Local college basketball roundup: Illinois, Northwestern win openers


Local college basketball roundup: Illinois, Northwestern win openers

The 2016-17 college basketball regular season tipped off on Friday night as many of the in-state programs played their first real game of the season. Here's a look at how each local program fared.

Illinois 79, Southeast Missouri State 62

Senior Malcolm Hill started the season strong with a team-leading 21 points as Illinois earned a home win. Center Maverick Morgan finished with 16 points on a perfect 8-for-8 from the field.

After missing the last two seasons with injury, point guard Tracy Abrams scored 13 points in his return as he was 4-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-4 from three-point range. Forward Michael Finke chipped in 13 points for the Illini.

John Groce's ballclub will look to keep the momentum going as they host Northern Kentucky at home on Sunday. 

Northwestern 94, Mississippi Valley State 63

Cruising to an easy win at home were the Wildcats as forward Vic Law finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. After missing last season due to a shoulder injury, Law looked like he hadn't missed a beat as he was 7-for-10 from the floor and 3-for-4 from three-point range.

Former Fenwick product Scottie Lindsey added 17 points for Northwestern while guards Bryant McIntosh, Sanjay Lumpkin and Isaiah Brown all totaled 11 points.

The next game for Northwestern comes on Monday as they host Eastern Washington.

Northern Illinois 80, Indiana State 78, OT

The Huskies opened their season with a tight overtime home win as center Marin Maric had a monster outing, going for 25 points and seven rebounds on 11-for-14 shooting from the field. NIU also had 14 points from forward Levi Bradley while forward Jaylen Key tallied a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Laytwan Porter (seven points) was the late hero as he made two free throws with a little over four seconds left to break a 78-78 tie.

Despite shooting only 22 percent (4-for-18) from three-point range, the Huskies were able to hang on for the win as their defense held Indiana State to 34 percent (25-for-72) shooting. 

Northern Illinois plays Roosevelt University, a non-Division I opponent, for its next game on Monday.

Loyola 69, Alcorn State 44

Picking up a win at the Gentile Arena, the Ramblers only led by two at the half before stepping on the gas and pulling away in the second half.

Loyola used a 17-0 second-half run as senior guard Milton Doyle led the way with 21 points and six assists.

The Ramblers host a non-Division I team in IU Northwest in another home game on Sunday. 

Murray State 73, Illinois State 70

Expectations are high for Illinois State this season as they dropped their opener on the road with a close loss. Guard Paris Lee's layup tied the game at 70 with seven seconds left, but the Racers responded with the game-winning three-pointer from Jonathan Stark with 1.5 seconds left. 

MiKyle McIntosh paced the Redbirds with 16 points while also grabbing eight rebounds while Lee added 15 points. Forward Deontae Hawkins finished with a double-double for Illinois State as he ended with 14 points and 15 rebounds. 

Murray State has been one of the OVC's best programs the last few years and made for a tough opener for the Redbirds. Illinois State will look to bounce back during its home opener against IPFW on Wednesday. 

Wright State 85, Southern Illinois 81

Depite 29 points from guard Mike Rodriguez, the Salukis dropped its season opener at home as they allowed 54 second-half points. 

Guard Leo Vincent also added 19 points for Southern Illinois while forward Sean O'Brien (14 points) and guard Armon Fletcher (10 points) also finished in double-figures. 

Things don't get any easier for the Salukis on Monday as they play Arkansas on the road. 

San Francisco 82, UIC 80

This one came down to the final minute as the Dons made two free throws to seal the win.

Sophomore wing Dikembe Dixson nailed the game-tying three-pointer with a minute left as he finished with a team-high 15 points. Center Tai Odiase finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks. 

The Flames will hold their home opener on Wednesday when they host UT-San Antonio. 

Kansas State 82, Western Illinois 55

It was a tough opener for the Leathernecks as they didn't put up much of a fight in a road loss at Kansas State. Senior guard Garrett Covington paced Western Illinois with 17 points while guard Dalan Ancrum added 12.

Western Illinois will play its home opener on Sunday as they host a non-Division I opponent in Oak Hills Christian. 

Bradley 70, Illinois-Springfield 55

Opening the year with a non-Division I opponent at home, the Braves earned the win behind a balanced scoring effort.

Guard Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye paced Bradley with 12 points while guard Jojo McGlaston finished with 10. 

Eleven different players scored for the Braves as they were 9-for-20 (45 percent) from three-point range.

Bradley will be tested more on Sunday as they host Delaware. 


Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment


Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky


Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."