LINCOLN, Neb. - Chatrice White tied a career-high with 23 points on a career-best four 3-PT, but it came in a losing effort as Illinois fell to No. 15 Nebraska 59-57.
URBANA, Ill. - Brandon Ngai was the type of guy Illinois men's gymnastics coach Justin Spring was hoping to find while recruiting. "We needed a [pommel] horse guy," Spring said. "He says he's into aerospace engineering. I came in as an aerospace engineer, and my dad was an astronaut. There was an immediate connection with this kid. We started talking on the phone, a really good conversation." Everything was good until Ngai told Spring he was only 15 years old.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois head coach John Groce says it is possible both Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosby could return to the lineup for Saturday's game against Penn State. Groce made the comments at a news conference Thursday. He would not guarantee they would be back, but he did say it is a possibility the two could be back on the court this weekend against the Nittany Lions.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois ace Kevin Duchene says he is 100% healthy, and he is showing no ill-effects after he was sidelined for six weeks last season with tightness in his forearm. Duchene pitched well when he came back from that injury at the end of last season; in fact he won the Big Ten ERA title. He also pitched a full, healthy summer in the Cape Cod League. The former freshman All-American is 13-2 in his Illinois career with an ERA of 2.39, and he is looking forward to a big junior season. "Getting hurt last year was kind of an eye-opener," he said. "You never know when those things are gonna come, so I just tried to get my body in peak physical form to try to avoid anything like that again. I would say that I tried to refine my change-up a little bit to both sides of the plate, try and open up the inside part of the dish a little bit more for my fastball."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Oakwood grad Casey Fletcher is ready for his last season with the Illinois baseball team. The senior, and son of former Major Leaguer Darrin Fletcher, made a huge impact in his first season in orange and blue last year. Fletcher hit .308 with six home runs and 27 RBI as a junior. Now he is looking for even more success this year, both individually and as a team. "It all started with the offseason," Fletcher said. "I knew I had to come in here and get bigger, faster, and stronger. I did some good things last year, but I think I need to come out and have a big year this year. We have a lot of upperclassmen, a lot of senior leaders, so we'll be able to get the job done this year. I'm feeling pretty confident about this team." Fletcher leads an Illini offense that returns five players who hit .295 or better last year.
URBANA, Ill. - The Hiltzik brothers have each been playing tennis since about age two. Even though they're two grades a part it makes for plenty of good stories. "We once played each other in a local tennis tournament, and my mom told him to tank the second set so I would win," said Aron, a freshman at Illinois. H"e beat me 7-6 in the third set so it was pretty funny." "I won the first set, and my mom told me to lose the second set," older brother Jared recalls. "I started crying and everything because I didn't want to do that because I was very competitive at that young of an age."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The season opener is less than three weeks away for the Illinois baseball team. The orange and blue are as confident as they have been in quite some time. They return basically their entire starting lineup and starting rotation. If the first day of practice is any indication, they're already ahead of the game. "Usually your first day back at things there's a number of errors, things you have to clean up," said head coach Dan Hartleb. "We were sharp. Again it's just a good group of guys that have done a very good job in the offseason. They believe that we have an opportunity to win at a high level, and now we just have to put in the work and get our jobs done." Illinois starts the season on the road February 13th. Their home opener is March 10th.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was a game worth a hug from his future coach. Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 17 points in a win Saturday night at Parkland college. He got a little taste of Champaign, playing in front of dozens of Illinois fans. Illinois head coach John Groce was there too for support. He hustled back from the team's loss at Minnesota to catch the second half. "It was jaw-dropping when I saw him," Coleman-Lands said. "When I glanced over during the game, I saw him smile back. And it's definitely a memory I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life."
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Tim Beckman thought he had his new co-defensive coordinator, but Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski announced Monday afternoon he is staying with the Tigers. Illinois reportedly offered Kuligowski the job of co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He is one of the most well-respected defensive coaches in the country after spending more than a decade on the Missouri staff. Kuligowski released a statement Monday saying he considered the opportunity before ultimately deciding it was best to stay put. Illinois is still searching for a new defensive line coach and possible co-coordinator after firing Greg Colby earlier this month.
The Illinois men's tennis team beat #6 Baylor earlier this season.
The Illinois golf team is used to being the underdog, but this season they are ranked number one and have a big target on their back.
