LIVE BLOG: Illinois 69, Yale 65

Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner is live blogging from the State Farm Center for Illinois vs. Yale

Final: Illinois 69, Yale 65

Read the Rapid Recap

Illinois 61, Yale 56; 3:43 left 2H

Malcolm Hill has come up with a few big buckets, including a three, in the last few minutes to be the Robin to Nunn's Batman. 

Yale is in the double bonus. Illinois is in the bonus. Yale leads the boards 41-24.

Illinois 52, Yale 49; 8:07 left 2H

"Get on my back, boys," - Kendrick Nunn, who now has 23 now. He's 17-for-28 over his last two games. Finke also has come alive with two buckets. The Illini have to keep getting stops if they want to win. Yale is starting to hit some threes.

Illinois 40, Yale 40, 11:44 left 2H

Yale has a 20-rebound advantage right now (38-18). Yale is a great rebounding team but the Illini guards are doing a terrible job of helping their out-athletic-ed frontcourt. They miss Leron Black...and Mike Thorne.

Both offenses are cold. Illinois is 1 for  its last 10. Yale is 0 for its last 5.

Yale 37, Illinois 35, 16:18 left 2H

Nope, that's not a typo. Just like against Notre Dame, an 8-point halftime lead quickly eroded as Yale went on a 12-0 run. Yale is a different team with Justin Sears on the court. He picked up his third foul but he changes everything Yale does offensively and defensively.

But the Illini defense is lagging, and it seems to be directly correlated to shots not going in. The Illini have missed their last five shots and are 2 for their last 12. They haven't scored in 3:27.

HALF: Illinois 33, Yale  25

Illinois missed a chance to pull away, making just 1 of their final 6 shots. They had open looks. Just didn't make them. 

Positives

  • Malcolm Hill aggressive
  • Kendrick Nunn good
  • Mav Morgan's spurt
  • Defense consistently aggressive
  • 15 Yale turnovers leading to 16 points off turnovers
  • Only 3 Illini turnovers
  • Yale playing uninteliggently

Negatives

  • Michael Finke (0 pts, 2 reb) out of sync, getting exposed on D
  • Yale dominating the boards (25-14)
  • Illini 3-for-12 from three
  • Yale only six three-point attempts (made two)
  • Aaron Jordan 1-for-5 shooting
  • JCL 0-for-2  from three

HALF STATS

  • FG: ILL 13-for-33, Yale 11-for-28
  • 3FG: ILL 3-for-12, Yale 2-for-6
  • FT: ILL 4-4, Yale 1-for-3
  • Turnovers: Yale 15, ILL 3
  • Points off turnovers: ILL 16, Yale 3
  • Rebounds: Yale 25 (8 off), Illinois 14 (3 off)
  • 2nd chance points: Yale 2, Illinois 6
  • Assists: Yale 6, Illinois 5

Illinois 31, Yale 22; 3:38 left 1H

The offense runs through Maverick Morgan.

The Illini got a great stretch of minutes from the Illini junior center. Three quick buckets in the middle, a few big rebounds and even a defensive stop. He has some great spurts against specific matchups. If he could just extend that to 15-20 minutes per game, the Illini would feel a lot better about their center spot.

Malcolm Hill came to play today. He has 10 already, matching his total last game. The Illini have their largest lead.

Biggest positive so far? Illini brought the defensive pressure on the perimeter, forcing 13 Yale turnovers.

Illinois 21, Yale 17; 7:59 left 1H

Illinois is aggressively overplaying entry passes and it's resulted in a lot of Yale turnovers (10 already). The Illini have 12 points off those turnovers.

Ivy Preseason Player of the Year Justin Sears just went to the bench with 2 fouls. That should help clear the boards (Sears has 4) thought Sherrod already has five boards. 

Kendrick Nunn (10 points) just went to the bench with his second foul too.

Illinois 16, Yale 15; 10:39 left 1H

Yale is really working backdoor action. It's leading to several layups. It's also leading to a lot of turnovers (six to Illini's two). Illinois has 7 points off those turnovers. Yale leads the boards battle 12-5. Illinois is getting the shots it wants. Just needs to make more of them (2-for-7 three). Kendrick Nunn has 7. Hill has 4.

