Illinois figuresto have a little extra motivation on its side Monday, when it hosts BoiseState in the second round of the NIT. That comes because newFighting Illini coach Brad Underwood, hired away from Oklahoma State onSaturday, will be on hand after holding his official introductory pressconference earlier that day.
Underwood won’tbe on the bench for the contest, leaving those duties to interim coach Jamall Walker, who guided the Fighting Illini - the No. 2 seed in Region3 - to an 82-57 victory over Valparaiso on Tuesday. But Underwood, hiredjust hours after his Oklahoma State squad lost to Michigan 92-91 in the firstround of the NCAA Tournament, will be watching his new team from the stands.Underwood has made it clear he would like to retain Walker, a keyrecruiter for former coach John Groce who reportedly also was entertaining anoffer to join new Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin’s staff. Boise State, whichfinished third in the Mountain West Conference, rallied to defeat Utah 73-68 on Tuesday for the school’s first-ever postseason road win.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT BOISESTATE (20-11): Chandler Hutchison, a 6-7 junior guard, showed why he was an All-Mountain West First Team pick as selected by the league’s coaches byscoring a career-high 34 points in the comeback win at Utah. Hutchison leadsthe team in scoring (17.4 points), rebounding (7.8) and steals (1.2) while shooting38.5 percent from 3-point range. Sophomore point guard Paris Austin (12.5 points) andsenior guard James Reid (10) also are averaging double digits in points for theBroncos.
ABOUT ILLINOIS(19-14): Guard Malcolm Hill scored 25 points, including 4-of-7 3-pointers, tolead the Fighting Illini in the blowout win over Valparaiso. The 6-6 senior, an All-Big Ten Second Team pick, leads the squad in scoring (17 points) and assists(three) while becoming just the fourth player in school history to surpass the 1,800-point mark in his career. Sophomore forward Leron Black recorded a double-double (13points, 12 rebounds) against Valparaiso while 6-10 senior center Maverick Morgan,who ranks second on the team in scoring (10.1 points), added eight points and sixrebounds.
1. The winnerplays the victor of the matchup between top seed Illinois State and fourth-seeded UCF in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
2. This is onlythe second time that Illinois and Boise State have played, with the FightingIllini scoring a 84-77 home win on Dec. 5, 2009 in the first meeting.
3. Hutchison has registered at least 20 points and 10 rebounds six times this season.
PREDICTION: Illinois79, Boise State 74