CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Saturday's game at Northwestern is a must-win for the Illinois football team - and their opponent is in a similar situation. Both the Illini and Wildcats come into Saturday's regular season finale with identical 5-6 records. Tim Beckman has tried to emphasize the rivalry with Northwestern during his three years at Illinois, and rarely is so much on the line when these two square off. "This is it," said Beckman. "I mean this is almost like the playoffs. You gotta win to keep playing, and so do they. That's what it's about. It's a great rivalry, and it's one very well respected."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois basketball team is saving its best for last early on this season. They're proving to be a second-half team, and it has helped them get off to a 4-0 start. The Illini are averaging nearly 56 points in the second halves of games. That is 14 more points than they're scoring in the first halves. Illinois faced a halftime deficit Monday night against Brown, but they finished strong with 58 second-half points. "We're gonna see what our guys are made of coming out of halftime there, down four here at home," said head coach John Groce. "Obviously I thought our guys showed great character in the second half."
ARTHUR, Ill. - Basketball practice in Arthur has a new look and feel this season. The gym is as full as its ever been with more than 30 players out for boys basketball this season. Nearly a dozen are former Atwood-Hammond Rajahs. They joined their former rivals after Atwood-Hammond High School closed earlier this year. "They realize that we're coming over," said senior Avery Schrock, "and they have to adjust to us just as we have to adjust to them so I think it's been pretty easy."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 11th-ranked Illinois volleyball team is hoping to get a chance to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The top 16 schools will earn the right to play at home, and Illinois has two games left to prove they deserve to be one of them. That starts with a matchup against Nebraska Wednesday night. "[We're trying] to get ready for the NCAA Tournament, but also I think we're fighting for seeds," head coach Kevin Hambly said. "We're real close RPI-wise. We're tied with them in the standings, and we're kinda fighting hopefully to be seeded in the NCAA Tournament, and also refine our games and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin and Indiana were good tests for us, and I think will be a really good test for us to see if we've grown as a team and gotten better."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was a first half to forget for the Illini Monday night against Brown. The Bears raced out to a 37-31 lead early in the second half, before the Orange and Blue cashed in 58 points over the game's final 20 minutes. Illinois pulled away late for an 89-68 win to improve to 4-0. "We turned it up. We did," head coach John Groce said of their second half effort. "I thought our effort level and our focus was much better in the second half. We had some scouting miscues in the second half. I thought we were more locked in in the second half, and then once again our team shows its unselfhisness with 30 field goals - 17 of them assisted."
BOYS BASKETBALL Mahomet-Seymour 73 Morton 58 GIRLS BASKETBALL St. Thomas More 65 Schlarman 30
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman said Monday he has not decided which quarterback will start this week's must-win game at Northwestern. Wes Lunt started Saturday against Penn State, but after struggling through the first quarter he was sent to the bench in favor of Reilly O'Toole. O'Toole completed 18-of-25 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, leading Illinois to a 16-14 victory. Lunt was still listed No. 1 on the depth chart Monday, but Beckman says it will be a competition this week in practice. He says he could use two or even three quarterbacks against Northwestern.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Big changes could soon be coming to the high school football landscape in Illinois. A new proposal would eliminate football conferences, and instead the IHSA would place teams in regions based on geography and enrollment. This proposal was submitted by Sycamore principal Tim Carlson. It has been approved by the IHSA's Legislative Commission, and it now goes to the member schools for final approval.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Central senior Connor Mapes signed Monday to continue his baseball career at Illinois State next season. Mapes was a big reason why the Maroons had one of the best seasons in school history last year. When he gets to Normal he will be reunited with his former Maroons' teammate Alec Altmyer. "It's a blessing going to play with Altmyer on what I call the best program in the state," Mapes said. "The MVC being the fifth best division to play in, I mean, it's a surreal moment. I'm very grateful for it. It's a lot of hard work that's paid off, but I'm ready to be a Redbird."
High School football state semifinal scores and highlights
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - David Reisner said he had a dream Friday night that he would attempt four field goals against Penn State, but not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined a moment like this - kicking the game-winning field goal with :08 left to lift Illinois to a 16-14 victory over the Nittany Lions. "I went out there," Reisner said. "Coach Cubit lightened the mood up a little bit. He was making some jokes, and I felt calm. Calmer than I have ever been on a field goal. It was nice that everybody believed in me, and I ended up making the kick."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - If there's one thing this Illinois team is proving three games into the season - they can score. Light year's better than last year, and lights out from downtown. Illinois raced past Austin Peay 107-66 behind a balanced scoring effort that saw Illinois surpass 100 points for the second consecutive game. It's first time since 1993 than an Illinois team has accomplished that feat. The Illini are averaging more than 100 points per game this season. "I think the things that stand out the most to me was our unselfishness," said head coach John Groce. "I think sometimes we even passed up some shots to go from a good to great shot. We were very, very unselfish."
GIRLS BASKETBALL St. Thomas More 61 Southeast 22 Schlarman 53 Urbana 25 SJO 57 Iroquois West 44 Washington 46 Centennial 23
GIRLS BASKETBALL Danville 74 Urbana 41 Schlarman 61 Rantoul 27
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Freshman Chatrice White scored 13 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to help lead Illinois to a 60-58 win over Memphis. Sophomore Jacqui Grant scored 14 points for Illinois (3-0).