Hawks beat Stars, increase Division lead to 8 points.

The Blackhawks weren’t at their best, but marquee players came through -again – to keep Western Conference-leading Hawks on a roll.Patrick Kane scored his team-leading 33rd goal in regulation and connected again in the shootout as the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Thursday night to open an eight-point lead for first place in the Central Division.Artemi Panarin also scored in the shootout as Chicago rode a 42-save effort by Corey Crawford through overtime to improve to 6-0-1 in its last seven. It was also the Blackhawks’ 18th win in their last 22 games. Marian Hossa scored his 24th goal of the season midway through the third period.

”We didn’t have the best game and Corey was strong for us there,” Hossa said. ”He made some huge saves, especially in the shootouts, too. Two nice points.”

Kane agreed that Crawford, who reached 30 wins for the sixth time in his career, was the difference.

”He played amazing tonight.” Kane said. ”The reason we won the game. ”Hats off to him. He’s done that a lot this year.”

Crawford was beaten only by Tyler Seguin in the shootout and twice in regulation by Ales Hemsky as he matched his season high for saves. The All-Star goalie rebounded smartly from giving up four goals on 10 shots to Vancouver on Tuesday night.The Blackhawks have been spotty in their last three games, all at home, despite going 2-0-1. the Hawks needed big third period rallies in their previous two contests to earn points, then leaned on Crawford in this one.

”Games like tonight you can’t be too happy with what you saw,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”We want to make sure there’s more attention to detail and pace to our game.”

Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves through overtime, following up on a 30-save shutout on Monday against San Jose.Hemsky’s second goal of the game with 5:09 left in the third tied it at 2 and sent it to overtime. From the left side of the crease, Hemsky buried a rebound of Esa Lindell’s shot from the right point.Coach Lindy Ruff thought the Stars, all but eliminated from playoff contention, should have had more on the board before the extra period.

”You’ve got to give Crawford some credit on the saves,” Ruff said. ”But, at the same time, we missed some beauties. You know, we probably doubled them up 2-1 in chances.

Hemsky connected for his second goal and third goals this season in his 10th game back following hip surgery.

”We finally feel like a team and if we can play like that, we can play with anybody,” Hemksy said. ”We just didn’t score.”

Kane opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 8:13 of the first. He moved in on a 2-on-1 break with Richard Panik, then beat Lehtonen on the stick side.Crawford was sharp as the Stars started piling on shots. That including a point-blank pad save on Jiri Hudler’s backhander at 9:42.Hemsky tied it at 1 at 12:26 of the second on a 40-foot shot from the slot that may have been screened by Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Hemsky beat Crawford high on the stick side after taking John Klingberg’s feed from the right boards.Hossa fired a quick wrist shot from 30 feet out in the slot, through a screen and past Lehtonen to put the Hawks ahead 2-1 at 8:37 of the third. Hossa was set up by rookie Nick Schmaltz, who passed from just inside the Dallas blue line on the left boards.Kane fired a shot off the post during a power play 26 seconds into overtime.Later in the extra period, Crawford stopped two in-close chances by Jamie Benn from the right edge of the crease. He then came up with a pad save on Remi Elie’s breakaway with 1:15 left in overtime.

NOTES—Crawford (30-15-3) reached 30 wins for the sixth time in his career. . Stars C Jason Spezza missed his second game with back spasms. … Artem Anisimov sat out his fifth game with a lower-body injury. … Earlier on Thursday the Blackhawks gave utility F Tanner Kero a contract extension that runs through 2018-19. The 24-year-old Kero, signed as a free agent in April 2015, is one of seven rookies to skate with the Blackhawks this season, and has five goals and seven assists in 38 games since his recall from the AHL. … The Blackhawks honored Hall of Fame G Ed Belfour in a brief ”One More Shift” ceremony before the game. Dressed in his Blackhawks gear, Belfour skated onto the ice and joined the team for the national anthem. Belfour began his career with the Hawks, where he earned his first 201 of 484 career wins over seven seasons. He went on to play for the Stars and led them to their only Stanley Cup in 1999…..Blackhawks are at Florida on Saturday night to start a three-game trip. They plays six of their last eight regular-season games on the road.

