LIVE BLOG: Illinois 80, WCU 68

Illini Inquirer Jeremy Werner is live blogging at the State Farm Center for Illinois vs. Western Carolina

FINAL: Illinois 80, Western Carolina 68

Read the Rapid Recap

Illinois 67, Western Carolina 3:23 left 2H

Illinois' defense finally tightened up and have held WCU without a point for the last 4:35. Malcolm Hill has arrived too. He's made a few big jumpers and has 10 points.

Western Carolina 59, Illinois 59; 7:39 left 2H

Western Carolina is draining threes at an alarming rate. They are 7-for-10 this half and 11-for-22 for the game. Again, they came in shooting 50 percent. Most of these threes are contested or deep.

Finke has 24 but Illinois needs some stops.

Illinois 54, Western Carolina 50; 11:48 left 2H

WCU ran off an 11-0 run after making three straight threes. WCU came into the game shooting 29.5 percent but is 8-for-17 from three. Very Chicago State-esque.

Malcolm Hill did not play for the first 7:21 of the second half. Perplexing. We'll ask about it after the game. He scored on his first possession. Nice start to the second half by Aaron Jordan, who has 4 points.

Illinois 46, Western Carolina 39; 15:32 left 2H

Almost five minutes into the half and still no Malcolm Hill. Even DJ Williams has seen teh court already this half Interesting. Finke hit his third 3-pointer and now has a season (and career) high of 19 points.

HALF: Illinois 39, Western Carolina 34

The Catmounts went on a 7-0 run to keep it close. The Illini mistakes (defense and turnovers) have allowed this to remain a competitive game. Nunn has 17. Finke has 16. Hill has 4. Lewis has 2. No other Illini has scored.

HALF STATS

FG: ILL 15-30, WCU 11-23
3FG: ILL 5-11, WCU 4-12
FT: WCU 8-11, ILL 4-6
TOs: ILL 9, WCU 9
Assists: ILL 8, WCU 5
Pts of TO: ILL 9, WCU 8
Rebounds: ILL 19 (7 off), WCU 12 (1 off)
Pts in paint: WCU 12, ILL 10

Illinois 37, Western Carolina 27; 3:03 left 1H

Kendrick Nunn's career high is 25 points. He has 17 already -- in a game he didn't start.

Michael Finke's season-high is 17 points. He has 16 already -- in his second career start.

Western Carolina is hanging around though. They are 4-for-10 from three and jacking up some deep ones.

Illinois 28, Western Carolina 21; 7:17 left 1H

Kendrick Nunn (5-for-6) and Michael Finke (4-for-5) are feeling it. Nunn has 13. Finke has 11. Malcolm Hill finally got on the board. But the Illini got to get more stops against WCU. They've lost some players in transition, are allowing a high percentage from three (3-for-8) and are struggling to stop dribble penetration -- sound familiar?

DJ Williams, who didn't play the last three games, is on the court in the first half.

Illinois 21, Western Carolina 15; 10:59 left 1H

Kendrick Nunn is feeling it. He was 2-for-11 from three against Notre Dame, but he already 3-for-3 from three today and has 11 points. Michael Finke has 8 too. The Illini are 8-for-14 shooting but have five turnovers, two each from Jalen Coleman-Lands and Maverick Morgan. Both those guys have had issues taking care of the ball this season. Good thing JCL can shoot so well because his handle and defense aren't cutting it.

Illinois 11, Western Carolina 6; 15:31 left 1H

Welp, Kendrick Nunn didn't start but he only sat for about 80 seconds and promptly hit a three and a runner before the TV timeout. Mav Morgan didn't last long as he gave up an easy layup. Michael Finke, making his second start of the season, is hot early (6 points, 2-for-3 FG, 2-for-2 FT).

Western Carolina's transition defense is poor. Illinois is getting a lot of open looks.

Tipoff

Yes, that lineup is correct.

Good showing from the Krush. Not so much elsewhere.

10 minutes to tipoff

Illini starting lineup is a huge surprise: Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, Alex Austin, Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan.  

So no Kendrick Nunn, the team's second leading scorer. And no Khalid Lewis, who had started the previous seven games.

Interesting...

30 minutes to tipoff

Good crew calling the game today for ESPN3. Zach Zaidman -- known for being the Bears sideline radio reporter and for his work on 670 The Score -- is the play-by-play man, and longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew is the analyst.

