colbert in to sub for Nnanna Egwu and he wanted it to happen quickly. He nearly assaulted Colbert pushing him to the table. Nnanna had two fouls at the time.

Malcolm Hill shot an airball on a three-pointer. “He didn’t have his feet set,” Groce said to the bench.

The Illini went through a cold spell and let Chicago State cut it to 18-17 before Joseph Bertrand knocked down a three. Offensive rebounds have given them plenty of opportunities.

Sam McLaurin just tweeted that he’s glad Indiana is losing. You folks taught him well during his lone year here.

The Hoosiers indeed did lose to UConn at Madison Square Garden.

The Illinois bench is imploring its players to “Drive the ball!” They’re starting to listen.

Illinois didn’t shoots its first free throw until the 6:57 mark of the half. That’s unusual for this year’s team.

Tracy Abrams is wearing the team LeBrons from like 2009. I always wanted those.

Illinois went small at the 1:28 mark. Tate, Abrams, Nunn, Bertrand, Colbert.

Chicago State runs a play called “Chicago.” It resulted in Pippen dribbling the ball out of bounds off his own foot.

Illinois shot 46.2 percent (12 for 26) from the floor and 3 for 8 (37.5) from long range.

Bertrand and Abrams scored seven apiece.

Chicago State shot 40.9 percent (9 for 22) from the floor and 36.4 percent (4 for 11) from three.

Rosenberg had eight points to lead the way.

Illinois out-rebounded the Cougars 18-9 and each team committed eight turnovers.

Illinois 18, Chicago State 12 — 11:37 first half

I asked John Groce yesterday about his team not forcing many turnovers, they’ve averaging 8.5 per game. He wasn’t too concerned about it because the field-goal defense has been good.

Well, they forced back-to-back turnovers early leading to a pair of buckets and forcing Tracy Dildy to call a quick timeout 2:15 into the game.

Then they got another one off the timeout leading to another bucket.

Groce wasn’t happy with the six turnovers his team had committed at the first media timeout, less than six minutes into the game. Bertrand had two, Rice had two, too.

Groce went with a lineup of four freshmen after the media timeout. Hill mad a couple buckets and Austin Colbert had a putback. These guys aren’t scared. They were playing with Nunn, Tate and Rice.

They gave up a couple of buckets that were too easy.

Jon Ekey still has his Sunday shooting touch. The fifth-year senior knocked down a corner three on his first attempt.

Nnanna Egwu and Matt Ross were each a little quick on the opening tip. The official had to pull the ball down and reset. Nnanna won the tap.

Loren just gave me play-by-play of how the UI soccer team won its NCAA tournament game today. They’re going to the Sweet 16.

Loren was also worried about Rayvonte Rice’s shooting during the pregame show. Rice buried his first three-point attempt of the night.

Loren thinks “LOL” means “Lots of love.” He cracks me up.

Chicago State (2-3) at Illinois (4-0) — 8 p.m. (BTN)

The Illini will go with the same starting lineup they have the first four games of the year. Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu. That’s a group that seems to work well together. Expect to see a lot of Abrams playing alongside Jaylon Tate tonight. That’s a dynamic lineup for Illinois, lots of speed.

Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy and John Groce had a nice moment with one another before the game. It looked as though Dildy was being very complimentary to Groce. Dildy and Paris Parham then had a good man hug. They go way back to the days in the Chicago Public League. Lots of mutual respect between the coaching staffs.

Tate and Nunn shook hands and hugged Chicago State’s Quron Davis before the game. They won state championships together at Simeon. Melvin Nunn, Kendrick’s dad, also gave Davis a hug a few minutes before tipoff. Davis was a bit player for the Wolverines in high school, yet he still got a Division I scholarship. Tells you how good those teams were.

The Orange Krush is ready to roll. They’ve got newspapers to pretend read while the Cougars are introduced. They need to start buying News-Gazettes.

No sign of Scottie Pippen. His nephew is Chicago State’s leading scorer. Quinton Pippen is a 6-foot-4 swingman, who averages 15.6 points. He was also the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year last year. I know what you’re thinking: Defense runs in the family. I know what else you’re thinking: Chicago State is in the Western Athletic Conference?

Cliff Paul, older brother of Brandon and Darius is here in attendance. He’s not the Cliff Paul from the State Farm commercials with Chris Paul.

Ed Bond just reported that the UI volleyball team won at Ohio State tonight. Kevin Hambly’s team is on a roll. I want to have a beer with Hambly, actually, I think I have. He’s as cool a customer as there is. He never panicked when his team’s record sat below .500 much of the season.