Illini NIT run ends at Central Florida

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

ORLANDO—B.J. Taylor scored 17 points, Tacko Fall had a double-double and Central Florida held on to defeat Illinois 68-58 on Wednesday night to advance to the final four of the NIT.A.J. Davis and Matt Williams added 16 points apiece for the Knights (24-11), who play TCU in a semifinal game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Fall had 10 points and 10 rebounds.UCF was the fourth-seed in the bracket and Illinois (20-15) No. 2 but due to an arena conflict the Fighting Illini couldn’t host the game. The Knights took advantage with the first sellout crowd in 10,000-seat CFE Arena history to move within one win of tying for the most in school history.Both teams had five 3-pointers in the first half but Illinois only had two other baskets, shooting 7 for 26 to fall behind 34-19.UCF pushed the lead to 19 midway through the second half and was up 52-37 before Malcolm Hill rallied the Illini. Hill hit back-to-back 3-pointers and then made three free throws with 3:14 to play to cut the deficit to six. But Davis made 5 of 6 free throws from there and Taylor was 6 of 8 in the final minute.Hill had 29 points to finish his Illini career with 1,846, third all-time. Jamall Walker went 2-1 as the interim coach after replacing John Groce, who was fired after the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois introduced Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood as its new coach on Monday

UIC drops CBI Semi-Finals game to Coastal Carolina

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CONWAY, S.C.—UIC shot the ball well Wednesday night, connecting at a clip of 50 percent from the field, but the Flames did not have enough firepower to top the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the semifinal of the College Basketball Invitational. The Flames fell, 89-78, at the HTC Center.UIC’s Tarkus Ferguson scored a career-high 27 points to lead all scorers and four Flames in double figures. Marcus Ottey netted 11 points by making all four of his field-goal attempts, while Tai Odiase and Dominique Matthews chipped in with 10 points apiece.The Flames drilled 11 3-pointers in the game, including eight during a furious second-half comeback. It marked the eighth time this season that the squad hit double-digit shots from beyond the arc.

Good shooting carries Bulls past Pistons

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Nikola Mirotic scored a season-high 28 points, and the Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons 117-95 in a matchup between struggling teams fighting for a playoff spot on Wednesday night.Mirotic shot 12 of 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point attempts to lead the Bulls to an easy win after dropping eight of 10.Jimmy Butler added 16 points and 12 assists. Joffrey Lauvergne filled in for suspended center Robin Lopez and outplayed Andre Drummond with 17 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Paul Zipser added a career-high 15 points as the Bulls moved into a ninth-place tie with Detroit in the Eastern Conference.Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris each scored 14 for the Pistons, losers of five of six. Drummond grabbed 17 rebounds but scored just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting.The Bulls honored late general manager Jerry Krause with a moment of silence before the game. A Chicago native who oversaw a dynasty that produced two championship three-peats in the 1990s, he died at age 77 on Tuesday.The Bulls saw a 13-point lead shrink to two with about a minute left in the second quarter. But layups by Lauvergne and Mirotic sent the Bulls to the locker room with a six-point lead. They also started a 19-2 run that made it 74-55 in the third, essentially putting away this game.Lopez and the Raptors’ Serge Ibaka were both suspended one game without pay by the NBA for fighting. The two threw punches at each other during Tuesday’s game at Toronto….ith backup C Cristiano Felicio (bruised lower back) also out, Lauvergne made his first start since the 2015-16 season with Denver…..Bulls the Bulls recalled G Cameron Payne from the Windy City Bulls on Wednesday….Bulls host Philadelphia on Friday.

Long time Bulls executive Jerry Krause dies at age 77.

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The Bulls regretfully announce that longtime Bulls executive Jerry Krause has passed away at the age of 77. Krause, the architect of the Bulls six World Championship teams, was a member of the Bulls’ front office for 18 seasons (March 26, 1985 – April 7, 2003).
“The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Krause,” said Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. “Jerry was one of the hardest working guys I have ever been around, and he was one of the best talent evaluators ever. Jerry played an integral role in our run of six championships in eight years. He truly was the architect of all our great teams in the ’90s. I would not have been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame if it were not for Jerry. We will miss him tremendously, and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife Thelma and the Krause family.”

Krause, a native of Chicago, took over the Bulls basketball operations department on March 26, 1985, following a successful run as a scout for the Baltimore Bullets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and, previously, the Bulls (1969-71). During his NBA career, he was responsible for the drafting of future Hall of Famers Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld and Scottie Pippen. He also played a key role in the drafting of four NBA Rookie of the Year recipients in Monroe, Unseld, Alvin Adams and Elton Brand. In addition, Krause worked to select other NBA stars such as Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Clifford Ray, Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon.