Drew has started a coaching dynasty. His elder son, Scott, resuscitated Baylor's program into one of the better teams in the Big 12.

His youngest son, Bryce, is a rising star. The former Valpo star has led Crusaders to two NCAA Tournaments in his first four seasons and has a 49-17 record in the Horizon League. Former Illini Roger Powell is an assitant on his staff. Bryce, a college star who played six seasons in the NBA, likely will be highly sought after by power-five programs soon.

Leron Black update

45 minutes until tipoff

Illinois is on the court going through warmups in their home white jerseys.

But Leron Black is in the tunnel on the stationary bike. He's had inflammation and soreness since returning from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He's noticeably lacked his normal athleticism and explosion. He sat out the first game against North Florida as he recovered, then played the next three games before sitting out the Chicago State game due to soreness. He's played 63 minutes over the last three games.

Stay tuned. It's possible he may not play today.\.

50 minutes until tipoff

Going away from basketball for a minute. Illinois officially announced its athletic director search committee yesterday.

Predictably, some fans freaked out about the committee. But I was only encouraged by it.

Interim chancellor Barbara Wilson and University president Timothy Killeen know very little about athletics. Wilson's admitted it. Most of the members on the committee know athletics.

Matthew Wheeler may be a professor of animal sciences but he's been a faculty representative for athletics for a long time. He knows sports.

Mike Bass serves in the university administration and was a kicker under football coach Mike White in the 1980. He knows sports.

Keiko Price is the athletics academic advisor. While she's new to Illinois, she was an All-American swimmer at UCLA. She knows sports.

Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield knows sports and Illinois.

Richard Stockton is a big-time attorney (Nike's patent attorney) and a highly respected member of the Illinois athlietcs board.

Dan Flannell is an Illinois circuit court judge and big Illinois booster. He knows sports and Illinois.

Howard Milton has been a big part of fund-raising at Illinois for the past 10 years. He knows athletic administration.

These are all smart people who know Illinois and athletics. This search committee -- which is very similar to the composition of Michigan's search committee for a new athletic director -- gives me more confidence that Illinois will find good candidates.

I'm told the committee likely will research and vet candidates before give a list of top candidates -- maybe four -- to the Killeen and Wilson. It's still up to the people who admittedly don't know much about athletics to hire the right person for the challenging job.

65 minutes until tipoff

Illini assistant Dustin Ford just gave a hug to Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter, who coached Ford when he played at Ohio.

The Catamounts are 1-17 all-time against the Big Ten, with its lone win was a 74-72 win at Nebraska on Dec. 3, 1999. The Catamounts have lost by a combined 48 points to their two power opponents so far (97-72 loss to Cincinnati and 76-53 loss to Cincinnati). 

The Catamounts' defense forces a lot of turnovers (33rd in country in turnover percentage) but gives up a lot of points, especially in the paint and at the free throw line, due to their aggression. They don't have anyone over 6-foot-7, so Illinois should match up pretty well. Mav Morgan may find buckets easy to come by, and Malcolm Hill should find some matchup advantages.

Derek Piper has more of a breakdown in his preview.

80 minutes until tipoff

Jeremy Werner here, courtside for a little afternoon action between Illinois (3-5) and Western Carolina (3-4). Malcolm Hill and Michael Finke are the first Illini on the court getting some shots up.

The Illini need a win in the worst way.They are off to their worst start since 1967-68, Harv Schmidt's first year taking over a program in turmoil from the Slush Fund scandal.

The Illini are playing terrible defense. Of 351 Division I teams, the Illini rank 302nd in effective field goal percentage allowed, 281st in three-point perentage allowed and 283rd in two-point percentage allowed.

Injuries have crushed the Illini too. The team has been full strength (or as close to it) for just three halves, and those were the best three halves of the season (UAB game and Iowa State first half). The Mike Thorne Jr. injury is the worst one yet. Besides Malcolm Hill, he's the most important player on this team. He changes what Illinois does offensively, and while he isn't great defensively, he is an elite defensive rebounder and strong as a bull. The two options behind him, Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan, are both subpar defensive players.

The schedule also hasn't helped. The Illini have played the 36th hardest schedule in the country so far and have played six teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year.

