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College basketball

Illini win miraculous 
Big Ten championship

By Jeff Mayfield

[MARCH 4, 2002]   Led by Lincoln’s Brian Cook on Sunday afternoon, Illinois showed the world why they are named the Fighting Illini.

Down by nine points in Minnesota with just over three minutes to play, it looked like the final nail was going into the Orange and Blue coffin.

Suddenly there were reports that both Lazarus and the Illini were coming back from the dead. And when Frank Williams stripped the ball away and Cory Bradford drilled one of his five 3-pointers on the day, Illinois was down by only one with 6.9 seconds to play.

Frankie then hushed the crowd in an aptly named sold-out arena by sending a high-arching banker that floated softly through the twine.

Why do I say aptly named? Because the barn is known as "Williams" arena!

Frank’s shot set off a wild celebration throughout the state, which hopefully will sober up by Friday!

Lincoln’s Brian Cook did all he could to set up the celebration by registering a double-double, tallying 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Illinois finishes league play tied for the Big Ten championship with Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio State! The Illini get the No. 3 seed and will face the Penn State-Minnesota winner Friday night at 8:10 p.m.

How sweet it is!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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Field set for Big Ten tourney

[MARCH 4, 2002]  PARK RIDGE — The field is set for the 2002 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament that will take place Thursday-Sunday, March 7-10, at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Co-Big Ten champion Wisconsin (18-11, 11-5) earned the No. 1 seed after winning a tiebreaker among four teams. Fellow conference winner Ohio State (20-7, 11-5) nabbed the No. 2 seed. With a win over Minnesota on Sunday afternoon, Illinois (23-7, 11-5) collected a share of their second straight league crown and the No. 3 seed in the tournament, while co-conference champ Indiana (19-10, 11-5) was awarded the No. 4 seed.

All four teams received a first-round bye, along with No. 5 seed Michigan State (19-10, 10-6), and will start tournament play on Friday, March 8.

The fifth annual 2002 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off for the first time in the state of Indiana with a local flavor, as No. 8 Purdue (13-17, 5-11) will face No. 9 Iowa (16-14, 5-11), the defending tournament champion, at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 7, on ESPN2. The four previous conference tournaments were contested at the United Center in Chicago.

The second game of the tournament will feature No. 7 Northwestern (16-12, 7-9) against No. 10 Michigan (10-17, 5-11) at 4:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.

The final game on Thursday will be No. 6 Minnesota (16-11, 9-7) and No. 11 Penn State (7-20, 3-13), with a 7:10 p.m. EST tipoff on ESPN Regional.


Day two will begin with the No. 4-5 contest at 11:30 a.m. EST (ESPN2), as Indiana will face Michigan State, which has won five straight games and emerged victorious in two other conference tournaments.

Wisconsin, which earned its first No. 1 seed in the five-year history of the tournament, will begin its quest for its first tournament title, at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN2 against the Purdue-Iowa victor.

No. 2 Ohio State will also aim for its first tourney crown, on Friday at 6:40 p.m. EST (ESPN Regional) versus the Northwestern-Michigan winner.

The second day will conclude with No. 3 Illinois facing the Minnesota-Penn State winner at 9:10 p.m. EST (ESPN Regional), as the Illini aim for their third berth in the tourney final in the last four years.



[to top of second column in this article]

The Big Ten Tournament semifinals will take place on Saturday, March 9, with the first game beginning at 1:45 p.m. EST on CBS. Game two will start 30 minutes following the conclusion of game one, at approximately 4:05 p.m. EST.

The tournament will conclude with the championship game on Sunday, March 10, at 3:30 p.m. EST on CBS.

Iowa became the lowest-seeded team to win the Big Ten Tournament last season, as the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes won four games in four days to clinch the tournament crown and an automatic NCAA championship berth. Iowa’s win ended a string of two straight Big Ten Tournament titles by Michigan State, as the Spartans won it all in 2000 and 1999, while Michigan won the inaugural event in 1998.

A limited number of full-session ticket packages for the 2002 Big Ten Conference Tournament are still available and on sale for $225 to the general public. Tickets are available at the Conseco Fieldhouse box office, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone numbers and

Click here to see the tournament brackets, with teams, dates, times and television (in Adobe Acrobat). [Click here to download Adobe Acrobat reader.]

[Scott Chipman, Big Ten Conference]


High school basketball

Class AA regional

[MARCH 2, 2002]   


Lincoln                          9   20  34   58

Champaign Central       14  17  27   44

Lincoln stats

Bunch 3-6-12, Farmer 6-12-28, Komnick 0-0-0, Wilder 0-0-0, Peters 0-0-0, Schonauer 1-0-3, Schrader 3-0-7, Welch 0-0-0, Young 1-6-8

Totals 14-24-58

Three-point field goals: Farmer 4, Schonauer, Schrader

From their second regional win, the Railers move on to face Springfield Lanphier, second- ranked in the state, on Tuesday evening in Springfield.