Illinois 9, Yale 9; 14:34 left 1H

Yale has some rebounds. Justin Sears has a 7-foot-3 wing span, Piper tells me, and some hops. So does Brandon Sherrod. Yale currently leads the boards  8-3 and already has 3 offensive rebounds. The Illini have pushed the pace though and gotten a few fastbreak buckets to keep it even.

5 minutes to tipoff

Aaron Jordan learned that if he plays defense, he'll play more. He had his best defensive game against Western Carolina (two steals) and scored 8 points without making a three. Tonight, he's in the starting lineup along with Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill and Michael Finke. Let's see how the freshman responds to his first start since Game 2.

Illinois really needs Jordan to run with this. Walk-on Alex Austin has played because of his defense but Jordan is longer and is a great shooter, while Austin struggles to score. It'd be nice if Austin only played in teh wing rotation in emergencies. Also, Austin and Tate shouldn't be on the court together. 3-on-5 is hard.

This is the Illini's ninth starting lineup in 10 games.

Official statement from team: Leron Black will not play tonight. I'd expect a lot of Malcolm Hill at the 4, and maybe more D.J. Williams too.

15 minutes to tipoff

Leron Black is not shooting. He's standing next to injured (would-be) starters Tracy Abrams and Mike Thorne Jr. Three likely starters may not play tonight. Nothing new here.

Malcolm Hill's second-half benching against Western Carolina remains a mystery to the public. John Groce called it a "coach's decision" and said he just didn't like the way Malcolm played in the first half. Malcolm's non-answer (with a smile) is at the video at the top of the screen. As I wrote in this week's column, a lot is being asked of Malcolm Hill. But that's what they must demand for this injury-plagued team to be good. It's his team. He needs to lead them.

40 minutes to tipoff

What a stat -- not a good one -- in Derek Piper's preview today.

"Illinois has lost their last nine games against teams ranked in the KenPom top 100 - dating back to last February. Someway, somehow, sometime that has to change."

That's not a good look for this coach and this program. End that streak tonight, huh? 

Dee Brown is shaking hands with a bunch of people right now, including me. This may sound creepy, but -- in addition to always being dressed to the nines -- Dee always smells good. I bet he could sell plenty of "One Man Fastbreak" fragrance in Champaign-Urbana.

Had Dee on the radio show the other day, and he was fantastic. He's brought a lot of positivity to a program that needs it. Yes,  he wants to coach. When will that be? I think he'd like it sooner than later.

50 minutes to tipoffed 

Illinois has lost to two good mid-major teams this season: North Florida (6-4) and Chattanooga (6-2). It received scares from another solid mid-major, North Dakota State (5-3), and got scares from two subpar mid-majors (Chicago State and Western Carolina).

Tonight's opponenet, Yale (5-3), might be the best mid-major on the Illini schedule. The Bulldogs currently rank 86th in the KenPom ratings, four spots ahead of Illinois. That ranks them as the fourth highest-ranked opponent the Illini have played so far, behind Iowa State (13th KenPom), Notre Dame (23rd) and Providence (41). Yale is the highest ranked opponent left on the Illini nonconference schedule. Next is Missouri (174).

Yale is an experienced team projected to win the Ivy League and they have the presseason Ivy Player of the Year, 6-foot-8 senior forward Justin Sears (15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Sophomore point guard Makai Mason (16.8 ppg, 4.6 apg) also is having a big year. It seems every Illini quality opponent has the point guard John Groce is looking for.

Yale gave No.8 Duke an early scare, taking a 9-0 lead in Cameron Indoor and led No. 19 SMU for more than 26 minutes before falling 71-69. In recent seasons under head coach James Jones, the Bulldogs have won over Boston College, Clemson, Oregon State, Rutgers and Penn State.

So, yeah, the Illini have their hands full tonight.

One hour to tipoff

Jeremy Werner, Illini Inquirer publisher, here courtside at the State Farm Center. Illinois and Yale are both going through warmups. Leron Black is not one of the Illini going through warmups. He is sitting on the bench in his warmups next to assistant coach Jamall Walker. That doesn't mean Black won't play. He did the same thing on Saturday before playing nine unquality minutes against Western Carolina (he fouled out in nine minutes and went 0-for-4 shooting).

Groce said yesterday that the sophomore forward did not practice on Monday but was scheduled to go through practice on Tuesday. He obviously is not the normal, athletic, bouncy Leron Black since returning from October meniscus surgery.


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