CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It probably comes as no surprise to those who have watched the last couple Illinois football games, but Reilly O'Toole will start for Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said today O'Toole has earned that opportunity. Cubit added that Wes Lunt will have to be ready because there's a good chance he will play in the game. It is only fitting, though, that O'Toole gets this opportunity - given all that he has been through as a career backup - to start his final college game. "It'll just be another opportunity to showcase ourselves as a team," O'Toole said. "I'm just glad to have the opportunity to go out there and try to help the team as best as I can."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In just his second game this season in the starting lineup, sophomore Kendrick Nunn provided the spark Illinois needed in a 73-55 win over Hampton Wednesday night at State Farm Center. Nunn scored a season-high 16 points on 6-9 from the field and 4-6 from three-point range. Rayvonte Rice scored 12 points, and Nnanna Egwu added ten. As has been the case for most of the season Egwu's presence was felt mostly on the defensive end, where the senior tied a career-high with five blocked shots. Illinois (8-3) will be back in action Saturday against Missouri in the annual Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois announced Wednesday the addition of eight football players who will join the team next season. These eight will enroll early - in January - to get a jumpstart on their Illinois careers. Those players include six junior college transfers and two high school seniors - including Centennial's Jimmy Fitzgerald. The quarterback was a three-star recruit, who chose Illinois over schools like Harvard and Yale. Fitzgerald was the leader of the state-ranked Centennial Chargers before his senior season was cut short due to a torn ACL.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - You can bet it has been a long couple days for the Illinois men's basketball team - waiting for their chance to get back on the court after suffering their most disappointing loss so far this season. "We just watched the film," said senior Rayvonte Rice. "[We] saw the errors we need to get better at, and we're just going to go out there and play angry and try to get the win."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - For most of Saturday's game the Illinois offense looked a lot like last year's offense. Rayvonte Rice carried the load, while most everyone else struggled to get anything going. Rice scored a game-high 29 points in Saturday's 77-70 loss to Oregon. He was the only Illinois player to score more than ten points. Head coach John Groce wants more balance, but he also wants Rice to continue to be aggressive like he was against the Ducks Saturday night. "He was dynamic - I mean he was terrific," Groce said of Rice's performance at the United Center. "I didn't think he settled [for bad shots]. I thought obviously he made a couple deep ones there when he was in a groove. He got off to a good start, but I thought he was really aggressive. Obviously we need more balance with our scoring."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's basketball team has fallen completely out of both Top 25 polls after losing three of it's last four games. The latest was the most concerning yet - a 77-70 loss to Oregon at the United Center Saturday night. Head coach John Groce says he was most concerned by what he saw on the defensive end. Oregon shot 46% from the field and 41% from three-point range. They have a couple more days to get things corrected before Hampton comes to State Farm Center Wednesday. "We get on the court. We practice. Do what we gotta do to get better and get prepared for our game on Wednesday," senior Nnanna Egwu said of the team's preparation for their next game. "That's really all we can do. We understand it's a long season, but we're gonna find ways to correct ourselves and get prepared for next game."
For the first time in the Tim Beckman era, the Illinois football team was able to talk about a bowl game at their annual banquet Sunday afternoon. Senior quarterback Reilly O'Toole won the outstanding offensive player award.
Illinois freshman center Chatrice White has lived up to the hype of her McDonalds All-American accolade so far. The Nebraska native is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game so far this season.
Illinois basketball coach John Groce said the Illini have 'no excuses' after losing to Oregon Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said he wants his team to have fun the next few weeks but he also expects the Illini to put in plenty of work preparing for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Illinois got an all-star performance from Rayvonte Rice, who led all scorers with 29 points, but Oregon outscored the Illini 40-20 in the paint, and rallied for a 77-70 win Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Florida def. Illinois 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-17, 16-14
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois freshman Mike Dudek earned a national honor Friday. The first year wide receiver was named a first team Freshman All-American by Scout.com. Dudek's 965 receiving yards were second most by any freshman nationally, and he was fourth among all freshmen with six touchdown catches. He put together the best freshman season ever by an Illinois wide receiver.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Kevin Hambly took over the Illinois volleyball program six years ago the Illini had only been to the Wweet 16 nine times in program history. Expectations have certainly changed since then. "We had people wearing banners that said 'Sweet 16' on their heads, like little head pieces on," said head coach Kevin Hambly. "They were running around like it was their birthday. Now we're just shaking hands and moving on. It's that expectation that this is where we're supposed to be."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's basketball team is 7-2 heading into Saturday's showdown with Oregon. They don't have any "bad losses" yet, but they want to make sure they don't lose any more games before Big Ten play begins. That means these next four non-conference matchups become that much more important, starting Saturday against the Ducks. "I think it's gonna test us," said head coach John Groce. "We kinda do that when we put the schedule together. That teaches you that we've gotta come together, and you really gotta come together as a team, and you've got to connect those dots. We have not figured out how to connect some of those dots and stay connected. We're just not there yet."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini football team continued its bowl preparations Thursday, and that involved head coach Tim Beckman making a trip to Dallas in the morning. Representatives from Illinois and Louisiana Tech met for an introductory news conference at the Cotton Bowl stadium. Then Thursday afternoon they got back on the practice field. It was the first full-team practice in more than a week, and the seniors admit they were a little rusty. "Tired and not as mentally sharp as I was in the past few weeks," Donovonn Young said. "But it was fun to be back out here with my guys, getting ready for this bowl game."