See more pictures of the game

College basketball

[MARCH 2, 2002]   


Lincoln Christian                 23  38 — 61

Marantha Baptist                30  37 — 67

Lincoln Christan stats

Robbins 6-1-14, Urton 0-3-3, Szoztek 2-0-4, Wright 7-5-20, Wertin 3-1-8, O'Malley 2-4-8, Devore 0-0-0, Jewell 2-0-4

Totals 22-14-61

Three-point field goals: Robbins, Wright, Wertin

College basketball

LCC game results

[MARCH 1, 2002]   


Emmaus                  39  23 — 62

Lincoln Christian     31  30 — 61

Lincoln stats

Clark 7-0-15, Raymer 3-1-7, Okusami 3-0-6, Grooms 4-2-10, Searby 4-1-9, Gordon 0-1-1, Below 5-3-13

Three-point field goal: Clark


Lincoln Christian     36  27 — 63

Moody Bible          19  23 — 42

Lincoln stats

Robbins 7-0-16, Szostek 2-0-4, Wright 5-3-14, Wertin 3-0-6, O’Malley 6-0-12, Jewell 4-3-11,

Three-point field goals: Robbins 2, Wright

Reichle leads ’Birds past Sycamores
and to an improved season

By Jeff Mayfield and the LDN sports staff

[MARCH 1, 2002]  I love the way that Steph Reichle plays basketball. I played with a scowl on my face. Steph plays with a smile on hers. She bounces off the bench during the starting lineups, and she doesn’t stop bouncing until the game is over. She could give my boy’s Tigger in his room a run for his money! Her upbeat attitude is infectious to her teammates, and never was that the case more than in last night’s thrilling 70-67 nail-biter over the visiting Indiana State Sycamores.

Reichle led a balanced attacked with an incredible line. She tallied nine points and was the team leader in rebounds with six, mostly because of her all-out hustle. She also had three assists and three steals while foul trouble limited her to 27 minutes of action.


[Steph Reichle on right, No. 22]
[Photo by Jeff Mayfield]

She says that she is now 100 percent after knee surgery, but what she won’t tell you is that she really is a warrior. She’s had two cortisone shots, one just a few weeks ago.

You couple her desire to rehab and get stronger with her intensity and focus and the energy and leadership that she brings to the floor, and what have you got? Another great player from Lincoln. It’s almost becoming redundant.

ISU got off to a slow start and dug a huge hole for themselves. But Reichle said, "We picked up our defense and our intensity and played tighter on them." Whatever it was, it sure did work, as the ’Birds fought back from a 4-12 deficit at the 15:29 mark and had clawed to within 18-22 with 7:54 left. By halftime the Redbirds were up 35-32.

They continued the fight in the second half, as Reichle’s inspired play showed her hitting some big baskets, including a nifty little left-handed scoop shot, and dishing to the hot hands of Heidi Harnisch, Taren O’Brien, Stacey White and Michelle Harakas. The Redbirds led by as many as eight points, at 59-51 with 9:16 left in the game. But the Sycamores came roaring back to lead at the 3:34 TV timeout by a score of 65-64.

Reichle made some spectacular plays down the stretch. One of her scintillating entry passes in the post was nullified when a bunny was missed. On another she could have made the game-winning shot but unselfishly kicked the ball back to White, who was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer. Stacey calmly canned the first two free throws, and O’Brien added one more for the final margin.

The LDN sports staff caught up with Reichle, who was moving a little slower after the game.

LDN: How’s the knee?

Steph: It’s basically 100 percent.

LDN: Very few teams will finish this season with a win. What did this game mean to you in Kristi Larson’s last collegiate game?

Steph: It was very emotional for her, for me and for all of our teammates. We wanted to play hard for her, and we wanted her to go out with a win. And we got it for her.

LDN: Why did you dig so deep of a hole? Was it because tonight was so emotional?

Steph: We were not in sync. Once we started executing, I knew that we would be all right. Before the game we said that we wanted to win and leave this season with a good taste in our mouths, and that’s what we did. We even talked about tonight being the start of next season for us. We’re 1-0!

LDN: How does the future look for you and for the Lady Redbirds?

[to top of second column in this article]

Steph: With the players that we have returning and with the recruits that we’re going to get… our future is very bright. The off-season will be the determining factor for us. I will be working out in the gym a lot. Hopefully my teammates will join me at least four times a week in the weight room and out on the court. We all want to work hard so that we can improve for next season.

LDN: Will you be scouting the AA state tourney for recruits that can help ISU?

Steph: Yes, we will be going to the Olney game to see a recruit, and we will be cheering Kassie Drew (former CS8 opponent and daughter of SH-G coach Jim Drew). Tonight many of those girls were in the stands for this big event. We wanted to make a positive, lasting impression on them, and I think we did that.

LDN: What was the turning point for you this year?

