College Sports

McKendree ready to take on Fighting Illini

Belleville East graduate Malcolm Hill scored 21 points to lead Illinois to a season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State Friday. The Illini will take on McKendree University in an exhibition Tuesday.
Belleville East graduate Malcolm Hill scored 21 points to lead Illinois to a season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State Friday. The Illini will take on McKendree University in an exhibition Tuesday. Associated Press

The McKendree University men’s basketball team will play its second and final exhibition game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Illinois.

Illinois has won its first two regular-season contests, defeating Southeast Missouri 81-62 on Friday before rallying in the second half to post a 79-64 win over Northern Kentucky University.

Senior guard Malcolm Hill, a Belleville East graduate, earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors by averaging 30.5 points and 10 rebounds in the two wins for the Fighting Illini. Hill poured in 40 points during the win Sunday over Northern Kentucky.

This will be the Bearcats’ second visit to the State Farm Center in the last four seasons. On Oct. 24, 2013, McKendree sprinted to a double-digit lead in the first half before Illinois rallied to post a 101-66 decision. Jackson, Yates and senior forward Brian Koch all made their collegiate debuts for the Bearcats in that contest.

Following the game at Illinois, McKendree will play nine of its next 10 games at home, beginning with a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Saturday against Crowley’s Ridge College.

McKendree defeated Southern Illinois University Edwardsville 91-84 on on Nov. 5. It was the Bearcats’ first win against an NCAA Division I program since Dec. 5, 1996, when McKendree took down Southeast Missouri State. The Bearcats’ win over SIUE came in the first meeting between the two program since the 1991-92 campaign.

McKendree tipped off its regular season schedule Saturday with a 97-57 triumph over Robert Morris-Springfield.

Five different players scored in double figures for the Bearcats, including a game-high 27 points for junior guard Justin Blanks. He was 8-for-13 from the field in his home debut for McKendree while knocking down all eight of his free throw attempts. As a team, the Bearcats connected on 87.1 percent (27-for-31) of their tries from the foul line while limiting the Eagles to just 30-percent shooting (23-for-76) from the floor.

Senior guard Michael Jackson added 16 points while freshman center Nolan Gerling, who registered 32 points and 14 rebounds in the Bearcats’ win at SIUE, helped out against Robert Morris with 14 points and a team-leading eight rebounds.

Sophomore guard Nate Michael and junior forward Rob Hudson chipped in with 10 points each as senior guard Kyle Yates dished out a game-high eight assists.

McKendree coach Harry Statham, in his 51st season, collected career win No. 1,102 on Saturday night. Statham is the all-time wins leader in college basketball history at the four-year level, men’s and women’s combined.

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