Illini make noise from perimeter in win

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Illini make noise from perimeter in win

CHAMPAIGN As Myke Henrys shot finished its arc and swished through the net, giving Illinois a 12-5 advantage over Colgate, the Assembly Hall erupted.

The noise was of a level not heard in a long time in Champaign, certainly not since Bruce Webers Illini went 2-12 in his final 14 games last season. The eruption was even more impressive given the four minutes of silence that preceded it.

As if the transition from Weber to new Illinois head coach John Groce was not noticeable enough, the Orange Krush asked fans to observe silence an Orange Hush until Illinois scored its 10th point of the game. The hush was a reference to Groces alma mater, Taylor University, and their Silent Night ritual.

The effect at Assembly Hall was dramatic, with the crowd roaring to life, showing appreciation for a strong start by the Illini. While the ghost of Webers teams may not have been exorcised completely, Illinois 75-55 win over Colgate made sure the Groce era started properly.

The biggest thing we wanted to accomplish was to play more consistently than performance in our final preseason game, Groce said. We asked them to play compete and play hard in the forty minutes, and we asked them to play unselfishly, and I think we made strides in both areas.

The Illini came out shooting strong from the perimeter in the opening minutes and never let up. The team sunk four consecutive threes to open scoring and finished 13-of-30 from behind the line. The 43 percent outside shooting was a big factor in Illinois victory and Groce praised his players for their solid shooting.

After the first three minutes, I would say 15-of-18 threes were great looks, he said Weve got guys who can shoot the ballthese guys have worked hard this summer to earn right to take shots.

Weve got a lot of confidence in these guysthese guys can make shots and I want them taking good ones.

Inside the three-point arc, however, the Illini had some problems. Those problems caught up to them six minutes into the game, as the Raiders tied the game at 12 then again at 14.

However, senior Brandon Paul stepped up with the game tied. His up-and-under layup started a 12-0 run by Illinois, a run he would finish with a steal and another layup. They would follow it up with another 12-0 run, stretching the score to 35-16 with three minutes left in the half.

Illinois got threes from six players in the first half, including two each from Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tracy Abrams and forward Tyler Griffey. Their strong outside shooting, along with 43 percent shooting overall in the first half, helped Illinois claim a 43-25 lead over the visitors at halftime.

The Illini kept rolling in the second half, creating a 20-point cushion and maintaining it throughout the frame. Groces group pushed the pace of the game and kept the pressure on Colgate.

Part of Illinois speed came from the rapid substitution utilized by Groce. Nine players got significant playing time on Friday night, helping wear down Colgate late in the game. The players seemed to have no issue with the substitutions, though, and played unselfishly when they were on the floor.

When Im out there Im going to give it what I got, Abrams said. I want to win, Im sure those guys want to win.

Shooting from the perimeter dropped off in the second half, but the team got better in the paint. After scoring just eight points inside during the first half, Illinois racked up 18 in the second half. Griffey, Nnana Egwu and transfer Sam McLaurin helped the Illini gain an edge over the Raiders in the paint with physical play in the second half.

Despite the increased effort down low, Groce said he would still like to see better play in the paint specifically on put backs. Illinois finished the game with 19 offensive rebounds, many of which came on unsuccessful attempts to tap the ball in near the hoop.

We were 16-of-34 down in the paint. We gotta slow down a little bit in there and finish a little better, Groce said.

Illinois finished the game with an astonishing 74 field goal attempts, making 29 of those shots for 39 percent overall.

Paul led Illinois with 20 points, adding eight rebounds and five assists. He said working hard with the coaches in practice, as well as playing with an unselfish group, helped him find his rhythm.

They gave me confidence to shoot anywhere, the senior said.

Abrams finished the game with 13 points and Griffey scored 10 in the win. Richardson had nine points and led the team with eight rebounds. McLaurin and Henry each had seven rebounds.

Illinois also limited turnovers, beating Colgate 12-17 in a big turnaround from some of the results from preseason games and in practice. The change made Groce very happy, at least for tonight.

Overall I was very pleased with our effort, our attitude and our unselfishness, he said after picking up his first win as the Illinois head coach.

Earlier in the week, after a bad practice, Groce indicated he would have difficulty sleeping because of the lingering worry. After the Illinis season opening win over Colgate, however, his mind should be as quiet as the Assembly Hall before Henrys three.

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

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Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

Iowa is going back to the Outback Bowl.

Yes, for the fifth time in the last 13 seasons, the Hawkeyes will wrap their campaign with a trip to Tampa and an appearance in the Outback Bowl. And for the third time, their opponent there will be the Florida Gators. That game kicks at noon on Jan. 2.

Iowa and Florida met in the Outback Bowl to conclude the 2003 and 2005 seasons, splitting those two matchups.

This time around, the Hawkeyes are coming off an 8-4 regular season, a disappointing follow up to their 12-2 campaign a season ago that started off a perfect 12-0 before postseason losses in the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl.

Kirk Ferentz has led his team to a bowl appearance in 14 of his 18 seasons, though Iowa has lost the last four of those games, without a bowl win since taking down Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl.

Iowa is 2-2 in its four previous Outback Bowl appearances, beating Florida, losing to Florida, beating South Carolina and losing to LSU.

As for the Gators, they own an 8-4 record, as well, after falling to Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. Florida is known for its sluggish offense, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country.

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

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Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

Start spreadin' the news.

Northwestern is heading to New York for its bowl game this season, specifically the Bronx, where it will battle Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Though it isn't your typically warm bowl destination, the baseball-stadium setting should be pretty fantastic. The game will be played at 1 p.m. on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats reached bowl eligibility with their sixth win in the regular-season finale against Illinois. Northwestern is heading to back-to-back bowl games after missing out on the postseason in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014.

This is just the 13th-ever bowl trip for the Cats, though it's their seventh in 11 seasons under Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern has a 1-5 record under Fitzgerald in the previous six bowl games, though that win is one of just two all-time bowl victories by the program.

This season started slowly for the Cats, who lost upsetting home games to Illinois State and Western Michigan and started 1-3. But Northwestern turned things around with back-to-back road wins over Iowa and Michigan State and finished 6-6. The Cats' offense has been particularly effective this season compared to seasons past. Wide receiver Austin Carr took home Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the conference in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Running back Justin Jackson was the league's leading rusher until getting surpassed by just a couple yards by both Wisconsin's Corey Clement and Penn State's Saquon Barkley, who both competed in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game, adding to their respective rushing totals.

Pitt has had a pretty noteworthy season. Despite having four losses, it beat two teams that finished ranked in the top five of the College Football Playoff rankings: No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State. The Panthers are coached by former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.