Bulls

Despite loss, Scheelhaase happy to play a full game

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Despite loss, Scheelhaase happy to play a full game

CHAMPAIGN If there is one positive Illini fans can take away from the teams 35-7 loss to Penn State, it's quarterback Nathan Scheelhaases four quarters of football.

For the first time this season the junior was able to captain the Illinois offense for all 60 minutes. After going down with an ankle injury in the season opener against Western Michigan it has been a been uphill battle for Scheelhaase.

Last week, against Louisiana Tech, Scheelhaase was under center at the start of the game but did not make it through the first quarter, being pulled in favor of sophomore Reilly OToole. After OTooles dynamic performance against Charleston Southern, the Illini appeared to have a quarterback controversy on their hands.

With four quarters of play on Saturday, however, Scheelhaase has reasserted his claim as the Illinois quarterback and after the game said he was feeling like his old self again.

The ankle is doing well, it felt real good today. I got nipped a little bit, but I was okay, Scheelhaase said. I felt good on the plays I ran on and I got loose on a couple of scrambles as well. It was good to feel that I was moving better.

Against Penn State, the junior was 28 of 46 for 270 yards and ran for another 22 yards. He was not flawless, giving up a pair of interceptions to Nittany Lions linebacker Michael Mauti, but he felt good about his play.

There was one scary moment for Scheelhaase early in the second half, when he was hit high and low by Penn State linemen in the backfield. The junior stayed on the ground for a minute before limping off the field. He would only sit out one play, however, before returning to his spot behind center.

That was as bad a hit as you could probably get on it and I was able to bounce back, so that was good, Scheelhaase said. When you can get what you hurt hit and bounce back that means youre back where you need to be.

He added that he felt as good on his runs as he has all season, which was a big encouragement.

Coach Tim Beckman was also happy with the performance of his quarterback, especially his recovery from the big hit.

Im proud of Nathan. Nathans fighting through an injury and hes trying to help this football team the best way he possibly can, Beckman said.

Moving forward Scheelhaase does not foresee a problem being under center. He does, however, expect better from himself and his team than how they played against Penn State.

Thats the bottom line: we didnt do enough to win the game. We have a tough test next week against Wisconsin and we have to come ready to play. That has to be the mindset of everyone, weve got to get ready for the next one, Scheelhaase said.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.