The schedule eases up starting today and the Illini must take advantage. Yale is the only team of the next five opponents that ranks in the top-170 of the KenPom ratings.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories

45 minutes until tipoff

\n

Illinois is on the court going through warmups in their home white jerseys.

\n

But Leron Black is in the tunnel on the stationary bike. He's had inflammation and soreness since returning from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He's noticeably lacked his normal athleticism and explosion. He sat out the first game against North Florida as he recovered, then played the next three games before sitting out the Chicago State game due to soreness. He's played 63 minutes over the last three games.

\n

Stay tuned. It's possible he may not play today.\\.

\n

50 minutes until tipoff

\n

Going away from basketball for a minute. Illinois officially announced its athletic director search committee yesterday.

\n

Predictably, some fans freaked out about the committee. But I was only encouraged by it.

\n

Interim chancellor Barbara Wilson and University president Timothy Killeen know very little about athletics. Wilson's admitted it. Most of the members on the committee know athletics.

\n

Matthew Wheeler may be a professor of animal sciences but he's been a faculty representative for athletics for a long time. He knows sports.

\n

Mike Bass serves in the university administration and was a kicker under football coach Mike White in the 1980. He knows sports.

\n

Keiko Price is the athletics academic advisor. While she's new to Illinois, she was an All-American swimmer at UCLA. She knows sports.

\n

Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield knows sports and Illinois.

\n

Richard Stockton is a big-time attorney (Nike's patent attorney) and a highly respected member of the Illinois athlietcs board.

\n

Dan Flannell is an Illinois circuit court judge and big Illinois booster. He knows sports and Illinois.

\n

Howard Milton has been a big part of fund-raising at Illinois for the past 10 years. He knows athletic administration.

\n

These are all smart people who know Illinois and athletics. This search committee -- which is very similar to the composition of Michigan's search committee for a new athletic director -- gives me more confidence that Illinois will find good candidates.

\n

I'm told the committee likely will research and vet candidates before give a list of top candidates -- maybe four -- to the Killeen and Wilson. It's still up to the people who admittedly don't know much about athletics to hire the right person for the challenging job.

\n

\n

65 minutes until tipoff

\n

Illini assistant Dustin Ford just gave a hug to Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter, who coached Ford when he played at Ohio.

\n

The Catamounts are 1-17 all-time against the Big Ten, with its lone win was a 74-72 win at Nebraska on Dec. 3, 1999. The Catamounts have lost by a combined 48 points to their two power opponents so far (97-72 loss to Cincinnati and 76-53 loss to Cincinnati). 

\n

The Catamounts' defense forces a lot of turnovers (33rd in country in turnover percentage) but gives up a lot of points, especially in the paint and at the free throw line, due to their aggression. They don't have anyone over 6-foot-7, so Illinois should match up pretty well. Mav Morgan may find buckets easy to come by, and Malcolm Hill should find some matchup advantages.

\n

Derek Piper has more of a breakdown in his preview.

\n

80 minutes until tipoff

\n

Jeremy Werner here, courtside for a little afternoon action between Illinois (3-5) and Western Carolina (3-4). Malcolm Hill and Michael Finke are the first Illini on the court getting some shots up.

\n

The Illini need a win in the worst way.They are off to their worst start since 1967-68, Harv Schmidt's first year taking over a program in turmoil from the Slush Fund scandal.

\n

The Illini are playing terrible defense. Of 351 Division I teams, the Illini rank 302nd in effective field goal percentage allowed, 281st in three-point perentage allowed and 283rd in two-point percentage allowed.

\n

Injuries have crushed the Illini too. The team has been full strength (or as close to it) for just three halves, and those were the best three halves of the season (UAB game and Iowa State first half). The Mike Thorne Jr. injury is the worst one yet. Besides Malcolm Hill, he's the most important player on this team. He changes what Illinois does offensively, and while he isn't great defensively, he is an elite defensive rebounder and strong as a bull. The two options behind him, Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan, are both subpar defensive players.

\n

The schedule also hasn't helped. The Illini have played the 36th hardest schedule in the country so far and have played six teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year.

\n

The schedule eases up starting today and the Illini must take advantage. Yale is the only team of the next five opponents that ranks in the top-170 of the KenPom ratings.