Illinois head coach John Groce isn't using injuries as an excuse for Illinois' loss at Minnesota.
Illinois basketball signee Jalen Coleman-Lands helped La Lumiere defeat St. Louis Christian 72-55 at Parkland College in Champaign Saturday night. Coleman-Lands scored 17 points. He also unofficially had four rebounds, five assists, and one steal.
The Illini men's basketball team fell at Minnesota 79-71 Saturday. Illinois is now 3-5 in the Big Ten. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill each had 18 points, while Jaylon had career-highs with 11 points and 9 assists. Minnesota's Andre Hollins had a game-high 28 points.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Brittany Carter scored a team-high 15 points, but it wasn't enough as Northwestern edged Illinois 68-67 at State Farm Center.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was a night Leron Black won't forget anytime soon. The freshman enjoyed several 'firsts', none bigger than his first career double-double. The Memphis-native scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. In his first career start he played a career-high 32 minutes. Purdue head coach Matt Painter called Black the best player on the floor, adding "it wasn't even close." Illinois head coach John Groce said Black lived up to his nickname - Savage. "I'm thrilled for him," Groce said after Wednesday's 66-57 win over Purdue. "His effort, his motor, how much he cares about winning, how hard he competes, his approach to practice, and it's been great."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois needed somebody to step up big to neutralize the big men of Purdue Wednesday night at State Farm Center. Leron Black and Nnanna Egwu answered the call leading Illinois to a 66-57 win. Black picked up his first career double-double scoring 15 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Egwu scored 11 points. He also added seven rebounds and five blocks. Those five blocks were enough for Egwu to break Deon Thomas' all-time career blocked shots record. Illinois improves to 13-7 overall, 3-4 in the Big Ten.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois junior shooting guard Aaron Cosby will miss the next 1-2 weeks due to a retinal tear in his left eye, according to the U of I. Cosby suffered the injury during Sunday's 80-74 loss to Indiana. He underwent a laser procedure on Monday and will be sidelined beginning with Wednesday's game vs. Purdue. Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, is averaging 7.8 ppg this season.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois fans are counting down the weeks until Rayvonte Rice returns from his broken hand; and while John Groce won't publicly release a timeline for his recovery, he did say by all indications Rice is on schedule. Groce said Tuesday it helps that the fracture is on the outside of Rice's non-shooting hand, so that should help the recovery. Illinois is 2-2 in four games without Rice, and Groce is hoping the Champaign-native will be back sooner rather than later. "Ray will let us know when Ray is ready," Groce said. "Obviously with the doctors and [athletic trainer Paul Schmidt] and myself, we're not gonna let him do out there. He'd like to play the other day. But within reason, you know I think his body will be telling him and the doctors will be telling us whether or not they think it's, 'Hey he's good to go, or he can start to be cleared for some contact.' And we're just going to follow their lead."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Purdue visits State Farm Center to tangle with Illinois Wednesday night, and the Boilers are one of just four teams in the country with two players who stand 7-feet or taller. "They start a 7-footer, and then they come with a 7-footer off the bench," said Nnanna Egwu, Illinois' most established post defender. "It's just unique. It's one thing that makes their team good, so I think it's going be a team effort trying to contain those two big guys."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Kyle Hudson is already on campus and getting down to work as the newest volunteer assistant coach for Illinois baseball team. He was hired last week. The former Illini two-sport star and Mattoon grad has been in professional baseball since 2008, and he said he thought the time was right to call it quits and pass along his knowledge as a coach for the first time. "It was kind of quiet as far as organizations coming to me and asking me to play for them," Hudson said of his decision to retire. "Coach Hartleb gave me a call a couple weeks ago and said his volunteer assistant was leaving for a different job, and he asked if I wanted to possibly do that while I'm going back to school, and I thought it was just a great opportunity."