Burke, No. 2 Michigan outlast Illini

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Burke, No. 2 Michigan outlast Illini

CHAMPAIGN Michigan proved they deserve to be the nations top team with an easy 74-60 road victory over Illinois. Perhaps the best indicator of the Wolverines elite status was the way they drained the enthusiasm from the Assembly Hall Sunday night.
Every time Illinois (15-6, 2-5) made a good shot or looked to make a run Michigan (19-1, 6-1) responded with a shot of equal magnitude. Four of the Wolverines starting five finished the game in double figures, led by Trey Burke with 19, giving Illinois too much to handle.
The Illini were hardly at their worst, however. The teams effort, especially early in the game, was on par with coach John Groces expectations.
We had our mind and heart in the right place today, he said. We had some good looks today. We executed really well in the first thirty minutes, had some good looks and didnt make them. They did, and thats the difference.
Illinois also managed to match up well with Michigan on the glass, grabbing 37 rebounds to the Wolverines 35. Michigan has only been out-rebounded three times this season. Perhaps more impressively, though, Illinois pulled down 16 offensive rebounds; so far in Big Ten play, Michigan has allowed opponents an average of just nine offensive rebounds per game.
It was the offensive end where Illinois struggled. Despite their solid play on the glass, shots did not fall for the Illini the way they would have liked. The hosts shot just 37 percent compared to Michigans 52 percent mark. After starting the game 3-of-6 from behind the arc, the Illini made just 3-of-21 the rest of the way.
John Beilein, the Michigan coach, praised Illinois for putting up a fight and said his teambenefitedfrom the drop-off in shooting.
Illinois has great quickness, good defense. We were fortunate they dried up from three, he said.
Illinois started the game with an exclamation an alley-oop from Brandon Paul to Nnanna Egwu and for the first few minutes of the game the Illini kept up the pace. With two-and-a-half minutes gone, the hosts had a 7-4 lead after a Paul three.
After the first media timeout, however, Michigan began to take control of the game. The Wolverines erased all of Illinois momentum, going on an 11-0 run between 17:28 and 10:52 to pull in front 15-7.
Another Paul 3-pointer followed by another from Tracy Abrams helped Illinois swing the game their way again. An offensive rebound and quick slam-dunk by Tyler Griffey with 7:55 to go in the first half helped Illinois pull within a shot of the lead, 19-17.
The teams would swap baskets for the next few minutes, but Michigan seemed to have the easier time scoring between the two teams. When Trey Burke answered Pauls third three, putting Michigan ahead 28-22 with 3:43 to play in the first half, the game appeared to be comfortably in the visitors hands.
Burke hit a couple big shots in the waning minutes to deepen the hole for Illinois. First he drained a contested runner from the lane, then he hit a deep jumper just before the buzzer to send the Wolverines to the locker room at halftime leading 35-27.
Illinois started the second half with an unforced turnover, but quickly overcame the error thanks to a converted and-one by Sam McLaurin and a fastbreak layup from Tracy Abrams. Two minutes into the half Illinois had cut the Wolverines lead to 5, 39-34.The final few points of Michigans lead proved to be too big an obstacle for the Illini, however.
After narrowing the gap the hosts threw the ball away, lost the handle, or let the rebounds fall to Michigan. The errors piled up, and a few minutes into the second half Illinois had a run four straight turnovers. The Wolverines eagerly converted after the turnovers, increasing their lead to 50-37 after a steal from Glenn Robinson III and a layup by Burke with 14:28 to play.
Illinois would get the deficit below double-digits a few more times, but each time the Wolverines found a way to kill the Illinis momentum. A DJ Richardson floater with 11 minutes to play lessened the gap to nine, but the excitement from the shot would quickly dissipate as Tim Hardaway Jr. drained a 3-pointer at the other end.
Two minutes later a Richardson three followed closely by a Joseph Bertrand jumper brought the score to 55-48. A Mitch McGary tip-in dashed the enthusiasm of the fans at Assembly Hall, though. When Burke followed up with a steal and fast-break dunk, the air was sucked from the home crowd.
Groce said his team lived to regret those missed opportunities.
Those were critical moments in the game where maybe we had a chance, he said. When things arent going well on offense we cant tie that in our mind and let it affect how were doing on the defensive end.
Michigan played out the last few minutes comfortably as the Assembly Hall audience trickled out. The Illini came up with a few baskets in the final minutes, but not enough to make a difference on the outcome.
Groce walked off the court not upset with his team or their effort, but impressed with Michigan.
Michigan is really good, obviously. They have a lot of weapons. We tried to limit Burke, but they had some other guys hurt us, he said.
The three Illini guards finished in double figures, with Paul leading the team with 15 points, Richardson scoring 12 and Abrams netting 10. Their contributions were overshadowed by Burke, Nick Stauskas (14 pts.), Robinson and Hardaway (12 pts., each).
The loss to Michigan was the beginning of a tough road for the Illini. In their next five game the team will play four top 15 opponents. The challenge is a welcome one for Illinois, however.
Our guys like challenges. We play a lot of good teams and I think they like that, Groce said.
Were going to prepare for every team the same way. Its a good league, we knew that coming in, Richardson elaborated. Well keep our chins up and try to get better in practice.
The way Beilein praised the Illini after the game, its easy to believe he expects the team to improve and make a good run in their next few games.
Sometimes its a matter of a couple guys hitting shots to give you confidence, he said. When you play that way it can be difficult at timestheyll shoot their way out of it eventually.
Illinois will try to shoot better on Thursday when the team travels to East Lansing to play number 13 Michigan State.