","mobileBody":"

FINAL: Illinois 80, Western Carolina 68

Read the Rapid Recap

Illinois 67, Western Carolina 3:23 left 2H

Illinois' defense finally tightened up and have held WCU without a point for the last 4:35. Malcolm Hill has arrived too. He's made a few big jumpers and has 10 points.

Western Carolina 59, Illinois 59; 7:39 left 2H

Western Carolina is draining threes at an alarming rate. They are 7-for-10 this half and 11-for-22 for the game. Again, they came in shooting 50 percent. Most of these threes are contested or deep.

Finke has 24 but Illinois needs some stops.

Illinois 54, Western Carolina 50; 11:48 left 2H

WCU ran off an 11-0 run after making three straight threes. WCU came into the game shooting 29.5 percent but is 8-for-17 from three. Very Chicago State-esque.

Malcolm Hill did not play for the first 7:21 of the second half. Perplexing. We'll ask about it after the game. He scored on his first possession. Nice start to the second half by Aaron Jordan, who has 4 points.

Illinois 46, Western Carolina 39; 15:32 left 2H

Almost five minutes into the half and still no Malcolm Hill. Even DJ Williams has seen teh court already this half Interesting. Finke hit his third 3-pointer and now has a season (and career) high of 19 points.

HALF: Illinois 39, Western Carolina 34

The Catmounts went on a 7-0 run to keep it close. The Illini mistakes (defense and turnovers) have allowed this to remain a competitive game. Nunn has 17. Finke has 16. Hill has 4. Lewis has 2. No other Illini has scored.

HALF STATS

FG: ILL 15-30, WCU 11-23
3FG: ILL 5-11, WCU 4-12
FT: WCU 8-11, ILL 4-6
TOs: ILL 9, WCU 9
Assists: ILL 8, WCU 5
Pts of TO: ILL 9, WCU 8
Rebounds: ILL 19 (7 off), WCU 12 (1 off)
Pts in paint: WCU 12, ILL 10

Illinois 37, Western Carolina 27; 3:03 left 1H

Kendrick Nunn's career high is 25 points. He has 17 already -- in a game he didn't start.

Michael Finke's season-high is 17 points. He has 16 already -- in his second career start.

Western Carolina is hanging around though. They are 4-for-10 from three and jacking up some deep ones.

Illinois 28, Western Carolina 21; 7:17 left 1H

Kendrick Nunn (5-for-6) and Michael Finke (4-for-5) are feeling it. Nunn has 13. Finke has 11. Malcolm Hill finally got on the board. But the Illini got to get more stops against WCU. They've lost some players in transition, are allowing a high percentage from three (3-for-8) and are struggling to stop dribble penetration -- sound familiar?

DJ Williams, who didn't play the last three games, is on the court in the first half.

Illinois 21, Western Carolina 15; 10:59 left 1H

Kendrick Nunn is feeling it. He was 2-for-11 from three against Notre Dame, but he already 3-for-3 from three today and has 11 points. Michael Finke has 8 too. The Illini are 8-for-14 shooting but have five turnovers, two each from Jalen Coleman-Lands and Maverick Morgan. Both those guys have had issues taking care of the ball this season. Good thing JCL can shoot so well because his handle and defense aren't cutting it.

Illinois 11, Western Carolina 6; 15:31 left 1H

Welp, Kendrick Nunn didn't start but he only sat for about 80 seconds and promptly hit a three and a runner before the TV timeout. Mav Morgan didn't last long as he gave up an easy layup. Michael Finke, making his second start of the season, is hot early (6 points, 2-for-3 FG, 2-for-2 FT).

Western Carolina's transition defense is poor. Illinois is getting a lot of open looks.

Tipoff

Yes, that lineup is correct.

Good showing from the Krush. Not so much elsewhere.

10 minutes to tipoff

Illini starting lineup is a huge surprise: Jaylon Tate, Malcolm Hill, Alex Austin, Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan.

So no Kendrick Nunn, the team's second leading scorer. And no Khalid Lewis, who had started the previous seven games.

Interesting...

30 minutes to tipoff

Good crew calling the game today for ESPN3. Zach Zaidman -- known for being the Bears sideline radio reporter and for his work on 670 The Score -- is the play-by-play man, and longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew is the analyst.

Drew has started a coaching dynasty. His elder son, Scott, resuscitated Baylor's program into one of the better teams in the Big 12.