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Kendrick Nunn was arguably the best player in the Big Ten over the last week. The sophomore put up back-to-back games of 25 points and 24 points, providing a much-needed scoring punch in the absence of Rayvonte Rice. Nunn is starting to hit his stride. He has made 17 of his last 26 shots, including 10 of his last 17 threes. John Groce admitted they are relying on Nunn a little more than usual with Rice out, but he says Nunn is capable of putting up those offensive numbers when when he is aggressive but doesn't force the issue. "Is he gonna score 25 a night every night? And if he doesn't, then [are] people gonna write like, 'What's wrong with Kendrick Nunn?,'" said Groce. "I mean I get kinda tired of that a little bit. Is he capable of doing what he's done the last two games? Sure. Absolutely. He's shown that, and I think he's in a real groove right now and hopefully he continues to play aggressive. That's the main thing."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Marcus LoVett is getting interest from several big-time schools like Kansas, Tennessee, DePaul and more. Illinois is right in the mix as well. John Groce and his staff are recruiting the four-star point guard hard. "Illinois is up there at the top [of my list]," LoVett said while attending Sunday's 80-74 loss to Indiana. "They have a good style of play that I like as well, so that has a lot to [do] with it. The fans, as I'm looking right now, it's real rowdy in here so I like that."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois lost a heartbreaker to Indiana Sunday at home, and it was Illinois' fourth loss in their first six Big Ten games. After the game John Groce said the defense - or lack thereof - is a big reason for their slow start in conference play. The Illini (12-7, 2-4) have allowed 70+ points in three of those losses, including a season-high 80 in Sunday's loss. In conference games alone, Illinois is allowing more than 67 points per game, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten. "I don't like our numbers in league play," Groce said after Sunday's 80-74 loss to Indiana. "I didn't like them coming into the game. I don't like them coming out of the game. In this league, as I've said numerous times, you have to defend, you have to rebound, you have to take care of the ball. You cannot just go and outscore people night in, night out."
Indiana closed the game on a 13-2 over the final three minutes to beat the Illini 80-74. Kendrick Nunn scored a team-high 24 points while Ahmad Starks added 19 points. The Illini fall to 12-7, 2-4 in the Big Ten.
Bonus video with 2015 point guard Marcus LoVett..
Illinois hosts Indiana Sunday in the first of four out of five games at home for the Illini. Illinois just completed a stretch of four out of five games on the road to open Big Ten play. " I was proud of the way they handled that stretch. I really did think they were warriors from a mindset perspective. They had a lot thrown at them. They had to deal with a lot of adversity and some success as well. For us right now we've talked about it being a 2 game home-stand. All we've talked about obviously is Indiana. You watch them on film and you realize that's enough to talk about right now," said John Groce. There's still no timetable for Rayvonte Rice's return from injury. "The first year I got here I sat out so that's helping me a little bit, but it's still hard to see my team out there and not being able to compete with them. A lot of guys stepping up, Malcolm, Kendrick, Jaylon," Said Rayvonte Rice.
E. LANSING, Mich. - Brittany Carter poured in 19 points, but it wasn't enough as Illinois fell to Michigan State 63-56 Thursday night in East Lansing, Mich. Illinois falls to 11-6 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten.
EVANSTON, Ill. - All season long Illinois head coach John Groce has told Aaron Cosby to keep shooting. The junior is a proven scorer; he shot 40 percent in two seasons at Seton Hall, but he has struggled with the Illini. Coming into Wednesday's game at Northwestern Cosby had only made seven of his last 33 shots and was shooting just 26 percent from beyond the arc. But he got back on track in a 72-67 win over the Wildcats, scoring a season-high 19 points including four three-pointers. "My coaches and teammates know what I'm capable of, and I do too," Cosby said after the win. "I've stayed confident through it all, continued to work and tonight they fell."
CHICAGO - Illinois volleyball coach Kevin Hambly has run one of the most successful programs on campus, and as of Thursday he will be sticking around for a few more years. The Illinois Board of Trustees approved a raise and contract extension for Hambly at their meeting Thursday in Chicago. The contract extension will keep Hambly in Champaign through the end of the 2019 season. He also gets a raise that will pay him a total of $200,000 per year. Hambly also gets a $125,000 bonus if he is still the head coach in January 2020.
