North Florida never trails in 93-81 win over Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) North Florida hasn't lost any momentum after its first NCAA Tournament appearance last March.
Dallas Moore scored 26 points and Beau Beech added 25 as North Florida used a hot start from the 3-point line to beat Illinois 93-81 Friday.
North Florida was 9 of 17 on 3-pointers during the first half, when the Ospreys raced to an 18-point lead. North Florida extended the lead to 23 points in the second half and finished shooting 17 of 33 on 3-pointers.
Moore and Beech combined to hit 10 of 14 from the 3-point line.
''This is why we play the way we play,'' North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. ''Some people think we're a little bit free flowing. When you're a team at our level and you have guys who can make this many threes, you have to make sure as a coach you continue to coach that rather than handcuff them and slow them down.''
North Florida never trailed on its way to a win over a Big Ten team for the second consecutive season.
''We're always confident,'' Beech said. ''We put in a lot of work in the summertime. Coach puts us in great positions to make plays. When we're out there, we're just having fun with each other.''
Beech, named the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason player of the year, was 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. Moore hit 3 of 6 as the Ospreys were in control for nearly the entire game.
Foul trouble forced Beech to the bench 4 minutes into the second half, when he was whistled for his fourth foul. Nevertheless, three more 3-pointers pushed the lead to 68-45, the Osprey's largest of the game.
Center Mike Thorne Jr. scored 25 points for Illinois, which lost a season-opener for the first time since 1998.
''When we scheduled this game last spring, I knew we were playing an NCAA caliber team,'' Illinois coach John Groce said. ''We didn't beat ourselves tonight. They won the game. They beat us. In terms of our role in it, our defensive execution wasn't where it needed to be.''
An Illinois team already hampered by injury in the preseason lost starting point guard Jaylon Tate to a compound fracture of a finger midway through the first half.
Malcolm Hill scored 20 points, including 15 in the second half. He ignited a spurt that cut the deficit to 76-67.
Moments later, North Florida answered with a 4-point play from Mackey to push the lead to 80-67 to chill the rally.
''You just can't panic,'' Groce said. ''It's a long season. I worried about the habits of some of the young guys. That only comes over time. There's no short cut to it.''
Illinois: With State Farm Center under renovation in Champaign, Illinois moved four games to Springfield. The Illini don't play on campus until facing Notre Dame in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 2. Illinois also plays North Dakota State, Chattanooga and Chicago State at the Prairie Capital Convention Center several blocks from the state capitol.
North Florida: The Ospreys defeated a Big Ten team for the second-straight season. A year ago, North Florida defeated Purdue 73-70 for its first victory against a power conference foe. North Florida is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Last season, the Ospreys set school records with 23 wins. They lost to Robert Morris in a First Four game in Dayton in the NCAA Tournament.
North Florida's Dallas Moore did more than just score a game-high 26 points. He also added 10 assists with no turnovers in 38 minutes.
''That's probably the best stat line I've ever seen in my years at North Florida,'' teammate Beau Beech said, before chuckling. ''He was off from three tonight; 50 percent won't cut it.''
Illinois hosts North Dakota State Sunday in Springfield.
North Florida hosts Texas-Rio Grande Valley Monday.