Krause is survived by his wife, Thelma; his two children, Stacy and David; and, his grandchildren Colette, Josh, Mia and Riley.Krause was general manager of the Bulls from 1985 to 2003, putting together the roster around Michael Jordan that won six titles in eight seasons, including the a 72-win season in 1995-96. He also made the decision to hire Phil Jackson. He was considered a divisive figure after clashes with Jackson, Jordan and other players over contract disputes. Krause drafted both Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, both key pieces of the Bulls’ first championship team. Krause replaced coach Doug Collins with Jackson, which was a bold move considering the Bulls’ success at the time. That worked out pretty well. In 1988, Krause traded Jordan’s good friend Charles Oakley to the Knicks for Bill Cartwright. The Bulls needed another true big man and Cartwright played a pivotal role. Jordan was furious with the move, but eventually had to give Krause credit for the decision. Krause took a massive gamble in 1995, trading career reserve Will Perdue for Dennis Rodman. Krause trusted the Bulls’ infrastructure to handle Rodman’s explosive personality, and the move helped secure not only the 72-win season, but the second trio of titles. Krause was ahead of his time in many ways. He identified the need for big, athletic perimeter players like Pippen, Ron Harper and Grant. Krause found Toni Kukoc and spent years trying to get the Croatian to make his way to the NBA. Pippen and Jordan, annoyed at Krause’s obsession while he balked at giving them bigger deals, grew resentful of Kukoc before he even arrived. In today’s NBA? He’s basically a better version of Dario Saric, and Krause would be applauded for finding that kind of talent. Krause made a gamble for a skilled European forward at a time when there was very little faith in the game overseas. Krause rubbed people the wrong way. In books like The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith and Playing For Keeps by David Halberstam, Krause comes across as petty and jealous — particularly of Jackson. Credit and recognition were important to him, and it drove him mad that Jordan and Jackson seemed to get all of it. Meanwhile, Jackson was annoyed by Krause’s behavior and Jordan downright loathed him. In years since, the story of Krause becomes a little clearer. He comes across as a man who was indelible to the Bulls’ success and basically caught flak for not being likable. Jordan, on the other hand, was ruthless, cruel and domineering to everyone he faced in his professional life in front of and behind the scenes, but because he is considered the greatest player of all time, he has been loved unconditionally. Basically, Krause got a bad rap because he was never going to sell any posters. Krause might have had character flaws, like everyone does. But don’t undersell what he brought to the table. The Bulls were great, magnificent, because of Jordan, who Krause did not draft. But the Bulls became a dynasty because of the margin moves, big and small, that Krause had the courage to make.

Illini beat Boise State to advance to NIT quarter Finals

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

CHAMPAIGN—Tracy Abrams scored 18 points, Leron Black had a double-double and Illinois pulled away midway through the second half to beat Boise State 71-56 on Monday night in the second round of the NIT.No. 2 seed Illinois (20-14) will play fourth-seeded Central Florida (23-11) in a quarterfinal. The game was tied at 49 with 10 minutes left before Illinois closed on a 22-7 run.Malcolm Hill scored 13 points and has 1,817 for his career, surpassing Dee Brown (1,812) for third place all-time at Illinois. Abrams was 6 of 11 from the floor and made three 3-pointers. Black had 12 points and 10 rebounds.Chandler Hutchison scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead No. 6 seed Boise State (20-12). Nick Duncan chipped in 12 points. The Broncos shot 0 of 14 from long range in the second half.Brad Underwood, who became the 18th coach in program history for the Illini, was in attendance. He replaced John Groce after five seasons.

UIC beats G.Washington to advance to CBI third round

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UIC got 23 points from Tai Odiase and a career high 12 assists from Tarkus Ferguson in an 80-71 victory over George Washington in the quarterfinal round of the CBI presented by FIVE FOUR at UIC Pavilion Monday evening. The Flames led by as many as 17 points, but the battle tested Colonials closed the gap to two points in the final two minutes. UIC made six of eight free throws down the stretch to advance to the CBI semifinals against Coastal Carolina.The Flames (17-18) placed five scorers in double figures. Tarkus Ferguson tied his career high with 10 rebounds and set a new career standard with 12 assists. The Flames assisted on a season high 24 of their 29 field goals and won the rebounding battle 45-31. George Washington (20-15) got 24 points from Tyler Cavanaugh and 21 from Yuta Watanabe, but no other Colonial scored more than nine.UIC will continue its postseason run with a CBI semifinal game Wednesday evening at Coastal Carolina. The tournament is re-seeded following the quarterfinal round.

