Big Ten

Travel ordeal, practice uniforms and all, Michigan scorches Illini in Big Ten Tournament

Travel ordeal, practice uniforms and all, Michigan scorches Illini in Big Ten Tournament

WASHINGTON — Michigan was grounded Wednesday when the team plane slid off the runway and kept the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

But by Thursday afternoon, Michigan was flying high.

D.J. Wilson's soaring alley-oop slam and subsequent leaping celebration at midcourt showed the Wolverines weren't at all affected, basketball-wise, by their travel ordeal the day before, when high winds forced an aborted takeoff, a scary slide off the runway and extensive damage to the plane. The team arrived in Washington just a few hours before Thursday's game, the start of which was delayed 20 minutes so Michigan would have the full allotted time to warm up.

But it was Illinois that played like it was the team just a few hours removed from a days-long quest to reach the nation's capital, blown out by Michigan in a 75-55 decision at the Big Ten Tournament.

The Wolverines obliterated the Illini defense to the tune of 75 points on 53.6-percent shooting. Michigan scored 16 points off 14 Illinois turnovers and held a 12-0 edge in fast-break points.

Meanwhile, the Illini's brightest star was practically absent, Malcolm Hill scoring just four points on 1-for-8 shooting. Tracy Abrams, though, playing in one of his final collegiate games, had a career day with 23 points.

Michigan was amped for the start of this one, practice jerseys and all, and decimated the Illinois defense with red-hot shooting, shooting 59.3 percent over the opening 20 minutes. The shots kept falling as the Wolverines hit five first-half 3-pointers and capitalized on nine first-half Illini turnovers for 12 points.

But Illinois made its own energetic charge late in the half, sparked by Abrams, who rattled off 10 straight points to cut Michigan's game-high 20-point lead in half. Though Abrams left the game immediately after, picking up his second foul, the Illini run stretched to 15-2 and chopped the gap down to seven before a breakaway slam and a 3-pointer from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rebuilt a double-digit lead and halted the momentum. The Illini trailed by 11 at the half.

Abrams seemed to pick up where he left off to start the second half, knocking down a 3 for the period's first basket, but Michigan had its lead extended back to 14 a little more than four minutes out of halftime and led by as many as 18 before the period's midway point. Despite Michigan cooling off from the field in the second half and Abrams continuing to pile up points, the margin stayed at double figures. Illinois got it within 10 in the game's final minutes, but Derrick Walton Jr. hit a couple big shots to keep the Michigan lead comfortable.

Zak Irvin polished off a fast break with a dunk, and Wilson hit a 3, giving Michigan another 20-point lead in the game's final minute.

The first-game exit for the Illini figures to dash any remaining NCAA tournament hopes once and for all. Surprisingly, Illinois reached the NCAA tournament bubble with a late-season win streak and even more surprisingly remained on that bubble despite a loss at Rutgers in the regular-season finale.

Additionally, with a now expected fourth straight season without an NCAA tournament invite, John Groce's job status will be an intense talking point. His seat is at hot as it gets.

What a feel-good story Michigan's win is, meanwhile, what with all the Wolverines had to endure in the 24 hours leading up to the game. Advancing to play top-seeded Purdue on Friday, one wonders if Michigan will keep the practice-uniform look and its good mojo.

Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test

USA Today

Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test

The Northwestern Wildcats have stopped football workouts due to a player testing positive for COVID-19. A university spokesperson says, the school is now undergoing “rigorous contact tracing and quarantine protocols to protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

Some student-athletes have already been placed in quarantine, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The earliest any football activities can resume for the Wildcats is Wednesday, according to the university spokesperson.

Michigan State required their entire football team to go into quarantine in late July after several positive tests among players and staff.

In addition, the Big Ten announced they will play a conference-only schedule in 2020, if they’re able to play at all.

RELATED: Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Lou Henson, former Illinois Fighting Illini basketball coach, dies at 88

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Lou Henson, former Illinois Fighting Illini basketball coach, dies at 88

Hall of Fame former Fighting Illini head basketball coach Lou Henson died last Saturday. He was 88 years old.

Henson was the all-time wins leader at the University of Illinois, guiding the team to a 423-224 record from 1975-1996. That included a 214-164 record in Big Ten Conference play, and one Big Ten conference title in 1984.

He also led the Illini to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, the highlight being a Final Four berth with the 1988-89 “Flying Illini.”

"Our Orange and Blue hearts are heavy," said Josh Whitman, Illinois Director of Athletics, in a statement. "We have lost an Illini icon. We have lost a role model, a friend, and a leader. We have lost our coach.

“Coach Henson may be gone, but the memories he provided us, and the legacy he created, will last forever. He was responsible for almost 800 wins in the record book and countless Fighting Illini moments frozen in time, but Coach Henson's true measure will be felt in the lives he touched – the lives of his former players, people on this campus, and friends in our broader community.

“We are all better for whatever time we were privileged to spend with Coach Lou, whether it was five minutes or 50 years. He made everyone feel like a friend. I so enjoyed my time with Coach these last five years, and I will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary, Lisa, Lori, Leigh Anne, and the entire Henson family. Their family will always be part of ours."

In addition to his iconic career at the University of Illinois, Henson coached at New Mexico State where he compiled another 289 victories, from 1966-1975 and 1997-2005. Henson is the wins leader at New Mexico State, as well.

His 779 career wins rank 28th all-time in NCAA history. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Hall of Fame in 2015. The same year, the newly renovated court at Illinois was renamed “Lou Henson Court.” The basketball court at New Mexico State is named “Lou Henson Court,” as well.

“He really was ahead of the game, in terms of bringing fan interaction and fan connection to a program,” said Stephen Bardo, one of Henson’s former players in a video on Twitter. “For me, Lou Henson’s voice got louder the longer after I left school. The more of an adult I became, the older my kids became, I would hear coach Henson’s voice more. I would impart the lessons I learned from him onto my children.

“He had an enormous impact on my life.”

RELATED: Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'