EVANSTON, Ill. - Coming off their worst offensive performance of the season, Illinois needed a spark in Evanston - and they got it. Sophomore Kendrick Nunn poured in a career-high 25 points and junior Aaron Cosby added a season-best 19 points to lead Illinois to a 72-67 win over Northwestern Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Nunn's most valuable points came during the game's final seconds, sinking four consecutive free throws to clinch the victory. Cosby, who had only make seven field goals in his last four games, went 7-for-15 against the Wildcats including 4-8 from 3-point range. Illinois (12-6, 2-3) is back in action Sunday at home against Indiana.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks may not be the only guy in charge of the defense next season. It appears head coach Tim Beckman is willing to go with co-defensive coordinators as he fills out his staff. The Illini are searching for a new defensive assistant coach to replace Greg Colby, who was let go from his position as defensive line coach. According to the job posting, that person could be given the co-defensive coordinator title if qualified. Banks has been Illinois' sole defensive coordinator for three years. That unit has been among the worst in the league all three years.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois basketball team is facing an incredibly quick turnaround between conference road games this week. The Illini didn't return home from Sunday's game at Nebraska until Monday afternoon. Then they left for Northwestern Tuesday afternoon. The team was only in Champaign for 24 hours between games. "It's pretty quick, especially considering we got back just yesterday," said sophomore Malcolm Hill. "It's all part of the process. We'll see how tough we are. We aren't used to doing stuff like this, but it shouldn't be a distraction for us at all in my mind."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois volleyball coach Kevin Hambly is in line for a raise and contract extension, which is expected to be approved by the Board of Trustees as soon as Thursday. Under the deal Hambly would get a three-year extension that would run through January 31, 2020. He would earn $200,000 annually in total compensation, plus a $125,000 bonus if he stays through the life the contract. Hambly has led Illinois to five Sweet 16s in six years, including a national runner-up finish in 2011.
LINCOLN, Neb. - Illinois put together its worst shooting performance of the season in Sunday night's loss at Nebraska. The Illini scored a season-low 43 points on just 27% shooting. It was a major letdown coming off that upset win over Maryland last Wednesday. Head coach John Groce said the effort was there; they just didn't make enough shots. "Our four shot-makers went 12-for-43," Groce said referring to Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks. "When that happens, and you shoot 27 percent, you're not gonna have a chance to win in this league on the road. But I certainly did not think it was because of our effort."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois football commit Matt Domer announced Monday he will play at Bowling Green instead of the U of I. Domer signed with Illinois last February, but he was denied admission into the school. He took classes last semester at Parkland in hopes of joining Illinois this semester, but Domer announced on Twitter he is headed to Bowling Green instead. Domer was a standout running back at Chicago's Mt. Carmel High School.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Chatrice White was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday for the third time this year. Against a pair of Top 20 teams last week, White averaged 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals per game. She scored a team-high 22 points in a win over No. 17 Iowa.
The Illinois basketball team lost at Nebraska 53-43 Sunday night. The Illini shot 15-55 from the field and 6-29 from three-point range. Illinois drops to 11-6 and 1-3 in the Big Ten.
Illinois women's basketball coach Matt Bollant has turned the program around. In his third season, the Illini are out to their best start in seven years with wins over two nationally ranked teams.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois trailed by five at halftime, but they used a strong second half performance to race past No. 17 Iowa 73-61 Thursday night at State Farm Center. Freshman Chatrice White led the way for Illinois with 22 points. Brittany Carter added 19, and Iowa-native Kyley Simmons chipped in 16. Illinois (11-4, 2-1) hosts No. 18 Nebraska Sunday.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was a game most people didn't give Illinois much of a chance to win; but even without their leading scorer Rayvonte Rice, Illinois found a way to knock off No. 11 Maryland Wednesday night. It was the end of a two-day roller coaster ride for head coach John Groce, who had to scramble to put together a new game play after Rice broke his hand in practice Monday. Illinois found a way to battle through the adversity and knock off a Top 15 team for the fourth time in Groce's tenure in Champaign. "I think sometimes when something happens, like it did to Ray, it puts it into perspective for those guys," Groce said. "I thought they really rallied around that and rallied around Ray and they were really ready to play."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois announced Thursday that defensive line coach Greg Colby and special teams coordinator Tim Salem won't be retained next season. Colby is a Danville native who spent the last two years on Tim Beckman's staff. Salem cam to Illinois with Beckman in 2012. He coach the running backs and special teams for two years before coaching only special teams last season. "This is the toughest thing you have to do as a head coach," Beckman said. "Both Tim and Greg are very good coaches, but I felt we needed to make these changes to help our football program move forward. I want to thank Tim and Greg, along with their outstanding families, for all they did during their time as part of the Fighting Illini football family. I wish both of them the best of luck in their next career step. We'll move forward with replacing them on the staff as soon as possible."