ISU blows chance to host Illinois. Let 13 point lead get away

NORMAL—B.J. Taylor scored 22 points, including a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left and Central Florida beat Illinois State 63-62 Monday night in the second round of the NIT.No. 4 seed UCF (23-11) will play the Boise State-Illinois winner in a quarterfinal. Top-seeded Illinois State (28-7) had its 22-game home winning streak snapped.Taylor scored 17 points in the second half and finished 11 of 11 from the line. Matt Williams added 15 points and A.J. Davis 11 for the Knights.Deontae Hawkins scored 15 points to lead ISU.UCF trailed by 13 early in the second half, and took its first lead of the game when Davis converted a 3-point play for a 61-60 lead with 1:40 left.With the game still 61-60, Taylor fouled MiKyle McIntosh at the top of the arc with four seconds left. McIntosh made both free throws and the Redbirds led 62-61 with four seconds to play.Following a timeout, Taylor ran the floor and McIntosh fouled him along the baseline. Paris Lee’s desperation 3-point attempt was short to end it.

Hawks score three goals in :34 onslaught to beat Avs 6-3, clinch Playoff birth.

After a sluggish start, Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks stormed back late with a rapid-fire rally to strengthen their grip on first place in the Central Division – and the Western Conference.Toews scored twice and Richard Panik and Artemi Panarin each had a goal in a span of 3:02 in the third period to erase Colorado’s two-goal lead and send the Blackhawks past the Avalanche 6-3 on Sunday night for their fifth straight win.Patrick Kane scored his team-leading 32nd goal and Marcus Kruger added an empty-netter for the Hawks, who won for the 17th time in its last 20 games to pull seven points ahead of slumping second-place Minnesota in the Central Division. The Wild dropped their fifth straight, 5-4 to Winnipeg on Sunday.The victory, combined with Los Angeles’ 5-2 loss at Calgary on Sunday night, clinched the Blackhawks ninth straight playoff berth.

”Once we got that first (goal), things just started clicking for us,” said Toews, who scored his 19th and 20th goals to give him 20 or more in each of his 10 NHL seasons. ”I think we all collectively made that decision, that we had to play better and were looking for that first bounce, and maybe we could put some pressure on them.”

And the Blackhawks turned it up in a hurry.With the Hawks trailing 3-1, Toews tipped in a bouncing shot at 10:17 of the third period to cut it to 3-2.

”In the third period, we got one, and all of a sudden got a lot more comfortable in the scoring areas,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”Definitely changed the whole complexion when we got the first one.”

Toews’ first goal withstood a video review that showed the Hawk captain may have been offside. He was trying to exit the Colorado zone and tag up at the blue line before Panik – who was skating into the Avalanche end – caught up with a puck that had just crossed the line and was inches ahead of his stick.It was close.

”I thought it was the right call. It’s not offside, doesn’t trigger the offside until he touches the puck,” Quenneville said. ”You could say it was a tie.”

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar was left a bit confused.

”I guess I don’t fully understand it,” Bednar said. ”It’s a tag-up rule. They’re saying it wasn’t fully on (Panik’s) stick.

Bednar was more upset about what followed.

”That give them a little life,” Bednar said. ”It’s what we do after that that bothers me.That was one of the top teams in the league turning it up a notch and feeling it, and their top guys making plays and our guys making mistakes.”

Panik rifled in a loose puck from the slot 17 seconds later to tie it at 3. Panarin put the Hawks ahead 4-3 just 17 seconds after that on a shot from the right circle that deflected in off the shoulder of Colorado goalie Jeremy Smith.Toews stretched it to 5-3 with his 20th on a wrist shot from the left circle with 6:41 to go.Mikhail Grigorenko scored twice and Sven Andrighetto had a goal for the last-place Avalanche.Scott Darling stopped 22 shots to extend his winning streak to six games.The 27-year-old Smith made 28 saves in his seventh NHL appearance and sixth start. His only win was on Feb. 25 when Colorado beat Buffalo 5-3.Grigorenko, a scratch in Detroit on Saturday, ended an eight-game drought with his eighth and ninth goals. Andrighetto, acquired from Montreal at the NHL trade deadline, scored his second goal in eight games with the Avalanche.Kane opened the scoring 4:33, ripping a feed from Panarin past Smith high on the stick side to complete a 2-on-1 break.Grigorenko tied it at 1 at 8:14 when he fooled Darling from a scramble in front with a low shot to the lower right corner.The 22-year-old Grigorenko struck again with 3:24 left in the period to make it 2-1. He backed in Brent Seabrook as he moved in 1-on-1 against the veteran defenseman, then popped an off-balance shot that clanked off the right post and in.Darling made a point-blank pad stop on Mikko Rantanen with 7:05 left in the second, then a close-in glove save on Joe Colborne about two minutes later to keep the margin at one goal.But with 3:35 left the period, Andrighetto cut across the crease unchecked in front of defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brian Campbell and neatly tipped Mark Barberio’s drive over Darling’s glove to increase Colorado’s lead to 3-1.