NEW YORK - Illinois came to Madison Square Garden with high hopes of knocking off a top ten team on a national stage but the Illini left New York with a bitter taste in their mouth after a 14-point defeat at the hands of Villanova Tuesday night. Third year head coach John Groce said his team has a lot to figure out before Big Ten play starts at the end of the month; learning how to close games is at the top of his list. "We're not a team yet," Groce said after Tuesday night's 73-59 loss. "We've still got a long way to go to be connected and to find that balance of being aggressively patient. Find that balance of continuing to talk, have balance, have grit, ratchet your defense up. We're not at that point and that's what we've learned so far and that's what happens when you play against really good competition like we have and we've got more coming. It gives us a chance to learn more about ourselves but we've got to get that addressed pretty quickly. We've got to be better than what we were."
NEW YORK - John Groce said Villanova was smarter, more cohesive and tougher than his Illini in the final eight minutes of Tuesday's 73-59 loss. It's that toughness element that the third-year Illini coach wasn't happy about. Groce gave no excuses for not being tough enough, calling it "inexcusable." Tied at 50 with 8:29 to play, Illinois had a chance to turn the game around, but they couldn't get a stop defensively. The Wildcats scored on ten straight possessions, closing the game on a 23-9 run.
NEW YORK, NY -- A big night for the Illini Men's Basketball Team.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois volleyball team is getting set for its Sweet 16 matchup with Florida. The Illini are just two wins away from the final four, and they're coming off a weekend where they didn't lose a single set in their two opening round wins. This team is confident for good reason. They say their tough conference schedule prepared them for this moment. "We're able to look back and be like 'Hey we've been in this situation where it's 23-23, and we've won against a really, really good team - or we've gone to a top five team and beat them at their home,' said senior Liz McMahon. "That just kind of in the back of your mind gives you that confidence."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini football team had its back against the wall, needing two wins in the final two weeks to reach bowl eligibility. They got it done, sweated out the selection process, and are hoping to ride the momentum into Dallas for the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Louisiana Tech December 26. "I think any time you can go out and talk about building this thing as it happened for us, being able to talk about three out of the last five wins," said head coach Tim Beckman. "There's a buzz around, and this football team has definitely made the strides to get itself better."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's basketball team is barely hanging on to its top 25 ranking after splitting a pair of games last week. Illinois holds steady at No. 25 in the Coaches Poll. They fell out of the AP Poll, but received the second most votes of any team outside the rankings. Illinois will play No. 7 Villanova Tuesday night under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in New York City. "I think it's going to be pretty fun," Malcolm Hill said. "My dad was excited for me. He always like watching games at The Garden. A lot of great players have played there. I'm just going to treat it as another game because I don't want to let my emotions get the best of me or play too hard. I'm just going to treat it as another game."
The Illinois football team will play Louisiana Tech in the Zaxsby's Heart of Dallas Bowl December 26th at 12:00.
The Illinois volleyball team beat Iowa State 27-25, 25-18, 25-18 to advance to the sweet 16.
Illinois improved to 7-1 Saturday after beating American 70-55. Malcolm Hill had a team high 13 points. The Illini play Villanova in New York City Tuesday.
Illinois advances to Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament with a 25-20, 25-9, 25-17 victory over Murray St.
NATIONAL -- ESPN has noticed Illini Coach John Groce's swag.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It may not be a foregone conclusion that Illinois is guaranteed to be in a bowl game. There is a scenario out there in which the Big Ten could have too many bowl eligible teams - and not enough bowls for them all. Basically it all comes down to how many Big Ten teams are selected for the New Year's bowls. If three teams go, that would leave more Big Ten-affiliated bowls for Illinois. If only two conference teams are selected, that could leave one bowl-eligible Big Ten team in the cold.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois put five players in double figures led by Jacqui Grant's 16 points as the Fighting Illini rolled past Virginia 86-63 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at State Farm Center. Ivory Crawford and Kyley Simmons scored 15 points apiece. Taylor Tuck added 13 and Chatrice White chipped in 12 for Illinois (6-2).
