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."
MAROA, Ill. - Jack Hockaday completed one of the best football careers in IHSA history. He broke the state's all-time yardage record and saved his best season for last, carrying more of the load than ever and leading the Trojans to the state finals. "It just means I've had great players with me to go along with me to help me along the way," Hockaday said of the numerous school and state records he holds. "Great coaches, and I'm just going to give all the props to them."
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.
Sacred Heart-Griffin won its second straight state football title Saturday, beating Lombard Montini 29-14 at Memorial Stadium. The Cyclones finished the season with a 14-0 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.
Rochester won its fifth-straight state football title Friday night, beating Chicago Phillips 49-28 at Memorial Stadium.
The Illinois football team faces a must-win game at Northwestern Saturday. Both teams need to win to become bowl eligible.
Eastland-Pearl City crushed Maroa-Forsyth 41-12 in the Class 2A state title football game Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Maroa-Forsyth, Rochester and SHG will all play for state football titles this weekend at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
Mahomet-Seymour senior Christian Romine signed his national letter of intent to play for UTEP next year. Before he goes though, he will lead the Bulldogs, who return three double-digit scorers from last season.
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."
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).
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.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Reilly O'Toole is honored before his final game at Memorial Stadium Saturday, it will be bittersweet. "It hasn't hit me," O'Toole said. "I'm sure it will in the next couple of days. Just leaving these guys and all the memories we've made and the good times we've had, it will be emotional for sure."
CHARLESTON, Ill. - Charleston High School will have a new football coach next season. Longtime head coach Brian Halsey was fired at Wednesday night's school board meeting after 15 years as Charleston's head coach. Halsey led the Trojans to the state semifinals in 2011, but the team had fallen on hard times going just 2-16 over the last two seasons. Charleston principal Trevor Doughty told WCIA 3 that Halsey will stay employed as a social studies teacher.
Madison, Wis. (UI Release) - No. 10 Illinois headed to Madison on Wednesday with a shot to knock off the first-place Badgers, ranked No. 2 in the nation, but came up just short, 3-1. After Wisconsin ran away with the first set, 25-13, Illinois claimed the second, 26-24, to even the match at one. The Illini watched an eight-point lead slip away late in the third set to surrender the frame, 27-25, then stormed back on Wisconsin after trailing by as much as seven in the fourth, but could not quite send the match to five, dropping the fourth set, 28-26, and falling 3-1 on the night. The win allows Wisconsin to maintain its hold on first place in the Big Ten at 25-2 (16-1 Big Ten), while Illinois drops to 21-7 (13-4 Big Ten).
MEN'S BASKETBALL Parkland 94 IVCC 53 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL #10 Parkland 90 IVCC 20
TUSCOLA, Ill. - Switching schools just a few weeks before his senior year started wasn't something Jarrett McMasters ever envisioned. He was planning on playing his last year of football at Monticello, where he would have been a starter in the Sages' secondary. But when his mom moved to Tuscola in August, Jarrett went with her - even though there were a lot of unknowns. "When I first came here they took me in and made it easy on me," McMasters said. "Everyone has been very nice and it's a great community too."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Centennial football coach Mike McDonnell announced Wednesday he is calling it quits. McDonnell will retire after 18 seasons as Centennial head coach. Over those 18 years McDonnell racked up 103 wins and led the Chargers to 11 playoff appearances. He held a team meeting with his players and fellow coaches Wednesday after school to inform them of his decision. He will also retire from his position as P.E. teacher. Before arriving at Centennial, 'Coach Mac' was an assistant coach at Illinois and a graduate assistant under legendary head coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State.
GIRLS BASKETBALL Salt Fork 44 Fisher 27 GCMS 41 PBL 28
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - All-American freshman Chatrice White scored a game-high 23 points, while also pulling down eight rebounds to lead Illinois to a 66-48 win over Robert Morris Tuesday night at State Farm Center. White, a McDonald's All-American, is now averaging 19 points per game through her first two career games. Ball State transfer Brittany Carter scored 11 points, and freshman Brooke Kissinger added ten. Illinois (2-0) forced 27 turnovers leading to 31 points off turnovers. Illinois is back in action Thursday night at home against Memphis.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Malcolm Hill played his best game as an Illini Sunday against Coppin State, and the sophomore credits a new attitude for his improvement. Hill put up career highs in points and rebounds Sunday. He was 6-for-9 from the field for 13 points and was one rebound short of his first career double-double. "I really just focused on playing hard on the defensive end and getting of rebounds," Hill said after Sunday's win. "The coaching staff was telling me, 'The offense will come. Just worry about playing hard and doing all the little things.' That's what I focused on."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One of the big questions heading into this season for John Groce was how his team would handle the loss of Tracy Abrams. If Sunday's win over Coppin State is any indication, they'll be just fine. It is a small sample size against a below-average team, but senior Ahmad Starks and sophomore Jaylon Tate combined for 12 assists and just one turnover in a 114-56 win over the Eagles. Groce likes those numbers from the point guard position, and he says that was a big game for them to build from. "Tate and Starks have a gift to push it, so we're trying to play to our strengths," Groce said after Sunday's win. "I thought Tate was exceptional pushing the ball. Obviously the two point guards were 12-to-1 assist-to-turnover. I thought Tate had a good defensive game as well, maybe one of his better ones, so I thought he did some really good things and certainly helped our team at both ends of the floor."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Parkland volleyball team is the No. 1 ranked team in the country and the No. 1 seed in this year's national tournament. They know that puts a big target on their backs. "I think the confidence level is very high," said freshman outside hitter Lizzy Barnard. "This season has definitely been a lot of fun. We've had a ton of fun and obviously a lot of confidence coming in with all the wins. I think we're a pretty strong team and probably a strong competitor at nationals."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman and company are still searching for answers on the defensive side of the ball after Saturday's 30-14 loss to Iowa. So far this season Illinois has given up more points than any other Big Ten team. Eight of their ten opponents have scored at least 30 points against the Illinois defense, and Beckman says it just comes down to making plays when they've got the chance. "It's just getting beat," Beckman said of the reason for their struggles. "We were there for all those passes. You gotta make a play. If you watch that film, we're there. We've gotta create more pressure on the quarterback. We ask a lot of our [defensive backs]."
Pressure continues to mount on Tim Beckman in his third season in Champaign. The Illini are 4-6 (1-5) this year with two regular season games left. Beckman talked about the pressure at his news conference Monday.
illiniboard.com's Robert Rosenthal gives his take on Illini football after losing to Iowa.
Illinois basketball defeated Coppin State 114-56 Sunday at State Farm Center. It was the most points in a game and largest margin of victory for the Illini since 1993 when Illinois beat Chicago State 121-52. Ten Illini players scored and six were in double figures. Leron Black and Ahmad Starks each had a team high 18 points.
IHSA football scores and highlights
Illini tennis seniors Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon won the doubles portion of the JSM Challenger Saturday 7-6, 6-2. The duo finished second last weekend at National Indoors.
Watseka volleyball defeats Edwards County while Cissna Park defeats Woodlawn to take 3rd in state.
Illinois football lost to Iowa 30-14 Saturday. The Hawkeyes outgained the Illini 587-235 in total yards. Illinois drops to 4-6 (1-5) with two games left (vs Penn State, at Northwestern) this season.