NOTES—Artem Anisimov missed his third game and RW Marian Hossa his second with injuries. Before the game, Quenneville said Hossa was close to returning and thought he might play on Sunday. … Quenneville gave 35-year-old D Johnny Oduya the game off to ”rest.” … Grigorenko had one previous two-goal game, at Anaheim in November 2013. He was Buffalo’s first pick and 12th overall in the 2012 draft and was acquired in a multi-player deal in 2015….The Blackhawks host Vancouver on Tuesday in the second of a three-game homestand. They play six of their last eight regular-season games on the road.

NU hosed by awful (non)call, Zags advance

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)Image result for ncaa men's tournament 2017 logo

 

SALT LAKE CITY—Chris Collins was right. It was goal-tending all the way.The Northwestern coach was also wrong. At the worst time possible.After not getting the call, Collins stomped onto the court and drew a technical foul with 4:54 left in Saturday’s game, sucking life out of a frenetic comeback that fell short in a 79-73 loss to top-seeded Gonzaga.What a strange, heartbreaking way to close out the school’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.Adding to the awkwardness: The NCAA released a statement acknowledging the call was missed, and Collins was sitting at the postgame news conference when he learned about it for the first time.

”I appreciate the apology,” Collins said, the venom practically dripping off his tongue. ”It makes me feel great.”

Nigel Williams-Goss finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists to power Gonzaga (34-1), which led by as many as 22 points in the first half, then saw the lead dwindle to five with a little more than 5 minutes left.The arena, drenched in purple, was rocking, and all the momentum was in Northwestern’s corner.The eighth-seeded Wildcats (24-12) got the ball down to Dererk Pardon for a point-blank shot that was on its way in. Gonzaga 7-footer Zach Collins reached up through the net and deflected the ball out. No whistle blew. Gonzaga got the rebound and started down court. Collins ran onto the court, charged toward the referee and gestured as if he were knocking a ball out of the hoop from the bottom.An automatic ”T.” The NCAA’s postgame statement also said Collins was hit with the technical for violating ”bench decorum” rules by stepping onto the court with the ball in play.On the other end, Williams-Goss made both free throws. Northwestern never got closer after that.Regrets? If the coach had any, they weren’t apparent in the aftermath.

”If I see a guy from another team put his hand through the rim and block a shot, I’m going to react to it if the play isn’t called,” Collins said. ”I think all of you would. Of course. That cuts it to three. We’re all emotional. We’re coming back from 20 down.”

What a comeback it was. Bryant McIntosh scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half and Vic Law had 15 of his 18, as Northwestern finally found an answer for Gonzaga’s quick guards and smooth-as-can-be ball movement.Law dunked an offensive rebound to cut the deficit to 63-58, and on the other end, Scottie Lindsey swatted Williams-Goss down low to give Northwestern the ball with a chance to draw within a 3-pointer.Pardon took a pass from McIntosh and went up strong against Zach Collins for what should have been two points. After the game, the Gonzaga center was still unclear about what, exactly, happened.

”I thought I blocked the shot and they thought it was a foul,” he said. ”We weren’t really worried about (that). I honestly can’t really remember.”

Zags coach Mark Few wasn’t pinning Gonzaga’s win on that single turn of events. But he more than understood the emotion of the moment.

”You guys feel it and see it when it comes to these games,” he said. ”You lose, your season’s over. You win, in Northwestern’s case, it’s probably the best thing they’ve done in the history of the school. You react spontaneously and stuff happens.”

Gonzaga is onto its third straight Sweet 16, in search of the program’s first trip to the Final Four.Painful as the late sequence was for the Wildcats, chances are it won’t be the only thing about this magical season that they remember.

”To me, the second half is who that group was,” Chris Collins said.

But losing, especially that way?

”It stinks. That’s the part of the tournament that’s really hard,” he said.

NOTES—The Wildcats had more trouble stopping 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski’s backup than Karnowski himself. The senior missed his first three shots and never got into much of a groove on the way to nine points. His backup, Collins, had 14 points, including back-to-back three-point plays that pushed Gonzaga’s lead back to 19 in the second half after it had briefly dropped to 12…..For the second straight game, McIntosh had a memorable second half, but it was the first half that made the difference. He shot only 3 for 9 in the first half, part of a 30 percent shooting effort by the Wildcats, who made only 1 of 11 from 3-point range over the first 20 minutes…..Adding to their coach’s frustration: The Wildcats finished the game with 26 fouls. Pardon fouled out and three players, Lindsey, Barret Benson and Gavin Skelly, finished with four each.