Jeremy Werner

LIVE BLOG: UI hoops exhibition vs. UIS

Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner is live-blogging the Illini men's hoops exhibition against UI-Springfield at Prairie Capital Convention Center

Illinois 86, UIS 61; 6:34 left 2H

Sorry for the lengthy delay in an update. The internet is spotty here. The Illini are coasting to a win, shooting 13-for-21 this half. Aaron Jordan has 7 points this half and 15 on the game. Read the Rapid Recap after the game.

Illinois 58, UIS 43; 15:37 left 2H

Aaron Jordan has looked good today but he also has four fouls. QUick seat on the bench and more playing time for Coleman-Lands.

The Illini are trying to feed Thorne this half. He should dominate this game but has struggled today. Might be a little nerves for the big guy.

Six fouls called in the first 4:23 of the second half...much of the same from the first half.

HALF: Illinois 49; UI-S 36


FG: ILL 16-29; UIS 9-32

3FG: ILL 5-13; UIS 5-13

FT: ILL 12-23; UIS 13-16

Rebounds: ILL 21; UIS 20

Assists: ILL 7; UIS 6

Turnovers: ILL 4; UIS 7

Fouls: ILL 14; UIS 18

Illini Individuals

Jalen Coleman-Lands: 12 points(3-5 3FG), 3 steals, 1 assist

D.J. Williams: 7 points (2-3 FG, 3-5 FT), 2 assists, 2 rebounds

Aaron Jorda: 8 points (2-for-4 FG)

Khalid Lewis: 7 points (3-for-3 FG)

Illinois 44, UI-S 26; 2:41 left 1H

Well, that changed quick. Illinois just rattled off a 17-0 run, spurred mostly byJalen Coleman-Lands. He's hit three 3-pointers, has 12 points and three steals. He's active on both ends. You can see why some think he's the best Illini recruit in a decade: skilled, driven and smart.

Illinois 23, UI-S 23; 7:17 left 1H

This is some ugly "basketball." The refs seem to be making an emphasis on hand-check rules. There have been 24 fouls called already.

Shades of 2007-08: the Illini are 4-for-13 from the free throw line.

The refs need an exhibition too. Williams made a basket, missed a FT and Finke rebounded it, but the refs blew it dead and awarded the ball to UI-S. The refs made up for it, calling three seconds on UI-S on the next possession.

Illinois 18, UI-S 13; 11:49 left 1H

Jalen Coleman-Lands alert. He's in the game. But he missed a three. Cue the freakout (WHAT"S WRONG WITH HIM?!?!).  Seriously, though, he's moving well.

Mike Thorne is struggling. He's 0-for-2 from the free-throw line.

Illinois is 1-for-5 FTs with four turnovers. Not very clean basketball, but that's why they have these games.

Illinois 10, UI-S 7; 15:53 left 1H

Nice start for Aaron Jordan, who has six points and has scored in three different ways: a runner, a three and a free throw.

Mike Thorne Jr. seems a bit nervous in his first game in front of thousands of Illini fans. He missed a bunny and chucked a mid-range one-hander. He also fouled on his first possession.

Michael Finke was the first guy off the bench and he's playing the 5 in reserve of Thorne.

Defense will be an issue for this team.


A few of us rogue media types abandoned the corner spot and made our own press row about seven rows up. Solid crowd for an exhibition but nothing crazy.

Piper and I are sitting about five rows up from Illinois governor Bruce Rauner.

Illini starters: D.J. Williams, Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, Mike Thorne and Aaron Jordan

12 minutes to tipoff

The Illini, of course, are short-handed today. No Leron Black (knee), no Tracy Abrams (Achilles), no Kendrick Nunn (thumb). But they also will be without two walk-ons. Alex Austin suffered a shoulder injury and will be out a week or two. He was having a nice offseason and could've earned some minutes off the bench. The Illini also will be without Mike LaTulip. He's in street clothes today because he's redshirting. He'll use his final year of eligibility elsewhere.

Still, the Illini have star Malcolm Hill, one of the Big Ten's best scorers. And Mike Thorne should feast today. UIS has just three players taller than 6-foot-5. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound Thorne should own the paint and the boards.

The more intrigugin guys to watch today will be the freshmen: redshirt freshman Michael Finke, freshman guard Aaron Jordan and freshman wing D.J. Williams. All play important roles this season and will be thrown into the fire early. Jalen Coleman-Lands looks ready to play. But how much? He is a huge part of the Illini's future -- and present. He's already the best shooter on the team.

