Live! vs. IPFW (w/video)

Illinois 57, IPFW 55 — FINAL

CHAMPAIGN —Rayvonte Rice scored a game-high 17 points, including a pair of free throws in the closing seconds after picking off a pass at the point, in helping the Illini avoid the upset at the hands of the Mastodons.

Marcus Jackson's postgame video here.

Tracy Abrams scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half for the Illini, who moved to 7-0 for the third consecutive season.

IPFW, which led by eight at the half, didn’t help its upset chance by going 2 for 13 (15.4 percent) from the free throw line.

The Mastodons got 15 points from Luis Jacobo and 12 from Pierre Bland.

More later on HQ.

IPFW 43, Illinois 41 — 11:57 second half

Tracy Abrams is doing that thing where he goes on a little spurt to give his team some life. He’s got a look in his eye. Kid is a competitor. He’s just clutch.

Jon Ekey’s three-pointer about a minute and a half in infused some life into the crowd.

Illinois got called for a couple of touch fouls early. That’s after a first half when none of that stuff was called.

Luis Jacobo got going soon after the Ekey three and kept IPFW in control.

IPFW big man Steve Forbes limped off the court three minutes into the half. He’s been a beast down low. Looks like he’s 45 years old.

Speaking of grown men, Rayvonte Rice continues to play like one. He’s fun to watch.

Loren Tate is hot at the officials. He’s using language here that I can’t share with you.

After Bertrand was fouled and he made contact with the defender’s head. The officials reviewed it but apparently everything was OK.

Malcolm Hill is good at utilizing the ball fake. His fake and drive led to an assist to Rice to give the Illini a 41-40 lead. I mean, he got the defender way up in the air. Probably could have run underneath him.

The Illinois bench went nuts when Abrams was called for a foul after stripping Forbes in the post.

Official Bo Boroski to Illinois coach John Groce after that call: “I missed it, I completely missed it.”

IPFW 35, Illinois 27 — HALFTIME

The Las Vegas hangover is real. IPFW outplayed the Illini in the first half and as a result, the Mastodons enter the locker room with the lead. Illinois went 6:55 without a field goal until Tracy Abrams’ runner at the end of the half. There’s just something missing in Illinois’ demeanor. I’m thinking toughness.

IPFW is getting most loose balls. John Groce is not happy with his guys about that.

I’ve got Illinois making seven straight turnovers. That’s an unofficial count by me. They’ve turned it over 11 times in all. I’m sure there’s some serious shouting going on in the locker room.

It’s only the second time this season the Illini went into the locker room trailing. They were down 10 at UNLV on Tuesday. We know how that one turned out.

It was a 12-3 run by IPFW to end the half.

It doesn’t appear that the officials are calling the touch fouls tonight like they have been early in the season. The Illinois bench has been begging for a few. Based on what’s supposed to be the new rules, they have a legitimate gripe.

“Good, Kendrick, good job, Kendrick!” — John Groce after Nunn drove and drew a foul.

IPFW is daring Rayvonte Rice to beat them with his jumper. He made his first two threes.

Mike LaTulip didn’t play in the UNLV game. He checked in late in the first half.

Rayvonte Rice leads Illinois with nine points. Nnanna Egwu has six.

IPFW out-rebounded the Illini 17-14 and the Mastodons got eight on the offensive glass.

Illinois shot 10 for 25 (40 percent) for the half and 3 of 9 from long range.

IPFW was 15 for 28 (53.6 percent) from the floor and 4 for 9 (44.4 percent) from deep. Luckily for the Illini, IPFW was 1 for 8 from the foul line.

Jerry Hester says IPFW is a good, solid team, but Illinois is playing like poop.

Illinois 14, IPFW 13 — 11:48 first half

Tracy Abrams’ jumper is off. He came out of the game and to the Illinois bench in some pain. Not sure what he was favoring.

Joe Kibiloski looks like an old man. Steve Kelly joked that Kibiloski and Loren Tate were in the same graduating class. IPFW’s Steve Forbes couldn’t have been too far behind them in school.

Dustin Ford is all over it tonight. The Illinois assistant had the scout. He’s more animated than usual.

“Tracy, way to compete!” — John Groce

Ekey’s got another tip dunk.

Nnanna Egwu’s still shooting threes. He had one go in and out. It’s a good-looking stroke.

Jaylon Tate set Nnanna Egwu up with another nice lob pass. Tate rejected the screen and got into the paint for the assist.

Rayvonte Rice is still hot. He hit his first three-point attempt. He’s playing well on defense, too, forcing at least one turnover.

Illinois has missed a lot of shots that have gone in and then out.

IPFW (6-2) at Illinois (6-0) — TIPOFF (ESPN3)

Illinois is going with its regular starting lineup tonight of Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu. That quintet has started all seven games this season for the Illini.