Steph: After the huge upset win over Creighton, I thought we had turned the corner, but our inconsistency didn’t allow that to happen. I think some of our girls didn’t realize how big the transition from high school ball to college ball would be. It’s much more aggressive, and it’s much more intense. You have to be ready to play a much more physical style and be ready for the emotions of the faster-paced game. Now that we have that experience, it will really help us for next season.

LDN: How ’bout a prediction for next year’s team? Wouldn’t a .500 season be a huge step in the right direction?

Steph: It would be… but, I’m placing no limits on us next year! NO LIMITS! We need to focus on our team and not worry about what the other teams are doing. Playing for a very successful high school team in Lincoln made me hungry for more wins and for team success. I want to bring that experience and that leadership to next year’s squad.

LDN: How will you do that?

Steph: I have to walk the walk. Every day I try to compete on every play, and I will continue to do that.

LDN: What grade to give you and your team for this season?

Steph: And A and a C. When we were focused and executed it was an A, but far too often our focus was not there and we were a C. When we played solidly for 35-40 minutes, we got high marks. For me personally, I turned it around after the Bradley game. Coach Yopp called me out in front of my teammates. She told me that I needed to step up and provide leadership for our team. I took her seriously, and that’s what I did. I plan to continue to do that next season. I can help the girls go over the scouting reports and how to break down film. I bring focus and how to get prepared properly. I’m really excited about our future.

Steph, on behalf of the entire LDN staff, congratulations to you and the Lady Redbirds on your improvement this season. We all wish you and the team the best during the off-season as you strive to become the team you want to be next year! Thanks for taking the time to let your loyal fans know how you’re doing.

[Jeff Mayfield and the LDN sports staff]


Pre-game notes: Illinois vs. Minnesota  (men)

[MARCH 1, 2002]   

[Click here for background information (in Adobe Acrobat).]

[Click here to download Adobe Acrobat reader.]

High school basketball

Class AA regional

[FEB. 28, 2002]   


Rantoul       11  20  32   48

Lincoln       10  23  28   55

Lincoln stats

Bunch 1-1-3, Farmer 0-11-11, Gallagher 2-0-4, Schonauer 2-0-6, Schrader 1-0-3, Welch 1-0-2, Young 6-14-26,

Three-point field goals: Schonauer 2, Schrader


[Photos by Bob Frank]

College basketball

Lincoln College vs. John Wood

[FEB. 28, 2002]   


John Wood          23  30 — 53

Lincoln College    25  32 — 57

Lincoln stats

Roberson 5-2-13, Clark 2-0-5, Fowler 1-0-2, Turner 3-5-12, Kehr 1-0-2, Sams 2-4-6, Major 1-4-6, Hollyfield 2-2-7, Bowen 1-0-2

Three-point field goals: Roberson, Clark, Turner, Hollyfield

Going out a winner is Redbird priority

[FEB. 28, 2002]   Although falling short of a team goal — to reach the eight-team State Farm-Missouri Valley Conference Tournament — Steph Reichle and the Illinois State University women’s basketball team have a chance to become one of the few teams in the nation to end the season with a winning note, when the Redbirds meet Indiana State at 8:05 p.m. Thursday in Redbird Arena.

"Only a few teams, like the national champions, finish the season with a win," said Reichle, whose inspired play at both ends of the court in recent weeks has been a bright spot for Illinois State, 6-20 overall, 4-13 in the Missouri Valley. "We have a great opportunity to become one of those teams. We have a chance. We have to take it."

To Reichle, it’s more than just the trivia of "Which teams won their final game of the 2001-02 season?"

"If the team can finish the season with a win, that’s something positive going into next year," said Reichle, who is one of two juniors on a team which bids farewell to just one senior, Kristi Larson, after the Indiana State game. "We’re also looking at this game not as an ending but as a start to next season. We have a lot of work to do before next season. This can be a head start for this team."

Redbird coach Jenny Yopp believes her team’s chances to reach the goal of going out a winner would be enhanced if all her charges followed Reichle’s recent determination and consistency. The junior guard has moved into the Valley’s top 10 in offensive rebounds and steals with big late-season numbers, including an 11-rebound, seven-assist, three-steal performance Sunday at Wichita State.

"Steph is evidence of how maturity helps you perform as a player," said Yopp. "She has controlled her emotions with her performance, especially in the last few weeks. She does not get rattled or upset. She’s very consistent on the court. Steph is what I expect of the class which will be juniors (next year). It’s maturity."


[to top of second column in this article]

In the context of starting next year now, Yopp has some specific areas targeted for team improvement.

"Getting stronger will make us better rebounders," said Yopp. "Ball-handling and one-on-one shooting are other areas of focus; we’ve seen our ball-handling improve, and it needs to continue in that direction. In shooting, we need our players to move beyond their main strength; players arrive as 3-point shooters or post-up players, and we need them to develop the ‘middle game,’ which includes the jump shot."

Since a 1-5 conference start, Indiana State has been one of the league’s most consistent teams. The Sycamores, 11-15 overall, 7-10 in league play, had won six of nine conference games until losing in overtime in both ends of the Wichita State-Southwest Missouri State trip.