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A number of teammates took the field for the first time with DeShone Kizer during the cacophony of Sunday night’s atmosphere at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. And much as Kizer did last year, he led the Irish offense with a certain kind of poise and mentality that deftly toes the line between confident and cocky. 

“When we were down by two touchdowns or when it was tied, he had the same demeanor,” sophomore receiver C.J. Sanders said. “That really speaks volumes about him as a man.”

Kizer wowed his teammates a year ago when he subbed in for the injured Malik Zaire and threw a game-winning touchdown to Will Fuller. It wasn’t just for the throw, but it was also for the way in which the quarterback conducted himself in a hostile, pressure-packed environment. 

Last year’s Irish offense, though, was loaded with leaders. Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Chris Brown were pillars on that team, and there were veterans all around like Fuller, C.J. Prosise, Steve Elmer and Amir Carlisle. 

Notre Dame only returned a handful of upperclassmen who played on that 2015 team in Kizer, Torii Hunter Jr., Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson (running back Tarean Folston was injured in Week 1 against Texas, and tight end Durham Smythe missed the remainder of the regular season after an injury in Week 2). 

So that meant there was quite a bit of inexperience permeating Notre Dame’s offense Sunday night. But some of those greenhorns said Kizer’s composure and confidence helped them ease into a roaringly-intense evening. 

“When we were down, he brought us together and said we’re going to drive and score and come back,” sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown said, adding that message from Kizer gave him and the rest of the Irish offense a confidence boost in the second half. 

“What young guys typically don’t understand when they go into that environment is that it’s not too much different from what you’re doing in practice,” Kizer said. “When you step in front of 100,000 people, there’s a lot of noise and that could definitely create some adrenaline. But other than that, we’re playing the same game that we’ve been playing all summer. 

“The plays have been made time and time again all offseason and just understanding that when they’re out there, they’re expected to make those same exact plays and all they have to do is do that and do that well. You don’t have to go out there and be someone else. We have a really good coaching staff who put you in good positions to make big plays and all you have to do is execute what they say.” 

Leadership is one of those nebulous things every football player and coach will tell you is necessary, but it’s a quality that’s impossible to quantify. It’s not an end-all, be-all for an offense or defense — Notre Dame, after all, didn’t score when it got the ball back after Jarron Jones’ miraculous blocked PAT, which probably had more to do with the loss of Hunter Jr. than anything else — but it is something that can be pointed to as an asset in close games. 

And with Kizer quarterbacking the offense, Notre Dame has to feel confident in its ability to hang in close games. It still needs its special teams, defense (which was primarily behind recent losses to Stanford and Texas) and coaching (behind the loss to Clemson) to come through, but the next time Notre Dame finds itself in a high-pressure, hostile situation, it can count on Kizer to keep things calm. 

And that counts for something, whatever the extent of it is. 

“Before the game he kind of talked to us, got in front of us and told us hey, I don’t care how young you are, I know you guys can make plays,” Sanders said. “So just hearing that from him developed a comfort level to know that he can depend on us. Hearing that from him really made a big difference.” 

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola didn't have the season they were hoping for in 2015-16 but they're optimistic that things can turn around for the upcoming season. Even though the Loyola roster is filled with newcomers, the Ramblers are hopeful that a summer trip to Spain can help give them a head start.

As part of the trip, Loyola will get 10 extra practices and four games against Spanish competition that will give the team some much-needed experience before practice officially begins in October.

Head coach Porter Moser is already happy about working with this group, which features some productive returnees and a lot of talented newcomers.

"We play four games over there. They get that feel of being coached in a game at this level with their teammates," Moser said. "So then when we start back up in October they have a sense of some of the things we're trying to teach, some of the things of what to expect. And I think that's such a big element."

On a team full of new players, it will be important for senior guard Milton Doyle to have a bounce-back year for Loyola after a disappointing junior campaign. A former star at Marshall, Doyle saw his shooting percentages dip last season as the Loyola coaching staff challenged him to improve for his final season of college basketball. 

Moser is happy with the strides that Doyle has made this summer as he's added over 10 pounds of muscle to now play at 192 pounds. Also committed on the defensive end of the floor and being a team leader, Doyle is the Ramblers' only senior this season, so he'll be counted on to be a productive presence.

"It's a lot this year just because we had four seniors leave last year and I'm the last senior," Doyle said. "So it's my job to make sure everyone stays on track and everyone is uplifted, even when coaches get on them. That's my job right now."

Junior wing Donte Ingram — a former Simeon product — and junior guard Ben Richardson also return as key contributors from last year's team while Iowa State transfer guard Clayton Custer is expected to come in and be a major factor in the team's backcourt rotation.

As for the newcomers, Moser compared juco transfer forward Aundre Jackson favorably to former Loyola forward Christian Thomas while Vlatko Granic gives the team a stretch option at forward that they didn't have in the past. The team's freshmen are also very talented as guard Matt Chastain has shown solid athleticism and a good basketball IQ through some early practices. 

Another freshman guard, Cameron Satterwhite, is coming off of a torn ACL that cost him his senior season, but the Loyola staff is optimistic about his recovery for this season. Croatian freshman guard Bruno Skokna is also recovering from injury as he has played against professionals in Europe the last few seasons on an amateur contract. He is expected to be cleared soon so that he can return to action this season.

"I love this group because it's a group full of gym rats. This is a really enthusiastic group," Moser said. "They've come together, we've got a lot of newcomers. That's the benefit, that's why we did the Spain trip this summer."

Loyola takes its trip to Spain from Aug. 12-22 as they'll hit cities like Barcelona and Madrid during the trip.