Nunn leads Illinois to easy win over Hampton, 73-55
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Kendrick Nunn is used to coming off the bench. He wasn't a starter for two seasons at Chicago's Simeon High School and wasn't for most of his first season at Illinois.
So when the sophomore guard was in the starting lineup Wednesday against Hampton, he was ready.
Nunn scored a season-high 16 points as Illinois cruised over Hampton 73-55.
The Illini (8-3) jumped out to a 27-11 lead early in the first half, but Hampton (4-6) made a run behind leading scorer Quinton Chievous. The senior scored eight consecutive points on a 10-0 Hampton run.
Illinois closed out the half on a strong note when Nunn drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to push the lead back up to 12.
Nunn was in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game and responded with an efficient game. After missing his first two shots, Nunn made his next six, including four 3-pointers.
Dating to last season, Nunn has reached double figures scoring in eight of 13 games when starting. In 32 games coming off the bench, Nunn has reached that plateau just four times.
''He's unflappable,'' Illinois coach John Groce said. ''I think he's very adaptable. Maybe as adaptable, mentally and physically, as anyone I've coached.''
Rayvonte Rice added 12 points and five rebounds for Illinois.
Deron Powers and Dwight Meikle led Hampton with 12 points each, although the Pirates never led in the game. Chievous had 10. Reginald Johnson, who had yet to appear in a game this season, added eight points in 28 minutes.
''It was nice to throw them to the fire against Illinois,'' Hampton coach Edward Joyner said. ''It's different than playing the Little Sisters of the Blind.''
In the second half, the lead wouldn't dip into single digits as the Illini stifled the Pirates.
A midrange jumper from Meikle brought Hampton within 10 with 12:20 remaining, but the Illini hit another gear defensively on a 20-4 run over the next eight minutes.
''They were probably the most offensively-talented team we've faced,'' Joyner said.
The difference in the game came at the free-throw line. The Illini were 22 of 26 from the line, while Hampton was just 2 of 9.
Hampton: Entering Wednesday, when Hampton outrebounded its opponent it was undefeated. Despite 15 offensive rebounds Wednesday, the Pirates were outrebounded 38-35 and are now 0-6 when losing the rebounding battle.
Illinois: With his 3-pointer made just over three minutes into the game, Ahmad Starks has made at least one 3-pointer in every game this season. Aaron Cosby was 1 of 3 from deep, and the junior has hit a 3 in all but one game this season.
The leading scorers for both teams were limited by foul trouble. Quinton Chievous played just eight minutes in the first half for Hampton, while Illinois' Rayvonte Rice played just 11 minutes in the opening half and 23 minutes overall.
Reserve point guard Jaylon Tate had eight points for Illinois, tying a season-high, without a field-goal attempt. The sophomore was 8 of 8 from the free-throw line to go with three rebounds and three assists.
Two different Hampton players were issued technical fouls for arguing with the referees. Ke'Ron Brown was hit with a technical after he disagreed with an offensive foul with 6:17 remaining in the first half. In the second half, Dwight Meikle was given a technical as he also was arguing too aggressively with officials.
Hampton will host Tennessee State on Friday.
Illinois will face Missouri in St. Louis on Saturday.