Missouri Valley Conference scoring leader Kourtney Mennen already has broken the Sycamore single-season record for 3-point field goals with 75. If Valley women’s basketball selected a "most-improved" team, junior center Kristin Stewart would be a shoo-in. Her 13 points and eight rebounds per game are double her previous season averages.

[ISU news release]


[Click here for Illinois State vs. Indiana State pre-game notes.]


College basketball

Five Redbirds claim Valley honors

Alexander chosen for all-freshman team

[FEB. 27, 2002]   ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Illinois State’s Baboucarr Bojang was named to the Missouri Valley Conference second team and all-newcomer squad by a vote of the league’s coaches and media on Tuesday. In addition, Gregg Alexander was elected to the all-freshman team and Randy Rice was chosen for the all-defensive team. Rice, along with fellow senior Shawn Jeppson, were each named honorable mention all-conference.

Creighton’s Kyle Korver, a junior from Pella, Iowa, was named the Valley Player of the Year. In addition to that honor, Korver was tabbed first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference for the first time. Korver becomes only the third Creighton Bluejay to receive league player-of-the-year recognition, joining Bob Harstad (1990) and Chad Gallagher (1991).

Wichita State’s Randy Burns, a freshman from Houston, Texas, is the Valley Freshman of the Year. Ranked among the league’s top 10 for free throw percentage (.819) and 3-point field goal percentage (.422), Burns — a 5-foot-11, 179-pound guard — is the first Shocker to earn freshman-of-the-year honors since former WSU standout Jason Perez received the league’s top freshman award for 1996-97.

The league’s Defensive Player of the Year — selected by the conference’s head coaches — is Southern Illinois’ Rolan Roberts. A senior from Woodbridge, Va., Roberts — a 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward — is the second Saluki taught by head coach Bruce Weber to win the honor. The other was Monte Jenkins in 1998-99.

A Valley player-of-the-week selection on Nov. 26, Roberts is also the conference’s 2002 Newcomer of the Year. The league’s top shot-blocker with 2.63 deflections per game, Roberts ranks among league leaders for scoring (14.3), rebounding (7.2) and field goal percentage (.607), and is the first Saluki to earn newcomer-of-the-year plaudits since Chris Thunell in 1997-98.

For the fifth consecutive season, the league’s head coaches selected a "Sixth Man Award" recipient, and this season’s honor goes to Creighton’s Terrell Taylor. The honor is presented to the league’s top reserve player.

2001-02 Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball all-conference awards


First team

Kyle Korver, Creighton

Robbie Sieverding, Northern Iowa

Kent Williams, Southern Illinois

Luke McDonald, Drake

Rolan Roberts, Southern Illinois

Second team

Mike Wallace, Southwest Missouri State

Scott Brakebill, Southwest Missouri State

Baboucarr Bojang, Illinois State

Brody Deren, Creighton

Terrance McGee, Southwest Missouri State

Phillip Gilbert, Bradley


[to top of second column in this article]

Honorable mention

Shawn Jeppson, Illinois State

Jermaine Dearman, Southern Illinois

David Gruber, Northern Iowa

Terrell Taylor, Creighton

Djibril Kante, Indiana State

Dan Lytle, Evansville

Kelyn Block, Indiana State

Randy Burns, Wichita State

Andry Sola, Drake

Randy Rice, Illinois State

Terrell Benton, Wichita State

Player of the Year

Kyle Korver, Creighton

All-newcomer team

Rolan Roberts, Southern Illinois

Baboucarr Bojang, Illinois State

Terrance McGee, Southwest Missouri State

David Gruber, Northern Iowa

Brody Deren, Creighton

Newcomer of the Year

Rolan Roberts, Southern Illinois

All-freshman team

Randy Burns, Wichita State

Danny Granger, Bradley

Chris Foster, Northern Iowa

Jamar Howard, Wichita State

Gregg Alexander, Illinois State

Freshman of the Year

Randy Burns, Wichita State

Defensive Player of the Year

Rolan Roberts, Southern Illinois

All-defensive team

Rolan Roberts, Southern Illinois

Randy Rice, Illinois State

James Gillingham, Bradley

Marcus Howard, Indiana State

Jamar Howard, Wichita State

Sixth-Man Award winner

Terrell Taylor, Creighton

College basketball

Big Ten Co-Players of the Week named

[FEB. 26, 2002]   Robert Archibald of the Illini and Adam Ballinger of the Michigan State Badgers have been named Big Ten Co-Players of the Week.

Robert Archibald

University of Illinois

Senior; forward; Ballwin, Mo.; Lafayette

Archibald was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week after averaging a double-double in two wins on the week, with 16.0 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while shooting an astounding 82.4 percent from the field, hitting 14 of 17 shot attempts. Despite playing with a sprained wrist, the senior forward recorded a pair of career-high performances on the week, beginning with a 25-point effort in Illinois’ win over Penn State to equal a career best. Archibald added 10 rebounds against the Nittany Lions for his first double-double of the year and third of his career. He hit 11 of 12 shots against PSU for a shooting percentage of 91.7 percent, the second-best shooting performance in UI school history. Archibald followed that performance by setting a career high with 13 rebounds against Northwestern while adding seven points, three blocks and three assists.