His youngest son, Bryce, is a rising star. The former Valpo star has led Crusaders to two NCAA Tournaments in his first four seasons and has a 49-17 record in the Horizon League. Former Illini Roger Powell is an assitant on his staff. Bryce, a college star who played six seasons in the NBA, likely will be highly sought after by power-five programs soon.

Leron Black update

Strength coach Adam Fletcher working out Leron Black separately as team goes through warmups pic.twitter.com/8KSFjMOGDU

— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) December 5, 2015

45 minutes until tipoff

Illinois is on the court going through warmups in their home white jerseys.

But Leron Black is in the tunnel on the stationary bike. He's had inflammation and soreness since returning from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He's noticeably lacked his normal athleticism and explosion. He sat out the first game against North Florida as he recovered, then played the next three games before sitting out the Chicago State game due to soreness. He's played 63 minutes over the last three games.

Stay tuned. It's possible he may not play today.\\.

50 minutes until tipoff

Going away from basketball for a minute. Illinois officially announced its athletic director search committee yesterday.

Predictably, some fans freaked out about the committee. But I was only encouraged by it.

Interim chancellor Barbara Wilson and University president Timothy Killeen know very little about athletics. Wilson's admitted it. Most of the members on the committee know athletics.

Matthew Wheeler may be a professor of animal sciences but he's been a faculty representative for athletics for a long time. He knows sports.

Mike Bass serves in the university administration and was a kicker under football coach Mike White in the 1980. He knows sports.

Keiko Price is the athletics academic advisor. While she's new to Illinois, she was an All-American swimmer at UCLA. She knows sports.

Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield knows sports and Illinois.

Richard Stockton is a big-time attorney (Nike's patent attorney) and a highly respected member of the Illinois athlietcs board.

Dan Flannell is an Illinois circuit court judge and big Illinois booster. He knows sports and Illinois.

Howard Milton has been a big part of fund-raising at Illinois for the past 10 years. He knows athletic administration.

These are all smart people who know Illinois and athletics. This search committee -- which is very similar to the composition of Michigan's search committee for a new athletic director -- gives me more confidence that Illinois will find good candidates.

I'm told the committee likely will research and vet candidates before give a list of top candidates -- maybe four -- to the Killeen and Wilson. It's still up to the people who admittedly don't know much about athletics to hire the right person for the challenging job.

65 minutes until tipoff

Illini assistant Dustin Ford just gave a hug to Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter, who coached Ford when he played at Ohio.

The Catamounts are 1-17 all-time against the Big Ten, with its lone win was a 74-72 win at Nebraska on Dec. 3, 1999. The Catamounts have lost by a combined 48 points to their two power opponents so far (97-72 loss to Cincinnati and 76-53 loss to Cincinnati).

The Catamounts' defense forces a lot of turnovers (33rd in country in turnover percentage) but gives up a lot of points, especially in the paint and at the free throw line, due to their aggression. They don't have anyone over 6-foot-7, so Illinois should match up pretty well. Mav Morgan may find buckets easy to come by, and Malcolm Hill should find some matchup advantages.

Derek Piper has more of a breakdown in his preview.

80 minutes until tipoff

Jeremy Werner here, courtside for a little afternoon action between Illinois (3-5) and Western Carolina (3-4). Malcolm Hill and Michael Finke are the first Illini on the court getting some shots up.

The Illini need a win in the worst way.They are off to their worst start since 1967-68, Harv Schmidt's first year taking over a program in turmoil from the Slush Fund scandal.

The Illini are playing terrible defense. Of 351 Division I teams, the Illini rank 302nd in effective field goal percentage allowed, 281st in three-point perentage allowed and 283rd in two-point percentage allowed.

Injuries have crushed the Illini too. The team has been full strength (or as close to it) for just three halves, and those were the best three halves of the season (UAB game and Iowa State first half). The Mike Thorne Jr. injury is the worst one yet. Besides Malcolm Hill, he's the most important player on this team. He changes what Illinois does offensively, and while he isn't great defensively, he is an elite defensive rebounder and strong as a bull. The two options behind him, Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan, are both subpar defensive players.

The schedule also hasn't helped. The Illini have played the 36th hardest schedule in the country so far and have played six teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year.

The schedule eases up starting today and the Illini must take advantage. Yale is the only team of the next five opponents that ranks in the top-170 of the KenPom ratings.

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