LIVE BLOG: Illinois vs. UNF

Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner live blogs the Illinois basketball season opener against North Florida from Springfield

READ THE RAPID RECAP

UNF 84, Illini 72, 3:19 2H

Illinois cut it to single digits but can't get any stop.s

UNF 76, Illini 62, 9:26 left 2H

Illinois got a few big stops and Malcolm Hill cut the UNF lead to 11 with a pair of free throws, but Chris Davenport hit a huge three to silence the crowd. UNF is 15-for-27 from three.

One big bright spot for the Illini: Mike Thorne Jr. The fifth-year transfer has been a beast all night. He has 21 points (9-for-16 FG) and 11 rebounds. At one point Illinois had a lineup of two fifth-year transfers (Thorne and Khalid Lewis) and a walk-on (Alex Austin).

UNF 68, Illini 48; 15:00 left 2H

This is a clinic, and the team from the Atlantic Sun Conference is teaching it. Beau Beech is a pro. The 6-foot-8 sharpshooter is tearing up the Illini. He's 6-for-7 from three and has 20 points. Oh, and Dallas Moore (19 points) can't be stopped by the Illini's bad defense either. Where would the Illini be without Mike Thorne Jr.? The fifth-year transfer center has 18 points and 9 rebounds. He needs some help. The Illini are 1-for-10 from three and Malcolm Hill (3-for-12), Jalen Coleman-Lands (2-for-5) and Aaron Jordan (1-or-3) have been really quiet.

HALF: UNF 47, Illini 34

Half Stats

FG: UNF 18-34 (53%), ILL 15-38 (39%)

3FG: UNF 9-17 (53%), ILL 0-7 (0%)

FT: UNF 2-2, ILL 4-7

Rebounds: ILL 22, UNF 19

Assists: UNF 10, ILL 4

Turnovers: UNF 5, ILL 5

Individuals

Dallas Moore, UNF: 16 points (7-for-10 FG), 3 assists

Beau Beech, UNF: 14 points (4-for-5 3FG)

Mike Thorne Jr., ILL: 11 points (5-10 FG), 7 rebounds

Malcolm HIll, ILL: 8 points (3-10 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 assists

UNF 37, Illini 23; 4:19 left 1H

Add injury to insult here at PCCC. UNF is shooting the lights out (7-for-13 3FG) and Illini point guard Jaylon Tate was just taken to the locker room with an injury. It appeared to be his right arm/shoulder, which a team trainer stabilized on the way to the locker room. The Illini can ill-afford two things: an early loss and more injuries.

UNF 24, Illini 19; 7:27 left 1H

John Groce always says that defense leads to offense. Well, the Illini have gotten some stops and it's led to some fast break opportunities. Both Khalid Lewis (4 pts, 3 reb) and Jaylon Tate (0-for-4 FG) have been in attack mode. When Mike Thorne Jr. goes to the bench, the Illini defense suffers. Not that Thorne is a great defender, but he protects the rim. Michael Finke has a long way to go on that end.

UNF 22, Illini 13; 11:28 left 1H

Illinois can't stop UNF point guard Dallas Moore (12 points, 5-6 FG) nor Beau Beech (8 points, 3-5 FG). Defense is a concern for this team. Illini big man Mike Thorne Jr. (1-for-5 FG) is getting great looks in the post but most of them are rimming out. Thorne has four rebounds. UNF 9-for-15 FG, ILL 6-for-17 FG.

UNF 16, Illini 9; 14:48 left 1H

Piper and I warned you. North Florida is good. The Ospreys look like the team who made the NCAA Tournament last year and are 6-for-9 from the field to start. Point guard Dallas Moore can fill it up, and he already has 8 points. Beau Beech can really shoot it and he's got two threes already. The Illini are switching between man and zone to try and confuse/slow down UNF. Alex Austin and Jalen Coleman-Lands were the first two off the Illini bench, and Michael Finke is now in too.

Tipoff

North Florida starters: G Dallas Moore, G Trent Mackey, G Nick Malogna, G/F Beau Beech, F Chris Davenport

Illinois starters: G Jaylon Tate, G Aaron Jordan, G/F D.J. Williams, G/F Malcolm Hill, C Mike Thorne Jr.

15 minutes to tipoff

Prayers for Paris. That news is terrifying and maddening. Puts a basketball game in perspective.

Leron Update: He's mostly just passing to teammates and not going that hard in warmups, very deliberate when taking jump shots.

North Florida and Illinois both have the capability to turn this into a track meet. North Dakota State, whom the Illini play on Sunday and who is playing at UC-Davis tonight, wants to play at a snail's pace. Two different styles early for Illini.