The Illini senior nabs his first conference weekly honor while becoming the second UI player to be selected this season. Teammate Frank Williams was picked as a co-winner last week.

[to top of second column in this article]

Adam Ballinger

Michigan State

Junior; forward; Bluffton, Ind.; Bluffton

Ballinger becomes the first Spartan to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season, after guiding Michigan State to a pair of wins over teams ahead of MSU in the conference standings. The junior forward shot 60 percent from the field while averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 boards per game in wins over Minnesota and Indiana, as the Spartans climbed into a tie for fifth place at 8-6 in league play. Ballinger set a career high with 20 points against the Gophers, hitting seven of 12 shots and adding nine boards. He added 13 points and seven boards against Big Ten-leading Indiana on Sunday, including a crucial 3-pointer with one minute left to tie the game at 53-53, the first tie since the start of the game.

[Scott Chipman, associate director of communications, Big Ten Conference]



Pre-game notes: Illinois vs. Indiana  (men)

[FEB. 26, 2002]   

[Click here for background information (in Adobe Acrobat).]

[Click here to download Adobe Acrobat reader]

Redbirds deal Aces an 82-73 OT loss on Senior Night

[FEB. 26, 2002]   NORMAL — Senior Shawn Jeppson scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the second half as the Illinois State Redbirds defeated the Purple Aces of Evansville in overtime, 82-73, on Senior Night at Redbird Arena. The win gives Illinois State the No. 3 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, which begins Friday, March 1.

The Redbirds, 16-13 overall, 12-6 in the conference, outscored the Aces 16-7 in the extra period, shooting 83 percent (5-for-6) from the field. Besides Jeppson, three other ’Birds reached double figures in scoring. Senior Shedrick Ford and junior Baboucarr Bojang each scored 15 points, while freshman Gregg Alexander chipped in 11. Bojang also paced Illinois State on the boards with a game-high 11 rebounds, collecting his ninth double-double of the season.

Evansville, 7-20 overall, 4-14 in the Valley, shot only 33 percent in overtime after shooting 52 percent (28-for-54) from the field in regulation. Senior Tobias Brinkley led the Aces with 23 points and nine rebounds, while junior Ian Hanavan turned in 22 points and eight rebounds. Both Brinkley (11-for-18) and Hanavan (9-for-18) shot over 50 percent from the field in the game.

[to top of second column in this article]

With the Aces up 39-37 at the half, Illinois State tied it up on their first possession of the second half off a short jumper by Bojang from the free-throw line. Evansville could muster only two field goals in the first seven minutes of the second half, and the ’Birds were able to jump to an eight-point lead, 53-45.

However, hot shooting by Brinkley and junior Larry Ferguson down the stretch brought the Aces back, and Hanavan’s free throw with 1:28 remaining in regulation proved to be enough to send the game to overtime at 66-66.

Illinois State will face the No. 6 seed in the Valley at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, at the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Mo.

[ISU news release]

Reichle gives heroic effort as Shockers get even

[FEB. 26, 2002]   WICHITA, Kan. — Wichita State rode Carlesa Dixon’s 20 points and 13 rebounds to a 74-56 victory over Illinois State in a Missouri Valley Conference game Sunday at Henry Levitt Arena, evening the score for a 68-64 Redbird win a month ago in Redbird Arena.

The Redbird loss, which knocked Illinois State out of contention for a spot in the eight-team State Farm-Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, came despite a heroic effort by Steph Reichle, who had a strong floor game, including 11 rebounds, a season-high seven assists, seven points and three steals. With three field goals, Reichle had a hand in 10 of ISU’s 16 baskets, plus one-third of its rebounds and half of its steals.

Redbird coach Jenny Yopp was impressed with Reichle’s all-out effort at both ends of the court.

"Steph’s focus is always on the right things — helping her team win a basketball game," said Yopp. "She isn’t caught up in herself and she helps her team because she does so many things that don’t show up in the box score."

Yopp was less impressed with her team’s total intensity.

"Wichita State is an athletic team," said Yopp. "But we didn’t give the same effort we gave against them at Redbird Arena. You need to come out and play good defense to win on the road."


[to top of second column in this article]

Wichita State, 12-13, 7-9 in the Valley, earned a 50-32 rebounding edge, including 20 offensive rebounds. On Senior Day for the Shockers and the final women’s basketball game at Levitt, WSU went to the free-throw line frequently, hitting 28 of 33 to Illinois State’s 19 of 26.