He’s got some John Groce in him. Or, is that the other way around? Groce has some Hambly in him?

Jerry Hester just turned around to ask someone for a pen. He’s borrowed pens from me each of the last two games. I haven’t seen either of them since. He knew better than to ask me for another one. He’s bled me dry.

Chicago State (2-3) at Illinois (4-0) — 8 p.m. (BTN)

Former Illini Stephen Bardo is calling his first game at his alma mater since making the move from ESPN to the Big Ten Network. He’ll work with Josh Lewin tonight.

Bardo released his much-talked-about book about the Flyin’ Illini earlier this month. I’m interested to hear from him if he’s received any negative feedback in person as a result of some of the things he documents in the book. He had a book-signing event last night at the Schnucks on Mattis Avenue in Champaign.

And I just found out that Bardo and Lewin are calling the game from the Big Ten Network studio in Chicago.

I’ve never understood why they do that, apparently it save the network a bunch of money. It’s just kind of weird.

There’s a lot of Simeon flavor here tonight. Wrote about the Chicago powerhouse program in today’s paper. Chicago State’s Quron Davis played on the state championship team last season with Kenrdick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. That team produced five Division I players from the 2013 class. Kendall Pollard is at Dayton and some guy named Jabari Parker is starring for Duke. Two others, Russell Woods (John A. Logan) and Ricky Norris (Central Wyoming) are playing at junior college programs.

Pretty solid stuff from the Wolverines.

Had a chance to talk to Joseph Bertrand at practice yesterday and you forget how funny he is. Most of you might not know it, or realize it, but Joe is a funny guy.

He was asked about Nnanna Egwu being a smart player and he quipped “On the court, or off the court?”

He went on about how smart of a player Nnanna is but when it came to the off-the-court smarts, Joe said “Well, everyone has their struggles.” He was kidding of course. Nnanna is brilliant, he went to St. Ignatius, but I think the big man can be an easy target for jokes at times.

I think the Illinois coaches are a little worried about this one. I think they’ll be fine.

The one you need to worry about is next week against IPFW. Illinois will be traveling back from Las Vegas on Wednesday, Thursday is Thanksgiving and they play Friday. That’s a real tough turnaround.

Chicago State (2-3) at Illinois (4-0) — 8 p.m. (BTN)

Good evening, basketball fans, and welcome to our running story of tonight’s game. With it being a late tip tonight, I might have to keep the updates brief to ensure I make deadline, don’t want to upset the editors or the pressmen.

As you know, this is the finale of Illinois’ five-game home stand. As you might not know, this is also the finale of the Global Sports Invitational which also included the games against Alabama State, Jacksonville State and Bradley. Since it was announced last May, I hadn’t made much mention of it. That’s why the teams Illinois has played so far share so many common opponents.

The Cougars beat Jacksonville State and lost games to Bradley and Alabama State. They like to run and they’ll get shots up within the first six seconds of the shot clock a lot. This one should be a track meet. Chicago State loves to press, too, on just about any situation.

Expect to see more of Tracy Abrams playing alongside Jaylon Tate tonight. Can’t have too many sure-fire ball handlers on the floor at the same time against a team like this.

A bright spot from the last game against Bradley was the play of freshman guard Kendrick Nunn. The Simeon product had struggled to that point, playing just two minutes against Valparaiso last week, but he made the most of his 13 minutes Sunday, scoring eight points, grabbing four boards and dishing out three assists.

“I think all the freshmen are starting to understand what we’re looking for from them more every day. It’s a process. It’s not something where you can wave a magic wand and suddenly they have the system down inside and out,” John Groce said. “I do think Kendrick has certainly made some strides over the past couple weeks both offensively and defensively with the system. It was good to see him experience some success because I had seen more of a focus and determination to learn and do the right thing. When that happens, you always want to see the young man do well and I thought he did some good things on Sunday.”

Kind of unusual, the entire Chicago State team was on the floor more than two hours before the game shooting around at one end of the court.

Also unusual, the Cougars have 18 guys listed on the roster. Wonder what they’re going to do about scholarships?

Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby went through a workout with Jamall Walker. This one was a little more spirited for those two than usual.

Wlaker has a lot of energy tonight. His Kansas City Chiefs finally lost this week, but it doesn’t appear to have taken much out of him.

Joseph Bertrand was the first of the eligible players out here. Tracy Abrams and Jon Ekey weren’t far behind.

The Illini will wear orange tonight.

Looks like Chicago State is going to wear black.

I'm going to try to track down Stephen Bardo. I'll be back with another update shortly.

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