30 minutes until tipoff

The Illini are in their all-orange warmups and Leron Black is in his warmups ... but standing on the sidelines ... and now going through layups. He's gonna keep us guessing. Malcolm Hill will start at the four against a North Florida team that plays 6-foot-8 Chris Davenport in the post and stretch-four Beau Beech

The Orange Krush had two buses ship student section members to the game so there should be a good buzz in this building tonight.

A lot of talk before the game about the turmoil in the athletic department. A lot of the talk centers around Colorado AD Rick George, a former Illini football player and staff member with a great resume. I wrote what I'm hearing about George here and here.

Congratulations to my guy Marcus Jackson of The News-Gazette, who is transferring over to the news department of the newspaper. He'll be on the beat until about December 7. Marcus is a good reporter, good writer and -- best of all -- a good dude. He and I -- both White Sox fans -- will hang out a bit on the Providence trip. I'm told by the Illini staff that Providence is a fun small city.

One hour until tipoff

Leron Black has been sitting on the sideline for the last 20 minutes, watching the rest of the team goes through pregame workouts. He had a long discussion with team strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher. The optimisim of him playing might have gone down a bit.

New NCAA rules will be unveiled -- and put to the test. In fact, there are 25 rule changes to increase the pace of play, reduce the number of stoppages and add offense. "Freedom of movement" is a key, so the NCAA is really focusing on hand checking/body bumping.

Key rule changes, include:

  • Shot clock changed from 35 seconds to 30 seconds
  • Restricted area arc changed from three feet to four feet
  • Airborne shooter charge plays -- cannot score basket; player-control foul
  • When a defensive player is clearly not going to contact a jump shooter, the offensive player cannot "seek out" the defender
  • Arm bars are allowed in the post area when the offense has back to the basket with or without the ball
  • No more prohibition on dunking while the ball is dead or during pregame and halftime
  • Timeouts: coaches can only call timeouts during a dead ball situation; 30-second timeouts have been reduced from four to three and only two carry over to the second half; a 30-second timeout called within 30 seconds of a media timeout will become the media timeout
  • Removed the five-second closely guarded count on a dribble
  • Penalizing players for faking being fouled

1 hour, 30 minutes until tipoff

I'm told Leron Black is 50/50 to play tonight. He's warming up on the floor but didn't complete the team's latest practice. The sophomore forward had surgery on his meniscus last month. If he does play, his minutes will be limited. The sophomore forward would add toughness and physicality, especially on the glass, for the Illini.

Also, Kendrick Nunn is working out with assistant coach Paris Parham, dribbling and one-hand shooting. Still a small cast/wrap on his left thumb.

First Illini on the court other than Nunn: Malcolm Hill.

Illinois recently announced its team captains: Hill, junior guard Jaylon Tate, junior guard Kendrick Nunn and senior guard Tracy Abrams -- who may set an unbreakable record next year if he earns 1) another medical hardship waiver; and 2) the team captain job for a fifth straight year.

2 hours, 30 minutes until tipoff

College basketball is back!

Jeremy Werner, Illini Inquirer publisher here, courtside at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, the Illini's temporary home -- Illinois will play four games here -- as finishing touches are put on the fourth of five phases for the State Farm Center renovation. The former Assembly Hall looks a bit different on the inside. Check out Elise Kozal's video tour of the renovations.

UI associate athletic director Warren Hood has done a tremendous job since taking over that project when Tom Michael left to become the athletic director at Eastern Illinois. He has said he has no worries that SFC will be ready for the Dec. 2 game against Notre Dame.

Derek Piper will be alongside me in a few minutes as well. Derek broke the news about Kipper Nichols signing with the Illini. Odd recruitment, but a nice addition. Read Derek's Signing Day report card.

At the end of the game, we'll have our Rapid Recap, video of the press conferences and a video breakdown. Later tonight, Derek will have his analysis piece "Piper's Points" and I likely will have a column.

This is a tough game, as Derek wrote in his preview. This is probably the toughest scheduled season-opening opponent since Illinois played an early Mark Few Gonzaga team in 2001. That loaded Illinois team won that game by 18 points. This Illini group is a little more vulnerable given all the new pieces and players just returning from injury. Offense shouldn't be an issue. Defense could be. But I think Mike Thorne Jr. and Malcolm Hill are in for big offensive performances. While he has some defensive deficiencies, Thorne early on has proven why Kansas and Kentucky had offered. He's a big piece to Illinois this season.


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