ISU, 6-20, 4-12, shot cold from the start, hitting just seven of 28 first-half attempts, including a seven-minute dry spell without a field goal. Even though the Redbirds made 11 of 14 free throws in the first half, WSU hit 18 of 19 from the line thanks to ISU’s 15 first-half fouls. The ’Birds finished with 27, matching their team high for a game this season.

Leading 39-25 at halftime, WSU pushed the advantage to 20 points, thanks to eight Dixon tallies during a 13-4 Shocker run to start the second half. WSU led 52-32 with 14 minutes remaining. ISU came no closer than 16 after that.

The Redbirds finish the season in a special 8:05 p.m. start Thursday at Redbird Arena against Indiana State.

[ISU news release]

Reichle knows ’Birds need to be focused on the court

[FEB. 26, 2002]   WICHITA, Kan. — "Nu-um-ber 12, Beth HU-ston ... THREE-E-EE points!" came the call over the public address system. The "crowd" went wild.

No, it wasn’t Dave Colee or Steve Adams’ familiar call in Redbird Arena... It was Steph Reichle on the Illinois State team bus before it departed for Saturday’s team practice. Reichle gave each a stylish introduction, including Beth Huston, who soaked up the resulting cheers with an embracing, appreciative smile worthy of a political candidate.

Nobody laughed harder than Reichle. But, a few minutes later, the junior guard was on the practice court, in her trademark low stance, face as intense as ever, preparing for the final regular-season road game against Wichita State in Henry Levitt Arena. She expected, and got, the same attitude from her teammates. They are the youngest squad in the Valley.

According to Reichle, the team’s ability to relax and have fun together — like the silliness on the bus — while knowing when it was time to focus, to prepare and play, has helped it to improve.

"Off the court, we’re easygoing and have a good time together," said Reichle. "We’ve stayed together and become good friends. But you can see the change on the court. In practice or in games, we’re focused."


[to top of second column in this article]

Redbird coach Jenny Yopp, a frequently vocal fan of Reichle’s on-court intensity and competitiveness, appreciates her squad’s togetherness and ability to act appropriately.

"This team is relaxed and they enjoy each other off the court," said Yopp. "On the court, this team has learned the importance of focused intensity. You need that to compete with teams like SMS in Springfield."

ISU dropped a 76-63 decision Friday at Southwest Missouri State in front of 7,037 fans.

"We played with composure against SMS," said Yopp. "No matter what happened on the court or how the crowd got into the game, we didn’t waver or get rattled."

Following the Sunday game against Wichita State, the Redbirds finish the regular season in a special 8:05 p.m. start Thursday against Indiana State at Redbird Arena. (Click here for pre-game notes.)

[ISU news release]

SMS spurts past Redbirds

[FEB. 26, 2002]   SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Behind the 15-point effort by Missouri native Taren O’Brien, Illinois State led early and pressured Southwest Missouri late, but the Lady Bears prevailed 76-63 on Friday evening before a crowd of 7,073 at Hammons Student Center.

The Bears opened the second half with an 11-2 run to extend their lead to double-digits as ISU made just one of its first six shots and SMS hit five of seven. SMS led by 12 in the first 10 minutes, 55-43, but the Redbirds trimmed that in half with a 9-3 rush, punctuated by an O’Brien trey with 7:49 left. Ninety seconds later, Steph Reichle cut the lead to 60-57 with a 3-point basket.

ISU never got closer, though, and the final score with the biggest difference, reflecting late free throws by the Bears. Carolyn Weirick led SMS with 17 points and Charlotte Nelson added 15. Erica Vicente had 10 assists.

Redbird coach Jenny Yopp thought the SMS crowd helped the Bears with that early second-half run.

"It’s a great atmosphere here," said Yopp, whose team made a season-high nine 3-point field goals. "Their sixth man, their ‘X’ factor, helped them to make that little spurt. It was tough on us because, when the crowd got into it, it was hard for our players to hear what they needed to hear on the court. Give them (the Bears) credit; they came out in the second half and did what they needed to do."

But Yopp was proud of the effort of her team, particularly the Savannah, Mo., native, O’Brien.

"This year, she was ready to return to her home state and return to where she went to camp, and put on a good performance," said Yopp. "Really, I’m proud of our young team because we certainly gave the best effort we have had here (in Springfield) in the time I’ve been at Illinois State. We had some foul trouble and got behind, but we never stopped battling."

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After SMS took an early 3-2 lead, Katie Donovan, who finished with 11 points, drained a 3-pointer with 17:51 left to start a 13-4 Redbird run, punctuated by a basket-and-free throw 3-point play by O’Brien and a Stacey White 3-point basket as Illinois State took a 15-7 lead with 14:11 left in the half.

Nicole Lehman came off the SMS bench to ignite a Bears rally that brought SMS back to a 23-22 lead. Second-chance points and Redbird turnovers helped SMS, but the ’Birds responded with a 3-pointer by Beth Huston to retake the lead despite the ’Birds missing White and Kristi Larson most of the half because of foul trouble.

