LIVE! Big Ten opener

LIVE! Big Ten opener

Illinois 83, Indiana 80 — FINAL (OT)

CHAMPAIGN — Rayvonte Rice tied a career-high with 29 points in his first Big Ten appearance and Tracy Abrams added 17 for in Illinois’ win to open the conference season.

Check out our N-G cover here

Joseph Bertrand added 13, including a highlight-reel alley-oop dunk from Rice during a second-half run.

Nnanna Egwu (eight points) and Abrams each knocked down a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds of the game to clinch it for the Illini (12-2).

Indiana got 30 points from sophomore Yogi Ferrell, while freshman big man Noah Vonleh added 16 points and nine boards.

Indiana went 11 minutes and 41 seconds without a field goal until Ferrell hit a desperation three-pointer with three seconds left in overtime.

The Hoosier made a season-high 10 three-pointers . Indiana entered the game shooting 31.5 percent from three-point range and made 10 of 22 (45.5 percent) Tuesday.

More later on HQ.

Indiana 59, Illinois 54 — 11:07 second half

Indiana has been tougher than Illinois so far in the second half. At least that’s been the observation from John Groce. The Hoosiers have really been getting the Illini in transition and they’ve drawn a bunch of fouls.

Spoke briefly with East St. Louis’ Jeremiah Tillman, who’s here for today’s game. The freshman was nervous. He’s not used to the attention. His dad told him he better get used to it.

Another big cheer for D.J. Richardson here when he was shown on the video board at the under-16 timeout.

John Groce tried to call Nunn into the game before the first timeout. It was too loud and no one on the Illinois bench heard him.

Illinois is not guarding Troy Williams when he catches on the perimeter. He can’t shoot.

Maverick Morgan had a nice rebound and put back. Illinois has bene fine offensively, just can’t get any stops.

Indiana is shooting the heck out of it from three. Illinois was 0 for 9 from deep until Rayvonte Rice got one to drop.

Groce not happy with his team’s free throw block outs.

“Yogi Ferrell looks like a 5-year-old on steroids,” someone just said. Interesting observation.

Dan Dakich tweeted a photo of today’s front page of the News-Gazette. Thanks, Dan.

Skinny little guy in Rayvonte Rice jersey just took over as the king of the dance cam. The torched has been passed.

Illinois 39, Indiana 39 — HALFTIME

Mark Whitehead hit John Groce with a technical foul in the final minute of the half. Groce was upset about Yogi Ferrell’s defense on Tracy Abrams. “Get him off of him!” Groce yelled. That was it.

Whitehead said he called it because Groce was out of the box. Groce called bull droppings on that one.

It fired the Illini up. Joseph Bertrand hit a runner and then Rice got a steal, bucket and a foul.

Then Groce fist pumped the crowd to its feet for Indiana’s last possession, only to see Sheehey tie the game with a three.

Mark Whitehead told Groce to make sure all his guys remained seated on the bench. They got after the Indiana bench earlier, too.

Nnanna Egwu got away with an illegal screen. Even the Illinois bench called it out.

When Austin Colbert checked in: “Colbert, let’s go, baby! Play like a monster out there!” — John Groce

D.J. Richardson, who was instrumental in that win here against the Hoosiers last year, arrived at the under-8 timeout.

Mark Whitehead tried to explain a controversial foul call on Nnanna Egwu to John Groce. “I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it,” was Groce’s response.

Will Sheehey put Kendrick Nunn on a poster.

Nunn responded with a tough reverse layup in traffic while getting fouled.

Sheehey tried to punk Tracy Abrams. That’s not going to happen. Ever.

Noah Vonleh was 1 for 6 from long range coming in. He’s 2 for 3 today.

Illinois shot 45.7 percent (16 for 35) in the half and 0 for 7 from deep.

Indiana was 12 for 27 (44.4) from the floor and 6 for 12 from three. That’s the difference in the game. Indiana had a 19-17 rebounding advantage.

Illinois 15, Indiana 13 — 11:19 first half

Noah Vonleh got away with a big-time hook about seven minutes in when Maverick Morgan was instead called for a foul.

“He hooked him like a pirate,” one fan behind me yelled.

Morgan now has two fouls. He’s got to be up there in fouls per minute played.

When Ferrell beat the shot clock on Indiana’s first possession with a three, Groce yelled “Good shot.” Rayvonte Rice was all over him, had a hand in the face.

Illinois also noticed Indiana wasn’t switching screens like it normally does.

The Illini started 4 for 4, three of them were deep jumpers.

Noah Vonleh was 2 for 7 from three entering the game. He made one early.

After Rice and Tate were called for travels under the basket, Groce talked to the officials and the next time it happened, Tate was bailed out with a foul call.

“Play your (butt) off,” Groce said to Malcolm Hill when the freshman checked in.

Maverick Morgan got a haircut.

Kendrick Nunn’s jumper stopped a streak of six straight Illinois misses.

Rebounding has been a point of emphasis the last couple of days for Illinois. The Illini hold a 10-6 advantage right now with half coming on the offensive end.

Jon Ekey has missed his two three-pointers, but one rattled in and out. He’ll hit some.