The UI-S nickname is the "Priaire Stars." Learn something new every day. Their mascot looks like a mix of a neandrathal, a viking and Thor. He's cool-looking, but I still don't know what he is.

25 minutes to tipoff

The Illini are on the court. That's the same court that will be on the State Farm Center floor on Dec. 2. It looks good.

35 minutes to tipoff

Leron Black is moving pretty well, much better than the last few weeks. He's still on the court working out with assistant Dustin Ford, while the rest of the team prepares for the game. Piper reports that Black just made nine threes in a row. The sophomore has a high ceiling and has a lot of room for growth. If he eventually starts to hit threes consistently, NBA guys would start taking notice. But let's get healthy and cut down on the fouls first.

Us media won't have a great view of the game. We're in the corners almost at eye-level with the court. Cheerleaders might make it more of an issue to watch the game. Loren Tate is eyeing the upperdeck. So if you find him in your seat, tell the legend to move his butt.

Just caught up with Jeff Finke, father of Illini redshirt freshman Michael Finke and head coach at Champaign Central. The Maroons start practice tomorrow but Jeff will be a little short-handed early on due to the Central football team advancing to the IHSA quarterfinals.

Jeff's middle son, Nick, just got back from an official visit to West Point. He enjoyed the visit to Army, his lone Division I offer. The Patriot League is a good league for a 6-foot-7 stretch four.

Jeff's youngest son, Tim, of course is one of the best sophomores in the country. He's currently 6-foot-6 in shoes. His growth has astounded the family -- and rumor has it that he may still have an inch or two left in those growth plates. Can you imagine a 6-foot-8 guard with elite skill, athleticism, versatility and basketball IQ? Illinois is his lone power-five conference offer, but that should change soon.

55 minutes to tipoff

If you've wanted to watch an Illini game live and drink booze, race your way to Springfield! THEY HAVE BOOZE AT PRAIRIE CAPITAL CONVENTION CENTER! You can day-drink -- please, responsibly -- since the game is off-campus.

Tim Sinclair makes his debut as the new permanent Illini hoops public address announcer.

What's his style?

"The goal is to be excited and fun and those kind of things but not be over-the-top," Sinclair said, "and, man, that is a delicate line because you can hit it in a hurry. Sometimes, I have heard public address guys think that people are there to see them or hear them. That's the absolute last thing I want. My goal is going to be pretty much a classic style, but we're at a college basketball game and exciting things happen. When they do, I want to be excited with the crowd. My goal is to represent to an extent what the crowd is feeling when great things happen but not to the point it is a distraction. That'll be a learning experience for sure, but a fun one.

The one thing Sinclair has going for him: he doesn't have to follow in Sheppard's footsteps. Mike Cation was unfairly criticized by some portions of the fan base because he wasn't Sheppard, an iconic voice in the community who everyone associated with Illinois athletics. Sheppard was great. Cation was too -- which is why he has a professional sports job now. Sinclair will do well too.

"I consider stuff like the guy who was the guard after Michael Jordan," Sinclair said. "No matter how good you are, you're never going to be that guy. There are always going to be people who compare and contrast. I know that's going to happen here too. It's one of those things where you can't compare stats of a public address guy. ...A lot of it is preference. I know there are going to be people who love it and people who hate it. That's part of the territory.

75 minutes to tipoff

Jeremy Werner here, live at Prairie Capital Convention Center for the Illini's lone publich exhibition against UI-Springfield. Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper also is here with me.

This, of course, is a test run for the Illini hoops team for its four regular-season games here in Springfield as the Illini wrap up Phase Four of five phases of the State Farm Center renovation project. Digital video reporter Elise Kozal put together a look inside the renovation, in case you missed it.

Things didn't go very smoothly this morning. A power outage on the local grid kept the Illini from their morning shootaround. The grid also encompassed the Illini hotel, so the team had its morning meal in the dark. But the lights are on and they're ready for action here.

Jalen Coleman-Lands is available to play but he may not play until the second half. The coaching staff doesn't want to take a lot of chances with him.

Leron Black is shooting around but is not expected to play. He's rocking some cornrows. Some on the team are calling him Melo or Darius Miles.

Former Illini Rich McBride is an assistant at UI-Springfield and is talking with former Illini Jerry Hester right now.

Check out Piper's preview of the exhibition and things he's looking for today.

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