ISU took its last lead of the half on Stacey Nickerson’s trey with 1:21 left, but Charlotte Nelson’s rebound basket and two Carolyn Weirick free throws helped SMS lead 35-32 at the intermission. The Redbirds shot 62.5 percent from the field and made five of seven 3-pointers.

The win for SMS, 15-9, 11-4 in the Valley, was the 200th league win for Lady Bears coach Cheryl Burnett, enabling her to surpass former Southern Illinois coach Cindy Scott for the all-time league wins record. Retired Illinois State coach Jill Hutchison is No. 3 with 170 from 1983-99. It was win No. 11 in a row for the Bears over Illinois State.

Illinois State, 6-19 overall, 4-12 in the Valley, remained in contention for a bid to the State Farm-Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, which the Bears host March 7-9.

[ISU news release]

Hoops hysteria

By Jeff Mayfield

[MARCH 4, 2002]   While I enjoyed growing up in Southern California and skateboarding and hittin’ the beach with my buddies out there, it doesn’t even compare with March Madness!

And, yes, they have great basketball out there. In fact, some of the all-time great hoopsters and current Hall of Famers hail from that region. It’s just that the weather is so nice there most of the time, that nobody cares about going indoors to watch anything, much less basketball.

On the other hand, here in the Midwest the world is an entirely different planet! I woke up this morning, picked Payne up out of his bed and went to turn on Clifford the Big Red Dog (what else would you be watchin’ at that time of the morning?). The weather update on the screen said that the temperature outside was 1 and that the wind chill was minus 12! Payne wanted me to flip to SportsCenter to get caught up on all the tourney results nationwide, and I gladly obliged him! What else are you gonna do in these weather conditions?


Railers get third crack

This year’s Railers have clawed, scratched, outworked, out-hustled, out-coached and outplayed their opponents en route to yet another 20-win season.

As we travel the state so many have told us what it would mean for their local high school team to have even one 20-victory campaign. So regardless how the rest of the season goes, the LDN salutes this year’s Railers! Nice going, fellas!

The Railers proved once again that what they may lack in size and athleticism, they make up for in preparation, execution and made free throws. Champaign Central is well coached and had a good game plan, but when Lincoln hits 24-of-25 free throws you’re not going to beat them.

We will go on record to say that if LCHS converts 24-of-25 charity tosses against Lanphier Tuesday night, they will walk off the court with an upset of epic proportions. It appears that no one thinks that they could ever beat this Lanphier team. And yes, it does have the potential to get ugly, but people said the same thing about the David-Goliath matchup until the blabbering bully went facedown in the dirt.


The Lions will still have to hit the shots and make the plays and prove that they really are the No. 2-ranked team in the state. And there is no reason to suspect that they are not that good. Some even say that they are the best team in the state and will have no problem runnin’ the table on their way to a state championship.

If they do it, we say, more power to them. Their coach Craig Patton, who is a former Lincoln coach, seems to be a nice enough guy; we would certainly wish him well IF they were to travel that road.

However, in order to travel that road they must get by the Railers first. Others have countered and said that Lincoln just saved Champaign the embarrassment of taking another shellacking from the Lions; that, on paper, these guys are one of the best teams ever in our state.

I’m sure glad that no game we’ve ever been involved in was played on paper! No one knows how a team is going to react, especially after last year when everyone was saying the exact same things. We recall that some other team went on to win the sectional title.


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We’re not saying that it would be easy to spring such an upset. It would take a near flawless performance. It would mean patiently breaking down one of the better presses that we’ve seen in a while. It would mean limiting the Lions to one shot per possession. It would take great overall team defense, moving feet so quickly as to not let dribble penetration take over the contest. It would mean contesting every shot and trying to force the opponents into taking off-balance, forced shots maybe quicker than they are ready to do so. It would take deliberate offensive flow, with good ball movement and excellent screens to free up the best shooters at just the right times. It would take a spectacular effort in the post both offensively and defensively. And it would take a huge coaching effort to even allow one’s self to even believe that an upset is even in the realm of possibility.

A wry smile has just come across our collective face. All the pressure in the world is on Lanphier. Everyone expects them to win and to win big… Well, maybe not everyone…


Will ISU keep playing?

The Redbirds won a thrilling contest over Drake Saturday night when Shawn Jeppson hit a 3-point prayer as time expired, leading ISU to a win over Drake. But the dreams hit the skids Sunday when Creighton took it to ISU big in the semis. Actually it sets the stage for the MVC’s two best regular-season teams to battle it out Monday night to see who gets the NCAA automatic bid.

But what about ISU’s postseason chances? ISU’s SID, Todd Kober and I have been speculating for the last couple of weeks that ISU really is deserving of an NIT bid. IF you look at the record over the last 10 games and consider how they have overcome injuries, and then if you look at a pretty decent RPI… I guess you could say that we’d be pretty disappointed if they don’t get an invite. It could result in a very difficult game on the road, but we’ve always believed that any postseason experience is a good experience. And what it could do for next year’s team would be huge. We’re keepin’ our fingers crossed for an engraved invitation!


