Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team.
On Sundays, we’ll dip into our vast News-Gazette archives and stroll Memory Lane. Today: Illinois has yet to play a home game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in the Brad Underwood era with losses at Wake Forest and Notre Dame in his first two seasons. A look back at the last eight at State Farm Center before the Illini host Miami at 6 p.m. Monday.
Illinois 88, North Carolina State 74
The Illini bounced back from an ovetime home loss to Winthrop (not a typo) and a rough Thanksgiving in Brooklyn with losses to West Virginia and Florida State by taking down the Wolfpack. Malcolm Hill (above) led Illinois with a game-high 22 points, and the Illini were able to limit future lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. to just 12 points on 4 of 11 shooting.
Notre Dame 84, Illinois 79
The first game back at a newly-renovated State Farm Center after the stint of "home" games in Springfield didn't wind up all that celebratory. The Illini held an eight-point lead at halftime, fell behind by double digits midway through the second half, trailed by 14 with 32 seconds to play and put on a mad scramble to only lose by five. Hill again led Illinois with 19 points but 21 apiece from Steve Vasturia and one-time Illini target Demetrius Jackson put the Fighting Irish over the top.
Illinois 75, Georgia Tech 62
The John Groce era at Illinois started off on a pretty solid note. The Illini's win against Georgia Tech was their first as a ranked team that season and part of a 12-0 start that ultimately saw them reach the NCAA tournament. The last tournament appearance, of course, for the program. Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand scored 15 points apiece to lead the Illini past the Yellow Jackets.
Illinois 79, North Carolina 67
Mike Davis (above) scored a game-high 20 points as the No. 20 Illini took down the Tar Heels. Davis was one of five Illinois players in double figures. Illinois also limited North Carolina freshman and preseason All-American Harrison Barnes to just nine points.
Clemson 76, Illinois 74
Demetri McCamey scored Illinois' last seven points and finished with 20. Mike Davis scored a game-high 28 points. Still, couldn't fully overcome its late deficit to the Tigers. Chester Frazier (above, being consoled by Richard Semrau) had a game-high 12 assists.
Maryland 72, Illinois 66
Illinois led for not quite 2 minutes in the first half and briefly in the second before No. 23 Maryland pulled away for the win. Mike Jones led the Terrapins with 19 points, and Greivis Vasquez chipped in 17. Shaun Pruitt (above) finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Illini, while Warren Carter had his own double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Illinois 91, Wake Forest 73
Remember this one? Top-ranked Wake Forest team coming to town led by Chris Paul? Not a pleasant trip for the Demon Deacons. Illinois locked up Paul, limiting him to 10 points, never trailed and thumped Wake Forest. Dee Brown (above) was one of four Illini in double figures, with Roger Powell Jr. leading the way with 19 points.
Illinois 92, North Carolina 65
Brian Cook (above) led Illinois with 22 points and eight rebounds, Sean Harrington hit six three-pointers and chipped in 20 points and the No. 25 Illini knocked off the No. 12 Tar Heels. It was also a bit of a glimpse into the future, as Sean May led North Carolina with 21 points.