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.

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

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Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head

Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door - including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million - far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

University of Illinois starting pitcher Cody Sedlock was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday.

The junior from Sherrard, Ill., led the conference in strikeouts (116) and innings pitched (101.1).

He is the fifth Illini pitcher to take home the award, following Tyler Jay who was given the honor last year — and later went on to be picked No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2015 MLB draft. It's the second time in program history that an Illini pitcher has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The right-hander Sedlock is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft on June 9.

Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

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Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

Loyola women's basketball coach Sheryl Swoopes is under investigation for coaching practices at the university.

The investigation was sparked after 10 of the team's 12 players have transferred or have requested releases — nine having been recruited by Swoopes. Loyola began an "independent and comprehensive university investigation" on April 15.

According to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, five former players have stated that Swoopes' "unusual coaching style" was the reason behind their exits.

Swoopes has declined to comment on any allegations, according to Ryan. Loyola released the following statement on Thursday:

"Until the investigation is completed, the athletics department and women's basketball coaching staff are conducting business as usual as we prepare for the 2016-2017 season."

Swoopes is listed as one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. She was hired to coach Loyola's women's basketball team in 2013.

Click here to read the full story from the Chicago Tribune.