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Illinois lost another five-star recruit to Bill Self and Kansas on Thursday. Cleveland power forward Carlton Bragg picked the Jayhawks over Kentucky and Illinois. Bragg had listed the three schools as his finalists in the days leading up to the announcement. Bragg is a five-star prospect, ranked No. 14 in the country by Rivals.com
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Without Rayvonte Rice Illinois needed someone to step up, and Wednesday night that man was Malcolm Hill. The sophomore poured in a game-high 28 points to lead Illinois to a 64-57 win over No. 11 Maryland at State Farm Center. Hill provided the scoring punch, sinking nearly every important basket down the stretch. He shot 9-18 FG and 4-7 from 3-PT range. Nnanna Egwu added 11 points and nine rebounds for Illinois (11-5, 1-2).
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois women will carry some momentum into their game against 17th-ranked Iowa Thursday night. Matt Bollant's team has won three out of four, including a road win at Penn State over the weekend. It has been an up-and-down season for Illinois (10-4, 1-1). They scored a season-high 91 points against the Nittany Lions, and they hope to build on that performance when the Hawkeyes comes to town. "Hopefully it gives us a confidence builder and just belief that we can do it; believe that we belong," said head coach Matt Bollant. "I'm not sure that we started the Purdue game feeling that. Now certainly the way we played in the second half should have given us a boost but we need to believe that we can beat Iowa, that we can be different and we can be better."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois hopes to snap its two-game losing streak Wednesday night when Maryland (14-1, 2-0) visits State Farm Center. A loss would send Illinois to an 0-3 Big Ten start for the first time since 2008. The good new is this game comes at home after their first two conference losses were on the road; but this one won't be easy. Maryland is ranked No. 9 in the Coaches Poll and No. 11 in the AP Poll. Head coach John Groce is hoping his team can take a page out of Maryland's book when it comes to finding a way to win when you're not playing your best. "The thing that's been the most impressive about them that I certainly appreciate, especially with what we've been going through with our team, is if you look at their offensive statistics in their two league wins they're not eye-shattering," Groce said. "They certainly can shoot the ball if you look at as a whole their entire season. They're certainly capable of doing that. They just happened not to do it their first two league games, but they found a way to win anyway."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois All-American gymnast Chandler Eggleston suffered a ruptured patella tendon, and he will redshirt this season. The school confirmed the injury Tuesday. Eggleston has finished NCAA runner-up twice and won a Big Ten title. "A healthy Chandler Eggleston is an irreplaceable athlete," head coach Justin Spring said in a statement. "We will miss him greatly out on the competition floor, but we have a very determined team this year and I believe they will step up to the challenge and continue to be one of the strongest teams in the NCAA this year." The sophomore is expecting a six-month recovery.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - If the Illinois basketball team wants to get back on track Wednesday night against Maryland, they will have to do it without leading scorer Rayvonte Rice. The Centennial grad suffered a fractured non-shooting hand in practice, and head coach John Groce says Rice will be out indefinitely. Rice will have surgery on Wednesday. Groce said he will have a better idea on Rice's timeline for recovery after surgery, but he is expected to miss at least a month. Rice has been Illinois' most valuable player so far this season. He's averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's basketball team has lost its first two Big Ten games of the season thanks to second-half meltdowns in both games; and it has caused some fans to wonder if they're missing Tracy Abrams a little more than some people thought they might. Illinois was out-toughed down the stretch both at Michigan and at Ohio State. Abrams was expected to bring that toughness as one of the team's key senior leaders before he went down to a season-ending ACL injury. With Abrams out, somebody else has to step up and bring that toughness; so far they're not doing enough. "He's a bulldog guy. He's a guy that when adversity hits, he's gonna fight you," Groce said of Abrams. "We need some more of that from our team. I did not like our response to adversity there in the early stages of that 15-0 run [at Ohio State]. I do think our guys are trying, but as I tell them in the movie Christmas Vacation, so do washing machines. They work hard. We've gotta be better. We've gotta respond to that better than what we are right now."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - State Farm Center is one of three buildings in the running to host the IHSA boys state basketball tournament starting in 2016. The IHSA announced Monday it received only three bids to host the boys tourney. State Farm Center in Champaign and the Peoria Civic Center bid to host all four classes, while the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates bid to host only classes 3A and 4A. IHSA officials will visit all three sits over the next few weeks before making their decision. They hope to announce that decision in March. Champaign-Urbana held the boys state tournament for 77 years before losing it to Peoria after the 1995 season.