Indiana (10-3, 0-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (11-2, 0-0) — TIPOFF (ESPN2)

Illinois is going with a starting lineup of Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu. That makes it 14 in a row with those guys.

Indiana counters with Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey, Jeremy Hollowell, Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh.

Talked to Dustin Dopirak, who covers the Hoosiers for The Herlad-Times in Bloomington. He thinks Illinois wins by 10 today. Dustin says he doesn’t think the Hoosiers have anyone who can guard Rayvonte Rice.

Dustin also says he has no idea why Luke Fischer left the program. He’s tried to reach him on multiple occasions, he hasn’t had any luck tracking him down.

Your officials today are Bo Boroski, Mark Whitehead and Terry Oblesby. Oglesby did the Indiana game here last year.

Recruits in the house include Jeremiah Tillman, Nojel Eastern and D.J. Williams. Signee Michael Finke is here, too.

Tillman is a 6-foot-9 freshman from East St. Louis. Eastern is the point guard from Evanston.

The video of Griffey’s layup was just shown as the teams were about to enter the arena.

That used to be the closing shot of Illinois' intro video. Now it's the team celebrating the Braggin' Rights win with the trophy walking off the floor and mobbing Groce in the locker room.

Nice cheer for that. Hearty round of boos for the Hoosiers when they took the court.

Indiana (10-3, 0-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (11-2, 0-0) — 2 p.m. ESPN2

Only three members of the current Illini team played in last year’s home game against Indiana. Joseph Bertrand, who was on the floor for the last shot, Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu.

Rayvonte Rice was on the Illinois bench in a bright orange sweater. Freshman Jaylon Tate said he missed the first half of the game as he and his Simeon teammates had a game that night.

Tate watched the second half of the game at home. He doesn’t remember what his reaction was seeing Griffey’s shot go through, but he remembers something else vividly.

“I just remember my mom screaming and going crazy,” Tate said. “It was a good game, they fought after they got down a little bit.”

With eight eligible players contributing this season who have never gone through a Big Ten schedule, Bertrand, Abrams and Egwu have been schooling the newcomers on what to expect over the course of the next two months.

“They haven’t stopped talking about it since Day 1. It’s like a championship game every night. It starts in practice and we’ve got to be prepared to play hard and win,” Tate said. “They’ve meant a lot, done a lot for us. They’ve been helping us young guys, talking to us and keeping our heads straight and showing us the ropes on how to get things done.”

Indiana is going through their regular hardcore pregame warmup, complete with padded blocking bags used on the interior players to simulate contact in the game. It’s amazing they have any energy left when the game starts.

I see grown men wearing candy-striped pants. I will never get used to seeing that. It seems so wrong.

Former Indiana player and coach Dan Dakich is calling the game today with Dave O’Brien. Dakich does a great job during broadcasts.

Oh, by the way, Indiana’s Luke Fischer, a Top-100 recruit, withdrew from the university and left the program yesterday.

The freshman big man was averaging 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds, playing in all 13 games off the bench.

“He explained to us he’s looking for a different fit for him. We hate to see a fine young man like Luke leave, but he has made his decision and we wish the entire Fischer family well.”

The doors are open here, which means it’s really cold in the building right now.

Looks like there will be a packed house and quite a few Indiana fans.

Indiana (10-3, 0-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (11-2, 0-0) — 2 p.m. ESPN2

Happy New Years Eve from State Farm Center, where Illinois returns after a three-week absence for today’s Big Ten opener against archrival Indiana.

Of course, you all know what happened the last time these two teams met here in Champaign.

 Hope you got a chance to look at the front page of today’s News-Gazette where we take a photo of the final second when Tyler Griffey slipped free and broke down what the heck was going on. Here’s a link to a look at that page.

Daniel Borup, the former UI student who was spotted in the photo, sang the National Anthem before that game. Daniel, now a grad student at Stanford, is here today and will sing the national anthem prior to the tip.

Got to the arena a little earlier than normal today. I still didn’t beat Ted Beach here. Assistant coach Jamall Walker was going through a rough workout of his own prior to working out Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby. Walker was running 17s. That’s the conditioning test the Illini do in the preseason to test their fitness levels. It’s 17 sprints the width of the court.

Walker said he used to do that a lot when he was an assistant at Arizona.

He then worked out Starks, who I saw make 33 of 50 uncontested three-pointers during one drill.

Darius Paul was out getting some early work in, too, with Dustin Ford. Paul and Cosby are wearing the brand new Kevin Durant Illinois Editions the team was issued yesterday. It’s a good-looking shoe.

We had Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham on the radio show at the Esquire with us yesterday. He says Kendrick Nunn, who got the Jordan XI Gamma Blues for Christmas, and Cosby have the best shoe games among Illinois players. Parham said his own is the best of all. The players don’t have as much money to spend on shoes as he does.

Mike LaTulip was the first of the eligible players to take the floor today. The Illini will wear white today. Indiana will wear crimson. Joseph Bertrand also made an early appearance.

For the second time this season Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice was named Big Ten Player of the Week. Rice shared the honor this week with Michigan State’s Keith Appling.

Evan Gordon Was the first Indiana player on the floor today. I'm guessing the last time here was here for a game was when his brother played here. That was an interesting night.

I'll be back soon.

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