Gratuitous manipulation

PLEASE join Greg Taylor and I Monday night on FIX-96.3 from 6 to 7 pm. Greg is ALREADY in Indy sending good Illini vibes all over the place in order to allow the Illini a deep tournament run. Tonight’s agenda will include high school sports, and obviously the IHSA A and AA tourneys; college sports — U of I, ISU, LC and LCC reports; Cub and Cardinal spring training updates; prize giveaways; and a whole lot more.

Call us at 648-5510 or toll free (877) 963-9669.

Team of the week:

The Illinois Fighting Illini, winners of back-to-back Big Ten championships. On behalf of your loyal LDN staff, CONGRATULATIONS!

[Jeff Mayfield]

Cook stifles Jeffries and Hoosiers

By Jeff Mayfield

[FEB. 27, 2002]   Going into last night’s contest with Indiana, Illinois was still mathematically alive in the Big Ten conference race. How in the world that was the case, this semiprofessional writer can’t tell you. When the Illini were mired in a three-game losing streak and a funk that reminded me of the Afro I sported during the swingin’ ’70s, not many were projecting the Illini to be in the title hunt when the final week of the season arrived. But, that’s exactly where they are!

One of the many ugly aspects of their performance in the throes of the losing streak was their lack of intensity on defense and just their overall lack of hustle. They were not closing out on perimeter shooters; they were not choking off entry passes to the post; and because of it, opponents were abusing the Illini inside and out.

On top of all that, Indiana coach Mike Davis commented earlier in the week that no one could stop Jared Jeffries. Somehow that word filtered through the basketball community and found its way to Lincoln’s own, Brian Cook. And the first few trips down the court, Cook made sure that Jeffries got the message that Brian isn’t no one. And even though Jeffries may win the award as the league’s best player (and it pains me to say it, but he probably deserves to), he wasn’t last night! Cook made sure of that.


[Photos by Jeff Mayfield]

Brian kept good position on him and on IU’s other would-be post players all night. He looked as if he was auditioning for a spot on the SWAT team as he rejected four Hoosier shots and altered several others. He led all players with six rebounds, and though he didn’t get a lot of touches, he finished the game with 15 points — many of which came at the line down the stretch in crunch time. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that it was Senior Night, because he was definitely the difference in the contest.

Illinois jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, but IU came storming back and actually took the lead themselves at the 11:32 mark at 9-7. But 3-pointers from Sean Harrington and Cory Bradford gave the Illini a 36-24 cushion at the half.

However, I did not feel that that lead was safe. Former Lincoln resident Curt Swan was at the game, visiting from Florida. I leaned over and told him at the break that this game would go to the wire, and in many ways it did.

For some reason IU (18-10, 10-5) seemed to be distracted by the officials from the opening tip. That eventually did not play in their favor, as they were rightly slapped for two technical fouls and one intentional foul. The outcome might have been different if poise and composure would have set in.


[to top of second column in this article]

The Illini were led in scoring by Frank Williams, who had 24 points, six rebounds and three assists and was 7-of-9 from the line during crunch time. Joining Cook and Williams in double figures was Bradford with 13. Nick Smith and Roger Powell had nice outings off the bench, which really helped the Illini, as Robert Archibald spent half the night on the bench in foul trouble.


IU had four players in double figures. Kyle Hornsby led the way with 14, Tom Coverdale had 13, Jeff Newton finished with 12, and Jarrad Odle chipped in 10.

Illinois won the battle of the boards 33-30 and forced 17 Hoosier turnovers while limiting themselves to only 13!

The fans said goodbye to Robert Archibald, Damir Krupalija, Lucas Johnson, Cory Bradford and to Frank Williams.

Senior nights are always hard for me personally. I know it’s crazy, but I think of these guys as part of my family and in very few cases have I ever been glad to see one of our seniors go.

On behalf of the LDN sports staff, I would just like to thank all of our seniors for the way they have carried themselves during their time here at Illinois. You’ve read our game reports, but we’ve gotten to see these guys on the road, in restaurants and in hotels, and they always reflect well on the fans of the Illini. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate that! While I marvel at their abilities and their stats, their good character is the thing I hope my son is picking up on. And by the way, the character stat is a stat that never slumps!

But the stat of the night was Cook’s stifling defense on Jeffries and the Hoosiers.

Illinois now has a record of 22-7, and 10-5 in the league, and will play for a piece of the conference title Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.

[Jeff Mayfield]


For a game report from the University of Illinois, see


Pony League sign-ups

[FEB. 28, 2002]  The Lincoln Pony League will have their sign-up period for both baseball (boys) and softball (girls) over the next three weekends, beginning this Saturday, March 2, and continuing on March 9 and 16. Sign-ups will be in the lobby of the Lincoln Rec Center from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Anyone interested in playing ball this summer can get signed up during those times. Representatives of the Lincoln Pony League will be on hand to answer any questions and to assist with the sign-ups.

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