Was just talking with sports information director Derrick Burson about the freak that is Joseph Bertrand. He’s not a freak in the sense that he’s weird, he’s just a freaky athlete. Derrick told me Joe occasionally takes two steps and walks up the wall at the Ubben Basketball Complex. When their old player banners hung in there, Joe would touch his banner and then land on his feet. I’ve got to see this with my own eyes.

I have a feeling Joe’s going to have a nice game tonight.

Derrick told me the folks in Las Vegas were stunned at Joe’s alley-oop dunk the other night. On a court full of ridiculous athletes, Joe was the best out there.

Shannon Ryan is giving me a hard time for not talking to Flavor Flav at the game the other night. I mean, she’s really upset with me.

John Groce wished all the officials a Happy Thanksgiving.

He shook Daniel Borup’s hand after his wonderful rendition of the National Anthem.

IPFW (6-2) at Illinois (6-0) — 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

We’re back from State Farm Center. Interested to see how the crowd’s going to be tonight. This is the third of  a $15 ticket promotion, so it should be a pretty good crowd. No Orange Krush, just regular folks sitting in that spot tonight.

Michigan State had its best crowd of the year today without the Izzone. Watched a bit of the Spartans. They were struggling with Mount Mercy in the first half until Adreian Payne went all Nnanna Egwu and hit a pair of threes late in the half.

Illinois assistant Jamall Walker was on the road last night watching recruiting target Jalen Coleman. The Illinois staff will be out the next couple of days before heading to Atlanta checking in on players.

I was surprised to find out the other night from a bunch of Illini fans on Twitter who said Doug Gottlieb was kind of beating up on Rayvonte Rice. I talked with Gottlieb at length before the game and he was raving about the Illinois guard. Says he’ll draw a paycheck playing the game once day, though it’s more likely to happen with a passport.

The last game Illinois played, Flavor Flav was sitting courtside. Don’t think Flavwill be here tonight. I asked Nnanna Egwu about playing in front of Flavor Flav and he thought it was pretty neat. “That’s Vegas for you, isn’t it,” Egwu said. You’ve got that right, big guy.

Illinois and Urbana University High grad Daniel Borup will sing the National Anthem tonight. I believe the last time Borup sang before a game here was the Indiana game last year. We all know what happened there. I’ll double check with him to see if that was indeed his last performance.

Some of the music being played here sounds like we’re in a Las Vegas club. Maybe they’re trying to keep the good Vegas vibes running through the team.

If you’re interested or near a television, the St. Joseph-Ogden football team is leading by a touchdown late in the Class 3A state title game against Stillman Valley up in DeKalb. That game is broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Would be great for Dick Duval’s program to finally get over the hump.

I’ll be back before the tip with another update.

IPFW (6-2) at Illinois (6-0) — 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday with your friends and family and hopefully that’s continuing into the weekend.

For those of you not out there shopping — hope no one here was injured at one of those ridiculous scrums at the Wal-Marts across the country — I’ll be here throughout the evening keeping you updated on what’s going on here at State Farm Center.

This one is a tricky game tonight. Even before the game at UNLV, the Illinois staff was concerned about this one because of the short turnaround after traveling back from Las Vegas and because Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (that’s IPFW from here on out) is a good basketball team.

The Mastodons lost at Dayton by a point without their best player Luis Jacobo. You remember Dayton beat Gonzaga in Maui earlier this week, that’s a good team. IPFW plays a lot of veteran guys who are comfortable with the system in place, they’ll come in here and compete.

IPFW played a close one at EIU on Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 425. Something tells me there will be more than 425 people here tonight, just a hunch.

As for Illinois, John Groce’s club is feeling pretty good about itself after the big come-from-behind win Tuesday at UNLV and they should. That’s a win that’s going to look real nice on the NCAA tournament resume come March. I was told last year the most important thing to the selection committee is to 1. Play quality teams away from your home arena and 2. To win games against quality opponents away from your home arena. Illinois accomplished both.

Everyone who played Tuesday contributed in a major way in Las Vegas. Freshmen big men Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert were especially impressive while playing early minutes with Nnanna Egwu battling foul trouble. It was probably the best game each has played this season and to come in their first road game speaks to their toughness.

But that’s over and what the Illinois staff is worried about tonight is whether they are mature enough to duplicate that effort against a team not as highly though of as UNLV.

We’ll see how it shakes out.

Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks are back with the team. They’re on the court going through their pregame routine with Jamall Walker.Walker is wearing the Air Jordan 10s. I wore those during my seventh grade basketball season at St. Jude in South Holland. Great shoes.

IPFW is out here. The Mastodons are wearing royal blue. Illinois is in orange.

I’ll be back.

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