Illinois shot just 33 percent from the field (22 percent from three point range) and lost at Miami 70-61. Rayvonte Rice had a team high 22 points. Malcolm Hill scored 13. This is the fewest points the Illini scored all season. Illinois drops to 6-1.
Illinois players pick up Big Ten honors.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois wide receiver Mike Dudek has been easily the team's most valuable offensive weapon this season, and Monday night the freshman was one of two Illinois players to earn all-conference recognition. Dudek was named second team all-conference. He was third best in the Big Ten in both touchdowns and receiving yards. He put together the best freshman season ever for an Illini wide receiver. His 69 receptions and 965 receiving yards put him among the top ten in school history in those categories. Punter Justin DuVernois was also named second team all-conference. He was second best in the league at nearly 45 yards per punt.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Monday is the anniversary of one of the biggest wins in Illinois basketball history. Ten years ago Illinois knocked off No. 1 Wake Forest 91-73 at Assembly Hall. The Illini became No. 1 themselves the next week, and they held on to that ranking all the way to the national championship game. Even a decade later it is a special memory for the guys who played in that game. "We knew if we just played defense - and with the crowd - that we would win," Dee Brown said earlier this year. "We didn't know we would win by that margin. Just the best basketball I ever played as far as moving the basketball. It was just a dream. When I just think about that it's just the brotherhood that we had. We all had one goal, and that was to win."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini basketball team is starting to get some national recognition for its undefeated start. Illinois cracked the top 25 on Monday for the first time this season. Illinois makes an appearance in both national polls. They're ranked 24th in the AP poll and 25th in the Coaches poll. Illinois' coming off a championship at the Las Vegas Invitational, where they rallied in the second half to knock off previously undefeated Baylor. "I think that we're really tough," said sophomore Malcolm Hill. "We play good basketball together. I think we can be really focused when we want to, since we didn't have a day prep against Baylor. We just had to go off what we'd seen from that last game. I think we did a pretty good job of that, especially going up against a zone like that that we'd never gone up before, and I think we take care of the ball really well." Next up Illinois faces No. 15 Miami Tuesday night (8:00 pm, ESPN2) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini football team is a headed to a bowl game for the first time in 3 years. Illinois clinched bowl eligibility with Saturday's 47-33 win at Northwestern. Tim Beckman will be back next season after the Illini won three of their last five games. At 6-and-6, the Illini have improved record-wise each of the last two years under Beckman. And three Big Ten wins seem to be light years ahead of that 0-and-8 conference mark in Beckman's first season two years ago. "I asked these seniors two years ago that we at that time sophomores to step it up and to build this team for the future," Beckman said after Saturday's win. "Now we're back. We've got six wins underneath our belt. I don't think anybody in [the media] thought we'd win six."
The Illinois volleyball team in the #9 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and they will host the first and second rounds. It's a big advantage for the Illini who are 12-1 at Huff Hall this season.
Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced Tim Beckman will return as head coach of the Illini football team for the 2015 season. The Illini finished 6-6 this year and are bowl eligible in his third season. Illinois won two games his first season and four in his second. Thomas issued this statement: "It was important to see improvement in our football program this season. Over the last month, we have won three of our last five games, including a pair of Big Ten wins over teams (Minnesota & Penn State) who are headed to the postseason. Our student-athletes have played their best football of the season down the stretch of a tough schedule that included nine bowl-eligible opponents. It’s my expectation that with the upcoming bowl and another off-season of development, that Tim’s continued leadership will keep Fighting Illini Football moving forward and even more competitive in the conference and nationally.”
The 11th-ranked Illinois volleyball team beat Michigan 3-1 Saturday night at Huff Hall. The Illini finished the regular season with a 24-7 record.
Illinois forced five turnovers, scored a season high 47 points and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 with a 47-33 win over Northwestern at Ryan Field Saturday afternoon.
The Illinois football team faces a must-win game at Northwestern Saturday. Both teams need to win to become bowl eligible.
The 11th-ranked Illinois volleyball team beat 10th-ranked Nebraska in five sets Wednesday night at Huff Hall.
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."
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."
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. - 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."
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).
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois will try to improve to 3-0 when Austin Peay visits State Farm Center Friday night. The Illini are coming off one of the most lopsided wins in school history, a 114-56 victory over Coppin State. The players say they have already put that performance behind them, and they'll be ready for a new challenge Friday. "We still have a lot to improve on, which could make us better for the future," said sophomore Malcolm Hill. "That's just one game. We're worried about games in the future coming in February and March because we know that every game counts to get into the NCAA Tournament." Illinois and Austin Peay tip off Friday at 7:00 pm. You can see it on ESPN 3.